Another day, another game I’ve inexplicably and inexcusably missed. This time Okami. What with this and Zelda I’m not making myself look good when I write these things. I promise you I do play and finish games. Once again, I’ve owned Okami for absolute years and once again it’s taken me rebuying it on the Nintendo Switch to actually get around to playing it.
Okami originally released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2006 so I’m not as late to the party as I was with Zelda. In fact, the Switch version only came out in August 2018 so if anything, I’m fashionably late like one of the cool kids. Which I most definitely am. I own a motorbike and everything. It sits proudly in my garage in GTA5.
Anyway, Okami is a lovely looking game. The graphics are updated on the Switch version, but it’s a game that has always looked lovely due to its cartoony cel-shaded style.
I’m going to be lazy and describe Okami as Capcoms version of The Legend of Zelda. An old evil returns to torment the land, a sleeping warrior awakens after 100 years, land is explored, townsfolk helped and dungeons are solved with the help of an ever increasing arsenal of powerups. Maybe it’s not me who’s being lazy after all. The similarities are of course intentional. Director Hideki Kamiya lists Zelda as one of his favorite titles and has really made this game as a love letter to the series.
Long story short, after waiting all these years to play this game I absolutely loved it. Jumping in I awake as Link Amaterasu, a wolf armed with a celestial paintbrush and tasked with saving the world once again. I don’t want to give away too much for those of you that haven’t played this yet as I feel it really needs to be experienced with a fresh mind, so apologies either way.
The start of the game is really just a series of fetch quests and getting used to the mechanics. It takes quite a long time to get to the first dungeon. Some people will say it takes quite a long time to get good. Not me, I enjoyed these aspects and to those of you frustrated at how long it takes to get “good” I would say, it could be worse, it could be Final Fantasy 13.
This time spent getting into the game is made more enjoyable with how it all looks. The whole world looks like it is painted and everything is just so deliciously Japanese. It’s this paint, or more specifically the celestial paintbrush, that brings the whole game to life. Sure, there are traditional weapons in the game that are used to both attack and block the enemies, but the crux of the gameplay is the brush, it’s used for everything.
To start with I don’t have many skills to use with my brush, although it doesn’t seem to take that long to amass an arsenal of brush strokes to tackle the game with. Holding a button down brings up the painting screen that allows the brush to do its magic. Painting long black brush strokes on the page will allow for different actions, once they have been obtained. For example, a horizontal line can be used to slash at enemies. When fighting enemies a circular arena will appear allowing you to pummel the enemies with traditional methods, they will eventually turn grey allowing for a powerful follow-up swipe from the paintbrush.
There are many things to do with the paintbrush and each is key to solving the dungeons, finding hidden areas and helping the townsfolk. I won’t list every technique as there 13, however, it can be used to make bombs, repair bridges and bring life back to the decaying cursed land. It’s a mechanic I really enjoyed.
There’s plenty more to this game than just fighting and dungeons though. Outside of this, there’s plenty of things to enjoy. Being a recently awoken wolf deity the only reasonable thing to expect is mundane chores given to you by strangers. There are plenty of ways to help the people. You may have to do some fishing, revive some trees and even bring booze to cowardly warriors. Sure, these are tied to the main quests but are good examples.
This being a game, there are also collectibles and upgrades to be had. Doing nice things will earn respect, which can be used in the main menu to upgrade health and ink, amongst other things. Animals can be fed to increase respect and plants can be dug up and rejuvenated also. Hidden items such as beads and statues are dotted around to be found, some of which will require revisits to areas once the relevant skills are learned. I often found myself just wandering around aimlessly, looking for things and taking in the world, there’s so much to enjoy.
Okami isn’t without its problems though. I did enjoy every minute of it, however, it is overly long and that might put off some players, I can understand that. It took me just under 5 hours to wade through the opening section and reach the first dungeon. I’ve read stories of players taking longer to get to that and giving up completely, players who may well really love the dungeon sections. I won’t criticize though, each to their own.
At times, the camera is absolutely dreadful, especially when fighting enemies in the circular battle arena that is drawn up. It often feels as if Okami is just saying you get what you’re given and you deal with it. This proved a difficult annoyance during some of the boss fights. I also found myself wrestling with the camera at times when having to look at specific places, painting the sun in the sky a few times is a prime example.
This brings me on to the painting itself. Mostly, I found this to be a great mechanic, although, I did have some issues. I was playing on the Switch version so I could have used the motion controls but with this being a retrospective I decided not to use them and to stick as close as possible to the original experience, albeit with a fresh lick of………paint. Occasionally, what I was painting didn’t correspond to what was happening on the screen and other times I painted things perfectly that just wouldn’t register. I had the issue of the paint page closing by itself too, even when I had the button held down.
I do have a tendency to break every game, it’s a remarkable gift, so I can’t be sure if these paint issues were a problem with the game or if it’s just my game breaking powers coming in to play again. Maybe you guys can tell me and challenge me to a game to break, I’ll do so without even having to try, such is my power.
No game is perfect and despite these issues I never found myself getting too annoyed. Things such as these are fairly common in older games, it was a different time so I won’t complain. Overall, I’m glad to have finally gotten through Okami, it truly is a wonderful title and I think it’s a shame I’m only just realizing this in 2019, had I played it at the time it could well have ended up as one of my all time favorite games. I wanted to talk about many more aspects and explain so much more about the game itself and my time with it. I’m just conscious of word count at this stage, plus it’s a game that’s better to be discovered on your own rather than being force-fed too much information. For anyone yet to play it I’d say give it a try, push through the beginning part, even if you’re struggling to do so. Like me, you have no excuse for not playing it now, after all, it’s available on the PS2, PS3, PS4, PC, Wii, Xbox One and Switch at a reasonable price on all.
Let me know your thoughts on Okami in the comments. Have you finished it? Did you love it? Did you start it and give up? Or have you yet to try it? Also, let me know if there are any games you challenge me to try and break or any games you want to see a retrospective piece on.
One last thing before you go. Do you have any idea how hard it was to write an article about painting without making any Bob Ross references? So without further ado, I’m just going to hide a little tree here.
Steve is the resident Englishman, just don’t hold that against him. He’s been playing games for the best part of 3 decades and will continue to do so for as long as his thumbs hold up. When they no longer work, he’ll still find a way to play Resident Evil 2. Lover of most things nerdy Steve also likes sports. Go sports!