Product Type: Capcom PS2 games
Newest Review: ... plenty of exciting moments, even if it takes a while to get going. Zelda is definitely the first comparison you'll make when you begin ... more
A beautiful PS2 swan song
Member Name: Stunt 101
Date: 04/12/12, updated on 04/12/12 (31 review reads)
Advantages: Incredible visuals both artistically and technically, meaty quest, enjoyable Zelda-style gameplay.
Disadvantages: Breezy difficulty curve, sluggish start, simplistic brush mechanics.
You take the role of Amaterasu, a god whom takes the form of a white wolf. The opening describes an epic confrontation, from a hundred years, before between the god Shiranui, the warrior Nagi, and Orochi the eight-headed beast. The fight ends with Orochi being sealed away by Nagi's powerful sword and Shiranui being cast into stone. Jump back to the present, and some buffoon decides to pull out Nagi's sword, unleashing Orochi on the world again. But Shiranui, reincarnated as Amaterasu, is freed too and, along with the bug Issun, she must rid the world of the evil which has consumed it. Along the way, the two companions meet a cast of interesting, unique characters whom they must help to progress. It's an interesting story, filled with great Japanese lore, wacky yet innocent humor and plenty of exciting moments, even if it takes a while to get going.
Zelda is definitely the first comparison you'll make when you begin to delve into Okami, though most PS2-exclusive players will more than likely be unfamiliar with this style of gameplay. Some players will find Okami gives a negative first impression, as a 15-minute opening scene will bore some players to sleep. And even a couple of hours into the game, it feels like the player is stuck doing mostly menial tasks such as digging turnips out of a field before a crazy old woman smacks you. The game opens up a lot more as you progress however, and more of the map becomes explorable, more abilities are gained and the scope of the quest opens up considerably. Players may not stick with Okami because of its slow-burn pacing, but anyone who does will find great enjoyment in the later parts of the game.
The main quest of Okami will take about 30 hours to complete, which is incredibly long compared to most games. You'll travel across the whole land completing a wide variety of tasks, all of which are usually marked on your map. The game usually does a good job on guiding you where to go next, though there can some ambiguity as you switch between each of the game's acts. There's also a lot of side mission stuff, including tasks from locals, collectibles including stray beads and just tons of treasure waiting to be found. Adding that stuff on top of the already lengthy quest means Okami can keep you busy for a while, and even if you just focus on the game's main quest, you'll find yourself busy for a semi-large amount of time.
The main feature of Okami is its Celestial Brush, and this is where all of Amaterasu's powers come to life. With the press of the R1 button, the game shifts to a blank canvas where you can draw shapes. While you can draw anything, only specific shapes will activate the wolf's powers. Her special abilities include rejuvenation, which can restore life to plants possessed by evil, a strike move and more unlocked as you progress, which add up to thirteen in total across the whole game. Puzzles may require these moves, and they can also be used in combat on specific enemies to your advantage. The drawing mechanism works well mostly, but sometimes can be spotty as shapes just don't register. And while it's a cool mechanic which adds to the game, it's a shame most of the shapes are just simple lines and circles - it would have been awesome if more complex drawings were needed.
Perhaps one of the more serious issues with Okami is the game's difficulty curve, which borders on a cakewalk, and hardcore players will certainly become bored with this game. Combat doesn't even provide the game with much challenge with most enemies standing around waiting to be attacked. You can equip multiple weapons from three categories, as well as buy items from shopkeepers to assist you, but it doesn't really add spice to the mostly shallow combat. The boss fights are a different story, requiring some thinking-power. They even will challenge you at times - my only death was during one of the game's later boss fights - though most require dodging attacks and waiting for an opening. The only problem is that these fights can become repetitive, as a majority of the bosses need to be fought twice, and one boss is fought three times, which just borders on trite.
What really stands out in Okami is the game's sense of style, created by a perfect visual presentation. Like a Japanese ink painting which has come to life, the familiar cel-shaded style has never been done with such finesse. Stunning moments pepper the experience, in particular the scenes where you rejuvenate an area, and it transforms into beautiful, bright greenery. The game is an artistic masterpiece, but also a technical marvel with no noticeable issues to speak of. The sound is good too, though not as strikingly impressive. With oriental Japanese tunes and catchy sound effects littered throughout the game, it definitely fits with the theme of the game. The voice work will receive mixed reactions, as some will either be charmed by the random garbling or annoyed. Considering how much dialogue the game has, you should pray it's not the latter you fall into.
As one of the last big games to be released on the PS2, Okami creates experience most PS2 users will find unique. It brings the closest thing to Zelda onto Sony's aged platform, and Clover has done an admirable job in creating an artistic showcase through the game's incredible visuals. It's not a perfect experience - its sluggish beginning will detour impatient players, and the game's breezy level of challenge will turn off players weaned on more hardcore experiences. But anyone who is looking for a memorable, beautiful experience will find Okami to fit the bill perfectly.
Summary: Not perfect, but a fitting game to end to Sony's console.