Release Date: 12/12/2017
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The Good: Fantastic visuals, Celestial Brush is a one-of-a-kind gameplay mechanic, fun story and characters, plenty of things to do in the world, lots of excellent enemies and bosses, 4K textures and widescreen support
The Bad: Last 5-10 hours drag on and feel unnecessary, Celestial Brush can sometimes not work as intended, too much backtracking towards the end, dialog voices are grating, some cutscenes take forever to get through
Okami was one of my favorite PS2 games growing up. I got the game for my birthday and was amazed by the beauty of the visuals and the unique gameplay of the Celestial Brush. It may not seem like such a big deal today, but back in 2006 this game sold PS2 units like hotcakes, and it helped the PS2 standout as the best console of the generation, something the Xbox and GameCube didn’t have.
Fast forward 11 years and the game still stands out and holds up as if it was released yesterday. You play as Okami Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, with your Poncle pal Issun, as you embark on an adventure to rid Japan of darkness and evil. It seems like a stereotypical Japanese action adventure story, but it’s a bit more than that. The characters have depth and they all feel unique in their own way with overexaggerated characatures and personalities.
The game starts out simple enough by introducing you to basic game mechanics, including the Celestial Brush by learning your first Brush Technique, Rejuvenation. By pressing a button the screen takes a snapshot and turns it into a black and white drawing right before your eyes. You then take an actual brush that you control and paint the correct stroke for each technique. This is such a beautiful and amazing game mechanic that works so well and yet has not been matched to this day.
As you progress through the game the world opens up with larger hub areas that you can explore around in. Besides going for the main story you can partake in item collection quests, Praise gathering, and finding hidden chests that contain various items. Praise is used to upgrade your health, ink pots, Astral Pouch (used to resurrect you when you die), and money pouch. Praise can be gained by rejuvenating dead areas, feeding animals, and helping villagers in small, yet sparse, side quests. However, 90% of the time you will be heading ever onward toward the end of your journey.
Combat is actually where the Celestial Brush comes into play the most. You and the enemies are surrounded by a cursed circle and you can use your various brush techniques to defeat the enemy. There are many enemy types in the game and they are all based on ancient Japanese myths and legends and look fantastic as well. Each enemy is completely different and weak to different techniques. Enemies are introduced slowly throughout the entire game all the way to the end.
Boss fights are also unique and fun in their own right. Outside of brush attacks, you can also attack physically and with items. Amaterasu can equip three different types of weapons: Mirrors, Glaives, and Beads. Mirrors are good for quick rapid medium range attacks, Glaives are for heavier and slower close range attacks, and Beads are for rapid long range attacks. You can also equip a sub-weapon for a secondary attack that is either close range or projectile. Combat never got old, but is rather easy. I actually got through the entire game without dying once and after you start getting a lot of money you can just by heavy damage items and use them over your techniques and weapons. It’s a little unbalanced, but still, fun and challenging nonetheless.
As a whole, Okami is beautiful, adventurous, memorable, and unique. However, it does have some flaws. The dialog is the most irritating part of the game as characters talk in muffled simlish gibberish and it just gets grating after awhile. You also can’t quickly skip through dialog during some cutscenes so they take forever to get through. I also found the last 25% of the game long-winded and unnecessary. There’s also a lot of backtracking towards the end and repeated boss battles which drove me nuts. The game clocks in at about 25-30 hours which is a little too long for this game. Towards the end, it just felt like the devs were extending the play time by making you repeat things and dragging things out. I loved my time with Okami, but those last 5-10 hours drove me insane.
Outside of all this, the remastered version looks amazing in widescreen and 1080p and even has 4K textures if you own an appropriate console or PC. It’s nice to see Capcom supporting current tech with their updated games as Okami pops to life on 4K TVs. The price is also a steal as it was released with a budget price of $20, there’s no excuse not to play this classic.