Review: Okami (Wii)

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Review: Okami (Wii)




A divine masterpiece


    In 2006, a little development group named Clover Studios released an action/adventure game called Okami on the PlayStation 2. It was to be one of the last games released on the popular home console before the advent of its successor, the PlayStation 3. While the game received praise and accolades such as IGN's 2006 Game of the Year, it failed to perform well commercially. Despite its lack of robust sales, Ready at Dawn studios wanted to put the beautifully unique title on Nintendo's innovative new motion-controlled console, the Wii, believing that it would be a perfect fit for the system. In 2008, the port was released, and that's where our story begins.

Okami opens with a hefty cut scene that sets the groundwork for the game's story. In a nutshell, the great warrior, Nagi, and the mysterious white wolf, Shiranui, put an end to the dreaded eight-headed serpent, Orochi, and his maiden eating ways. Sadly, Shiranui is lost in the fight and a shrine is built by the villagers of Kamiki in its honor. With the remains of Orochi sealed away by Nagi's sacred sword, Tsukuyomi, peace returns to the land...for a time.

One hundred years after the ordeal, a mysterious figure disturbs Nagi's enshrined blade and reawakens Orochi, who immediately sets out to cause some mischief. He begins by attacking Sakuya, a tree sprite whose peach trees protect the land of Nippon from darkness. When all seems lost, help comes in the form of a white wolf who emerged from Shiranui's shrine. The white wolf is none other than the great sun goddess, Amaterasu, who took the form of Shiranui to battle Orochi. Sakuya needs Ammy to travel throughout Nippon to restore the withered Guardian Saplings in order to remove deadly cursed zones from the land. Ammy will also need to reclaim 13 powerful rush techniques that can change the environment if she ever hopes to put an end to Orochi. Thankfully, Ammy has the help of the miniscule and slightly perverted wandering artist, Issun, to help her reclaim the sacred techniques.


                                    Ammy and Issun

As Ammy, players can jump, run, charge, and howl throughout Nippon's expansive environment by using the Wii Remote/Nunchuck control scheme. Players can also communicate with villagers and other characters with Issun acting as the spokesman of the collaboration. The combat is an element of the game that I found to be a unique and fun portion of the game. It felt  Enemies are encountered in the outside of towns in the main world. They appear as creepy ghostly scrolls that float about the area. The battle begins when Ammy comes into contact with one. The area then transforms into am arena with a variety of enemies in it. Players dispatch enemies by attacking with one of three types of equipable weapons; Reflectors, Rosary Beads, and Glaives. Each type has its own pros and cons, so it will be up to the player to find out which weapon is best for him or her. Performing well in a fight will result in a cash bonus after it is over. The motion controls used in basic combat are solid for the most part, but I had trouble with timing my swings on a few of the weapons. This problem mainly arouse when I switched weapon types, which forced me to readjust to the other weapon type's play style. Ammy's moveset isn't limited with the one she started out with. Throughout Nippon, the player will come across dojos where Ammy can learn new attacks and maneuvers for the right price.  

One of the most important aspects of Okami's gameplay is the mighty Celestial Paintbrush. Ammy learns new brush techniques when she encounters any one of the 13 Brush Gods. Players utilize the Celestial Brush by holding the B button on the Wii Remote and tracing specific brushstrokes that they have learned. These techniques include mighty gales and bursts of fire and can be used to access new areas, manipulate the environment, solve puzzles, or battle enemies. However, the brush only has a certain amount of ink, and reckless use of the brush will cause it to run out of ink. This will cause Ammy to be weakened until her ink supply is restored. The ink gauge will refill automatically or can be refilled by picking up a jar of ink. Mastering and remembering brushstrokes is essential to obtaining the most out of combat and obstacles. Similarly to the weapon controls, the Celestial Paintbrush worked well except for a few problems. Occasionally, my brushstrokes would yield a different technique or would fail to work, but these problems were usually remedied slowing down my drawing and being more precise with my movements. One move however, which involved drawing an "X," still gives me trouble. However, repetition would win the day and thankfully the move is not essential or used in combat. Rarely, my pointer would go off screen, but the game would usually automatically right the problem. Overall, I found the motion based controls to work well and I found that I could perform attacks with the motion-based brush much faster than I could by using a joystick.

Along the way, Ammy will be able to help the people and animals of Nippon. Performing good deeds for others will earn her Praise points. These points can be used to increase Ammy's health, ink gauge, astral pouch, and wallet. This adds an almost RPG element to the game and allows players to prioritize enhancing the stat that they find most important. As a big user of the Celestial Brush, I often found myself increasing the amount of ink I could hold.

One of the most amazing things about Okami is its breathtaking environments. The game uses a unique cell-shaded art style that is meant to imitate a traditional form of Japanese ink painting called sumi-e. This creates a distinctive look and feel that would be right at home in an art gallery. Nippon is an expansive place with open plains, thick forests, and large cities. It will take keen players to find all the hidden rewards each area has to offer. Collectors and completionists will also have a task ahead of them if they wish gather everything Okami has to offer. A treasure journal, fish guide, animal guide, and beastiary are just some of the collections that players are challenged to complete before the game's end.





A comparison between an Okami screenshot and a traditional Japanese sumi-e painting

Another one of Okami's strong points is its music. The game's music is very atmospheric and much of it is composed with traditional Japanese instruments. The music paired with the visuals creates a beautiful pair that makes the game even more enjoyable to play.



Similarly to Okami's art and music, the game's story has traditional Japanese elements as well. Okami is a love letter to ancient Japanese myths and folktales, with many references to the old stories. In fact, most of Okami's main cast is based of a character from Japanese mythology. The narrative also contains many twists along the way that most players will not see coming. Occasionally, the game's cut scenes feel a little long-winded. To compound this issue, you can't speed up text during cut scenes, which is somewhat frustrating for a fast reader such as myself. However, these are minor issues that do not detract from the game's overall quality. The game allows you to skip through cut scenes, a very handy tools for subsequent playthroughs.

Conclusion

Okami is a must have for fans of action/adventure games and Japanese culture. It's a game that sports fantastic visuals and an excellent narrative. The motion controls add a new level of control and immersion to the game, but occasionally cause problems when drawing symbols that are similar. However, these are minor problems that should not hinder you from giving Okami a look. If you haven't done so already, I strongly recommend that you give this gem a try.


Additional notes: The years that I listed for the release dates in the first paragraph are the U.S. dates. Similarly to @CapnPancakes, I have opted to leave out a numerical score out of my review. I'd rather you decide whether this is a worthwhile game or not be the content of the review than the score. If you have any questions about the game, I'd be happy to answer them the best I can. Please let me know what you think about this review. It's my first review so I don't expect it to be perfect.


Last edited by Ideal Hero on Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:20 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Review: Okami (Wii) :: Comments

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Post on Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:41 pm by Big Luigi

Don't expect it to be perfect? Dude! This review made me feel like Okami is one of the best game's ever created! Very very VERY! Well done! Very Happy cheers

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Post on Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:44 pm by Professor Clayton

Great Review! I really enjoyed reading it, because it was well written. Stop making me want to buy games! Razz

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Post on Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:51 pm by Capn' Pancakes

@Ideal
Great work man Very Happy 
You reminded me I still need to play through this game though Neutral 

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Post on Thu Sep 05, 2013 9:51 pm by Ideal Hero

Thanks for all of the positive words, guys. Very Happy.
Here's a fun fact that I forgot to mention in my "additional notes." The Wii version of Okami's boxart has a mistake. If you look closely near Ammy's mouth, you can faintly make out an IGN watermark. I checked my box to see it for myself and it was there. Capcom apologized for the mistake and promised to fix the boxes free of charge.

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Post on Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:15 pm by KiDasharus

Very nice review!

...even if I didn't follow part of it D:

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Post on Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:21 pm by Ideal Hero

What part problem didn't work well for you, @KiDasharus? Neutral 
Maybe I can fix it or explain it better.

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Post on Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:55 pm by KiDasharus

Well, it might be partly because my mind is processing at the speed of a snail, but you introduced a lot of... stuff in a few paragraphs, such as number 3. I couldn't keep track of who was who doing what around that point, and had to keep going back to that paragraph for reference. But, I'm tired and can't think very clearly, so it's probably just me.

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Post on Thu Sep 05, 2013 11:38 pm by Knuckles

Great Review Ideal! Will you also be reviewing the DS Sequel Okamiden?

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Post on Fri Sep 06, 2013 1:03 am by Ideal Hero

I'd like to review Okamiden, but I'll need to get the game first. Hopefully I'll be able to track down a copy of the game before long.

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Post on Fri Sep 06, 2013 1:16 am by True Hero

@Knuckles - Of course, you're welcome to buy Ideal a copy to review. In fact, any of you could! Someone should try it. I'm sure it'd be barrels of fun.
Kukuku~

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Post on Fri Sep 06, 2013 10:33 am by Knuckles

@True_Hero Then you can buy me a review copy of Knuckles' Chaotix? For reviewing purposes only.

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