If you are one of the many gamers who overlooked the late Clover Studios’ Okami during its Playstation 2 release in 2006, and you own a Wii, than you owe it to yourself to pick up this port of the original masterpiece. Now I know even here sitting at my computer miles away from where ever you are reading this that your eyes just rolled when you read the word port used in conjunction with a PS2 title. Granted, the Wii has been inundated with ports from Sonny’s former console, but to ignore this one would be to miss out on one of the most unique gaming experiences to be found on any console. It’s also worth mentioning that the entire control system has been retooled for the Wii’s unique motion controls. There went more eye rolls. It’s ok, believe me, I understand the frustration with some of the “waggle” controls found on much of the shovelware that has made its home on Nintendo’s little white box, but the controls, like the other aspects of the game, have risen above other games in its genre to become something special.
The story of the game revolves around many Japanese folk tales and Shinto mythology. You play as the titular character, Okami Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun who inhabits the form of a white wolf. As you begin the story you will battle the forces of Orochi, an 8-headed serpent demon who’s annual ritual involves devouring a young maiden from the village of Kamiki. The story starts out simple enough but gradually unfolds into an epic tale that spans the expansive world of Nippon and beyond. The dialogue is excellently written and often very humorous, especially the lines delivered by your bug-sized traveling companion Issun, who speaks for the silent Amaterasu, whom he affectionately refers to as Ammy. The game is heavily story driven, and weighs in around 30-40 hours depending on skill level, and can take much longer if all the side quests are attempted.
The methods Ammy uses to do to battle with the forces of evil are as unique as the rest of the game’s experience. From the beginning of the game you will carry a divine instrument on your back. You use these weapons much in the same way of a standard sword weapon such as Link or any other Adventure/RPG might wield. There are 3 basic types of divine instruments: Reflectors, Rosaries, and Glaives. The controls for using these weapons are much more unique on Wii than the previous PS2 version. However, they are not as simple, as the “waggle” controls you may have in mind. The reflectors are most like a standard melee weapon and attack at short range. You use the reflector by swinging the Wii remote, but not simply wildly around, you must time each swing carefully and precisely and the learning curve for doing so is actually fairly challenging. Using a Rosary will cast out a string of beads like a whip, and the Glaives resemble swords and are the most powerful in terms of raw offense. Each of these weapon types have totally different control schemes and are very creative. Ammy can keep two divine instruments actively equipped. The primary weapon is the one used for melee attacks and are employed using the aforementioned motion controls. Each weapon can also be equipped as in the secondary slot, which will use them for a totally different purpose using the Z and C buttons on the Nunchuck controller. For instance the reflector becomes a shield, the rosary beads are fired in rapid machine-gun like succession over a distance, and the glaives become a lunging charge or a powerful single charged strike.
However, Ammy’s most unique method of attack isn’t her divine weapons but her Celestial Brush. This is where the Wii’s controls really shine. Pressing and holding the B button will freeze the world around Ammy as a giant brush is superimposed across the now scroll like scene. Use the Wii remote to draw certain symbols to utilize Ammy’s divine powers. These powers are used both in combat and in solving puzzles in the story, for purposes as common as restoring an old woman’s clothes line, to calling lightning from the heavens to decimate your foes. There are many different brush strokes to be collected by the end of the game, and each is unique and feels very powerful when used against your foes.
Arguably the most unique aspect of Okami is its visual style. Okami uses cel-shading and watercolor graphics to give the impression of an ancient Japanese painting. The world is colorful, and each environment is unique from the beautiful Kamiki village where cherry blossoms gently waft through the air to the majestic Agata Forrest where tall trees tower high above the landscape. As you play the game you get the distinct impression that you are playing a painting.
In conclusion this game is an experience; like a great work of art and is a delight to the senses, with its beautiful graphics and epic musical score, combined with truly unique game-play. If you own a Wii, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this game. I can’t say if the game surpasses the Legend of Zelda series or not, but the fact that such a comparison is even merited should give you a clue of the magnitude of this game’s quality.