Games: Knowing Ōkami, knowing you


With the release of Ōkamiden for DS, Quinton O’Reilly pays homage the massively underrated original

Is there a game that is so radiant yet as unknown as Ōkami? Originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2006 and later the Wii, it was a game that received rave reviews and numerous awards but suffered from poor sales and played a part in the closure of its developers, Clover Studios.

The game takes inspiration from numerous Japanese myths and folklore. It puts you in control of the sun god, Amaterasu, who takes the form of a white wolf and embarks on a quest to rid the world of darkness.

Each legend and character encountered is brought to life through its vibrant and majestic art style. Utilising a watercoloured, cel-shaded visual style, the game harbours a timeless feel that puts most games, even ones released now, to shame.

Since the game’s core is based around restoring nature to its original form, particular emphasis is based on the environments and how you interact with it. The scenes where you restore life in each area and watching nature flood each land is a both visually pleasing and breathtaking when witnessing it for the first time.

Its gameplay structure shares the most similarities with the Legend of Zelda series, which is certainly no bad thing, but its unique feature comes in the form of the celestial brush. Allowing you to perform miracles, you can pause the game to bring up a canvas to draw upon with abilities ranging from rejuvenating cherry blossom trees, slashing foes or slowing down time momentarily.

While this premise sounds like it’ll lead to numerous examples of stop-start gameplay, the simple strokes needed for each miracle means that such moments tend to be brief.

Also, combat is tight and focused with some memorable boss fights and the soundtrack consists of classical Japanese instruments and complements the mood of each area you explore.

It’s not all perfect though, sometimes it’s not immediately clear what you’re supposed to do to progress and in the Wii version, the fact that attacking requires you to swing the wiimote means that the pointer may be off screen when bringing the canvas up, moving the canvas away from where you want to draw.

So far, its sequel Ōkamiden has already been released in Japan to very positive reviews, the DS stylus being a natural fit for the game’s celestial brush function. If you have a DS, it will be well worth investing your time in Ōkamiden, or if you have a Wii or PS2, get the original. Those who do the latter will experience a beautifully executed masterpiece.