Malik (2/9/07)

Okami from Clover/Capcom (PS2)

Good: There's too much to put here. The visuals are amazing, the audio is great, the game play is novel and addictive, and the plot is amazing and epic.

Bad: "Voices" can be annoying to some (if you hate Animal Crossing "voices"), the brush can be a little sensitive, and the game ends with no sequel in sight. Also, if it weren't for the game being so much fun, the challenge (or complete and total lack of any) would be a very bad thing.


Okami was shown off at many industry shows leading up to it's release. It was the game that would help to revolutionize what we thought possible from PS2 era visuals. That's a big claim, but it's coming from Clover, the people behind Viewtiful Joe.

When the game finally launched in 2006, much of the hype had died down. FFXII, Tales of the Abyss, Zelda, and Gears of War had all taken some of the hype away in the current gen, and the next gen lineup was forming fast and frantically. It was hard for a game based on Japanese mythology and religion to really get much attention to an audience like the US.

That's part of the reason I let the game slip by when it first came along. It just went below the radar, and it was not until the "Best of 2006" awards were constantly calling Okami GOTY or runner up that I opened my eyes and saw that the Wii could afford to sit a bit while I gave the PS2 what might be it's final hurrah. Was waiting on this game a smart move on my behalf? With the difficulty I had in finding a copy and with the experience I had, the answer is clear; I was an idiot!


100 years ago, in the small village of Kamiki, evil was afoot. Orochi was the head of this evil. This great demon would demand a sacrifice of a young woman on the night of the full moon. About this same time, Shiranui, a strange white wolf, was on the lose in the village. The villagers assumed that Shiranui was a familiar of Orochi and were bent on stopping the wolf...but their efforts always failed.

On the night of the next full moon, Nagi, the hero of this village and the main opponent of Shiranui saw as his beloved was chosen as the next sacrifice. Nagi decided to end this turmoil with a final battle to the end with the seemingly invincible Orochi. During his epic battle, things looked bad until Shiranui arrived and helped Nagi to seal the demon. During the battle, Shiranui was fatally wounded. Nagi took Shiranui's body back to the village and a small shrine was erected in the wolf's honor to remember this unexpected ally for all time.

100 years later (the present day), someone removed the seal that had held Orochi in stasis. That is when evil returned to the land. When all seemed like it could not be fixed, the statue of Shiranui was restored to life by Sakuya, a tree spirit. You are this restored Shiranui, who also happens to be Amaterasu (the goddess of the sun). Sakuya charges you with saving the land. Behind divine in nature, you naturally take this burdon on yourself.

You also take on the duty of babysitting Issun, a Poncle (a small humanoid that looks a lot like a mushroom...maybe Toad from Mario is a Poncle...?). This mischievous imp is an artist by training and is also a perverted troublemaker who will serve as your voice (wolf's don't talk much more than saying "woof"). Issun also takes on the important duty of giving you a more easy to remember name; Ammy.

As you play the game, you will encounter dozens of unique characters, vastly different moods and themes, and most of all a good amount of emotional storytelling unlike what many would expect from a Zelda inspired game. The plot will continually advance and progress with each new move you make, and you will be treated to something more reminiscent of a classical novel's plot than the plot of a video game. If you like complex plots with a lot of emotional investment, then this is the best game for you.

Game Play

This game plays like Zelda. I said it. No Okami fan would like to hear that said, nor would any Zelda fan. However, the basics of Zelda are the basics of Okami. Also, while you do play as a wolf, it's more like playing as the human Link than the wolf Link of Twilight Princess.

The game comes down to three basic events. The first would be exploration, including your usual town and dungeon stuff. This mainly includes you trying to find every hidden area, treasure, and side quest possible. It also includes you being able to talk with people to learn of the plot, buying equipment, and just shooting the breeze. This part of the game is literally as simple as it sounds.

The second part is battles. In a battle, you will be enclosed in a small hemisphere, from which you and the enemies are trapped to commence battle. Some battles allow you to leave by breaking a hole in the hemisphere, while others don't allow such egress. The fighting is quick and fun with the use of your brush techniques (more on that will follow), a primary weapon, a secondary weapon (or shield), and some fun special abilities (like peeing on enemies to get better rewards). The battle may have you as a wolf in shape, but the weapons work as if held by an invisible human hand. In fact, if you dread playing as a wolf due to games like Twilight Princess, you should be happy to hear that the only effect you have from being a wolf is the ability to bark, pee (and works in the game, no matter how strange or juvenile it sounds), and the reflexes and speed of a wolf.

The game will also reward you with bonuses based on the way you fight a battle. Each enemy will drop money, but also some will drop an alternative currency (demon fangs) if you either "eliminate waste" on them or if you find the correct finishing move for a dieing foe. Additionally, for talking no damage, or for fighting quickly, you will get bonus money.

The final part of the game is the good old puzzle solving and side quest side of things. Using your brush techniques and some communicating, you'll have a lot of chances to solve puzzles and help people with odd jobs. This includes races, helping cooks with their recipes, opening complex doors, finding hidden treasure in amazing 2D vertical mazes, and just solving the basics of restoring life to a demon ravaged country.

The main benefit of these side quests is not the treasure. While money is good for buying healing items, offensive items, weapons, and whatever else you need to survive, it's not enough. That's where praise comes in. Praise is the experience points you get for helping to return normalcy to the country. It can then be used to increase your health ("heart containers"), wallet size, your astral pouch (energy tanks that restore you to full health when/if you die), and ink supply.

Speaking of ink, the main feature of this game's engine is the celestial brush. When you hit the R1 button, the world literally turns into your canvas. You then can use the analogue stick and one of two face buttons to draw symbols. As you play through the game, the amount of brush techniques you know will increase and open up new solutions to puzzles and new ways to defeat your foes. These range from turning day into night and night into day by drawing a circle (sun) or crescent (moon) in the sky, a powerful slash attack (to kill and to destroy boulders and trees), plant growth (to restore life to the world), cherry bombs (like bombs in explore new caves and to harm foes), and the manipulation of fire, water, electricity, and vines (to fly through the air). You also can make gusts of air, and climb up special walls with time. You can even upgrade some of these abilities to make (and not just manipulate) elements, increase the power of your slash attach, and to make more bombs at a time.

The celestial brush is a lot like the items you find in Zelda. However, instead of various ammunitions, you have just one shared ink pool. When you run out, it will restore on vial (one "magic meter") each nine seconds, or quicker with special items and ink refill pickups. However, running out of ink also eliminates your equipment until you have at least one point saved, which will put you into an unarmed (and under classed) position in combat.

The only downside of this innovative mechanism for controlling the world is that it can be a bit touchy. For example, to make a bomb, you draw a circle and then a line sticking out of it (like a fuse on a bomb). Do this too quickly, and you may summon a gust of wind (which is a swirl motion). Also, some techniques use the same design but in different locations. A circle will bloom a tree, but if your aim is not correctly interpreted, you may have drawn a circle in the sky, which will summon the sun. It does take time to get used to, but after you start to understand what the game wants, you'll wish this system was in more games.

In the end, Okami offers a perfect blend of the familiar (Zelda style) with an innovative twist of the celestial brush. The controls are easy to learn, and are quite complex and fun to play with after the initial hour of learning. The only downside at all is that this game is too damned easy. With the free flow of cash in the game, and the ability to hold 99 of each item (including cheap attack items and three sizes of healing items), you will not even need to put your best in most fights. In fact, I never saw the game over screen, nor did I use any of the "1-up" style astral pouches.


Holy shit! That was my first thought in this game. The visuals are everything they were promised to be, and more. While the details would say that the visuals are rough and far from complex, that's where the beauty comes into play. This game is a lot like an ancient Japanese sketch drawing. It's simple, it looks like a Japanese drawing that came to life, and it's amazing to behold because of it's simplistic nature.

I'm not talking about how a game like Katamari Damacy looked great because it was simple. That game worked with simple visuals because it was a simple game. It was a theme for the game that came along nicely.

Okami looks great by being simple in one way; it's meant to represent ancient Japan like only a few things have ever shown it. It has the epic plot of a book like any detailing the Heike and Gengi clans, and it has the exact look of a Japanese sketch drawing. If ancient Japanese art was not this style, I doubt the game would have been and it would've looked out of place. However, using history and real art as a backing, Okami never fails to amaze with it's beauty.


For the most part, the audio of Okami is as amazing as the rest of the game. In particular, the sound effects are fun and lighthearted, but they remain realistic enough to fulfill their needed roles. This goes from the whistling of a summoned wind, the explosion of a bomb, the howl of a wolf, the crackle of a flam, and the splashing you hear when you enter water. You also have the ambient noises of animals and other sounds of nature are you explore the land. This goes hand in hand with the clangs and smashing noises of fierce (yet easy) combat.

The background music is also in this same class. The music is always memorable and it always matches the scene at hand. There is nothing boring or overplayed in the sound track.

The only potential downside of the audio is found in "voices". The voices in this game are Animal Crossing style garbled sounds. If you can stand Sim-speak or Animal Crossing talk, then you are in for 45 hours of annoyances on this otherwise fabulous game. However, while some people may not enjoy them, they actually fit into the game nicely. It matches the art style by keeping the game rooted in reality, but slightly removed enough to make one feel like they are playing on a whole different level than what games will traditionally present the player. Actual voice over work or a lack of an "speech" would have simple left this aspect of the game in the wrong general feel and emotion.


Okami is definitely a game that doesn't come along every day...or even every year. This is a game that defies all that we expect from the game industry. The visuals are fresh and unlike anything else, and besides some influences from Viewtiful Joe (another Clover game), there is no use of cell shading that even comes close to this style of animation in a video game. When you throw in the innovative celestial brush mechanics and the plot that comes straight out of Japanese myths and religion, you have a game that really should not have come to the US under traditional circumstances.

The American shores were truly bestowed a great honor to have seem this game. Even though it has some problems with an overly easy challenge level, the game is epic and amazing to play. It's one game that truly will inspire addiction to the PS2 as we bid that generation goodbye. So, without and hesitation, I give Okami a very rare and very well earned 10 out of 10. Some things could have been better on paper, but it may not have made this game any better in practice.