Well, yeah. Okami. This has been what has absorbed my time for the last week or so. I beat it last night, and I couldn’t have been happier with the ending. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me back up. I hadn’t even heard of Okami until the day before its release when a friend told me about it. He showed me a promo video, and I was instantly absorbed. Considering that a brand new PS2 game which looked to be loads of fun would come out for $40, I figured it was very much worth a try. So the next day, I went over to EB Games and picked myself up a copy. Having no idea what I was getting myself into, I declined the offer for 20% off if I bought the player’s guide with the game (I would be going back to buy it the next day, though I still got the discount in the end). Upon starting the game, I had some very positive initial signs. First off, the game is cel-shaded. I’ve absolutely loved this style of game every since the original Jet Grind Radio for the Dreamcast where I first saw it. Secondly, the music was wonderful. Each new piece of music was very enjoyable and very fitting. And third, the Celestial Brush, a key element of the game, was very easy to control and work with.
So here’s a little bit about the game. You play as the sun goddess Amaterasu reborn. You are a wolf. To most you appear as an ordinary white wolf, but your true form bears ornate red tatoos and a Divine Instrument resting on your back. At first, the game appears to be a very standard action-adventure game. Not a genre that I frequently delve into, but one that I always seem to play the best parts off. In any case, I won’t try to explain the entire back-story to the game, as it is VERY comprehensive. In any case, the reason for your birth is effectively that you will restore nature and finally put an end to the demon Orochi, an 8-headed dragon. Anyway, back to Amaterasu. As I said, she is a sun goddess, and she once controlled the powers of 13 Celestial Brush Techniques. However, since those days of legend, those powers have been lost to her. So as you travel, you must regain these 13 techniques of the Brush Gods and use them to combat evil wherever you find it.
Sounds like a pretty basic game, right? Some pretty visuals, some standard music, a basic battle system, just another cookie-cutter game, right? No. Couldn’t be further from the truth. The battle system in this game makes The Legend of Zelda games look like their controls were designed by a child. And I loved the battle systems in those games. In Okami, first of all, you have your choice between three types of weapons in battle. There are Reflectors, your basic close range weapon which can quickly combo and is a primary weapon for the beginning of the game. There are also Rosaries, which are long range, whip-type weapons. They combo very rapidly, but inflict poor damage for the most part and can be difficult to control against multiple enemies. Finally, my personal favorite, Glaives. These sword-type weapons are slower then Reflectors and don’t combo as well, but they are extremely powerful and the attacks can be charged up for extra damage. For each of these weapons, there are 5 different levels, which increase in power at each level. Each weapon can also be powered up one time with an item called Gold Dust, of where there are thankfully 15 in the game. Besides using the primary weapon, you can also equip a sub weapon. The Reflector acts as a shield as a sub weapon, the Rosary is like a gun almost, and the Glaive works… like a sword. However, the true power of the sub weapon comes once you gain abilities. You can boost the power of your weapon if you use a weapon and a sub weapon of the same type. Two Glaives, both powered by Gold Dust, man, that’s a nasty combination. BUT this is just talking about your physical attacks. Of course, you can use the Celestial Brush in battle as well. This allows you to do some awesomely powerful attacks, assuming that you have enough ink to cast them. The boss battles in Okami are awesome, and often require Amaterasu to make full use of her Celestial Brush abilities. The final boss really pulls out all the stops, you’ll be using abilities that you’d forgotten you had. It’s one of the best designed battles I’ve ever fought. On top of everything I’ve mentioned before, you can also level up to a degree. As you complete quests and progress through the game, you get Praise. You use this Praise to increase your stats. You can increase your Health up to 15 points (it can go up to 20 if you collect the Sun Fragments). You can increase Ink Pots to to a total of 10, Astral Pouches up to a total of 4, and Money can be increased to hold up to 99 million I guess. I don’t know who would ever have that much money though… Finally, you have the ability to gain further skills with your weapon and boost their combo or power capabilities along the way. You can also boost the power of your Celestial Brush techniques in similar ways. Basically, this battle system is extremely open, you have many options, all of which can be changed to work with a personal fighting style. Can’t beat that kind of deal in an action-adventure game, right?
If you ever liked action-adventure games, you NEED Okami. It’s an epic game. I put 70 hours into it before I even noticed. It’s such an easy game to get wrapped up in. At first, it seems like it has a fleeting story that you don’t really care that much about, but the more you play, and the more you learn, the more entrapped in the game you become. The battle system is beyond amazing. The visual appeal isn’t even the best thing about this game, and yet it’s easily among my favorite games in terms of art style. The music is awesome, the bosses are awesome. The game is scaled perfectly in difficulty. It’s a fair enough that almost anyone can get through the game, but anyone who says that it is an easy game has never done the sidequests. Nobody who has fought the Kusa 5 (more like 8, those bastards), nobody who has gathered all 100 Stray Beads, would ever claim this is an easy game. And let me say this, if you’ve not done your best to try and get everything in this game, then you haven’t really played Okami. This is a game that is meant to be played to exhaustion. The more you play it, the more you will love it. And I love it. This game is among my favorites ever. And it very well might end up being the best game I play this year. Maybe not, if there’s a better game, I cannot wait to play it. ^_^