by James Toal
While it may dismay some that older games are being re-released instead of developers working on new ideas, there’s nothing like booting up a classic title from the past and seeing it look as gorgeous as the first time you laid your eyes on it. This is why it’s amazing to have Okami receive the HD treatment, as the art style and overall tone leads this game to age well visually. Although, some parts have not lived up to your nostalgia filled mind as you once thought.
First of all, the game takes it time to get into combat or full gameplay, you’ll spend the first part wishing for the opening cutscene to pick up the pace and experiment with the new mechanics. Fortunately, once you do get to jump head first into the gameplay, it felt so natural to control. Building up speed, leaving a trail of bloomed flowers behind you all added to the feel of the world you had now entered. Putting nature back to its beautiful and picturesque state always felt satisfying. Whether it was bringing dead trees back to life, feeding the wildlife, or reviving the entire ecosystem of the area, it always felt like you were making an impact. You brought life back into the world, and you were rewarded with gorgeous visuals and more points for you to upgrade yourself.
We can all agree that the game is gorgeous. Unfortunately, since the game has come out, there have been advancements in how we play Zelda-like games. Heck, even Breath of the Wild has been praised for its innovation. Okami shares many similarities with the Zelda series, you encounter dungeons that normally have an imposing boss to defeat at the end, each new piece of gear or Celestial Brush technique gives you another way to complete a dungeon or enter with previously inaccessible areas.
However, while the Zelda series in the past has been criticised for introducing new gear only for you to use it in the next dungeon then never again, in Okami, almost every Celestial Brush stroke feels useful. Whether it’s accessing items locked away behind a specific element, or ingeniously using them to defeat enemies in a certain way to earn more loot.
Speaking of the combat, it’s flawed in areas but overall feels great when you get timings right to mow down enemies thanks to learning their patterns, which is the best way to dispense of them quickly. That being said, it’s not quite as good when it comes to boss battles. The bosses themselves are fantastic to look at, the design and colour shows how much effort went into making them look unique and terrifying.
But, how you defeat them leaves a lot to be desired. The bosses you encounter can all relatively be defeated quite quickly, as they mostly require you to draw with your celestial brush a few times in different ways and then you’re pretty much done. Slap the enemy a few times and you’ve defeated another boss, which leads to a deflating experience. Sure, it was creative how you took them out, but since the challenge wasn’t too difficult the payoff wasn’t rewarding or satisfying.
Then there’s Issun. Oh dear, what to do with Issun. While he has his memorable moments as he accompanies you on your travels, it’s hard to overlook that he might just be the horniest video game character since Leisure Suit Larry. Every time he’s near a female character you’ll always have this little horn dog comment on her breasts or constantly refers to them as Babe or Sweet Cheeks. Does he ever get consequences for his actions? Occasionally, as he’ll often be the butt of the jokes after some of his advances fail, but the predictability is utterly benign and just leaves you wishing that the writers could’ve filled most of his lines without him letching at every attractive woman in view.
Overall, Okami is certainly flawed in aspects, but the charm keeps it memorable for me. The humour (while a little uncomfortable sometimes with a certain wandering artist) was well timed and knew when to have a good time, and when to let the serious moments sink in. Am I glad I bought the game again? Yes. Reliving the tale of Amaterasu was a fun experience and made me realise how much I missed some of these characters. Plus, slicing through enemies using the power of brush strokes satisfies the failing artist lying deep down within me.