Okami PS2 Review

Calling Okami a Zelda clone does have some weight to it, as the two games do have their obvious similarities, although calling it a clone is far over stepping the mark, as in many ways Okami is quite simply like nothing else in existence. What Capcom’s and the PS2’s answer to Zelda is, is a masterstroke in its unusual and beautiful design.

The character you take the role of is the first real difference, as it’s not every day that you take the form of a white wolf. This beautifully designed wolf is in fact the sun goddess, Amaterasu, in her earthly form, whom along with Issun, a wisecracking miniature calligrapher, is to restore colour and vitality to the cursed lands of Nippon during their bid to slay an eight headed monster. Where Okami succeeds is by delivering a plot that in spite of this grave danger, isn’t deadly serious by any means, as there’s a rather delightful sense of humour running throughout. Amaterasu also interacts with a handful of memorable characters in the duration of the satisfactory plot.

The first thing that will strike you about Okami is the outstanding art style that is as beautiful as a painting. Taking their inspiration from Japanese rice paper watercolours the graphical artists at Clover Studio (RIP) have certainly made sure to draw out as much power from the PS2 as they could possibly muster. The bright, bold and distinct visuals therefore remind us as to why god gifted us with vision, to behold such beauty as the vividly wonderful colours and Amaterasu’s lively animations.

Fortunately there’s more to Okami than brilliant watercolours as the game itself is also a genius in its inventive design. A crucial element to the bright and beautiful world of Okami is the celestial brush, this brush acts as a weapon and a revival tool amongst other resourceful things. You’ll find that environments look lifeless, with trees without their leaves, empty or unhealthy looking pools of water, sagging flowers and more. Curses often hang in the air and all of this collectively assures that the atmosphere feels oppressive, but when you realise that the brush can restore life, making trees bloom, flowers spring into life and filling pools with water: life, green fields and colour can once again be returned along with a flowing feeling of liberation and a strange desire to sniff the clear air and the aromas of the fresh life around you.

Using the celestial brush is simple, pressing the R1 button to bring on the brush, then holding the square button (or the pressure sensitive triangle button) and making use of the left stick to draw the required shape for your intended action. You can draw circles around withered trees to restore their pink petals, scribble over a dead patch of land to give it life once again and more. Amaterasu is granted various celestial brush techniques (there’s 15 in all!) on the course of her journey throughout Nippon, which allows her to restore bridges, slash enemies or certain objects, create cherry bombs to blow up weak walls or use in combat, pull herself up to otherwise unreachable areas using vines, manipulate water, change the time frame from night to day or vice versa, and utilise wind amongst other techniques.

Upon rejuvenating your surroundings and making them beautiful again, as well as feeding the wildlife (quick tip, it’s a good idea to keep well stocked on the various foods!) you are awarded with praise. This can be used to upgrade Amaterasu’s health, ink (allowing you to use the brush for longer before Amaterasu turns briefly into an ordinary and less powerful wolf), Astral pouch (when the pouch is full Amaterasu can be revived when all her energy is depleted), and finally your purse (which is able to carry more yen following upgrades).

As you may have gathered the brush is used for puzzle solving as well as combat, although the latter is certainly the weaker of the two. Amaterasu can make use of melee manoeuvres as well as the celestial brush during combat, although if you like being challenged by your gaming foes then you should look elsewhere. There’s little challenge in Okami’s combat, although pinpointing weaknesses and mixing your combat up is never anything less than enjoyable. The bosses are particularly noteworthy, with weaknesses to be found that aren’t always instantly obvious, but many players will be impressed at the cleverness of it all, in fact that’s Okami as a whole, a strikingly clever and well crafted experience.

Okami is one of those games that we just wanted to go on forever, although that may not be the case, it does offer good value for money. There’s a large adventure and plenty of side quests and exploring to get yourself involved in, and it’s certainly a game that deserves to be returned to after completion if only to lose yourself in its stunning world once again.

In the eleventh hour of the PS2’s lifecycle, with the PS3 looming on the horizon, Clover’s gaming highlight is most probably one of the last great exclusives for the machine (although it‘s not dead and buried yet with Burnout Dominator, Final Fantasy XII, Yakuza 2 and God of War II still on the way). Okami is certainly a beautiful 30+ hour epic, it’s an adventure with an imaginative twist and a very likeable yarn. Even following the demise of Clover, we’d like to think that an Okami 2 will eventually be on the cards (well, we can dream can’t we?).