Review by almostexactly
"God is really only another artist, he made the elephant, giraffe and cat. He has no real style but keeps trying new ideas."
There was a legend long, long ago about a god named Okami and the many headed demon Orochi. Legend has it that Orochi was slain by a legendary warrior and a white wolf by the blessing of the gods.
As Amaterasu, the resurrected goddess, not only do you embark on a mission to save the world from the many mythical jaws of evil, but you go around spreading your godly influence to restore people's faith in the gods. By helping the mere mortals defeat monsters or exhibiting your skills with the brush, in amazement, people will proclaim it is the work of the gods. As their faith in the gods grows, so does Amaterasu's power (or at least, measurable abilities like health or the size of your money pouch).
Okami's graphical style sets one notch apart from it's adventure game comrades. By using the brush, one transforms reality into the canvas and the brush strokes back into Okami's reality. Swirls become wind, circles become bombs, and the brush becomes second nature as an integral tool to save Nippon from darkness. It really is intuitive and you'll be using it constantly to reach the unreachable places, slash trees and pots for extra goodies, and in combat.
Normal battles in Okami aren't too difficult. If they cannot be defeated through normal meals of smashing them with Reflectors, Rosaries, or Glaives, the correct brush stroke can bring you back to the path of victory. Your ink slowly recharges when some of it is used and if you use it all up before it can recharge, the punishment is that it reverts you to non-god status. This means that you lose your Celestial Brush and your weapons for the short time until your ink recharges. It's not permanent, but it is something that keeps you from constantly spamming your brush abilities and something to keep an eye out for in the midst of battle.
If you ever forget which tricks you've learned to take out certain enemies, the Bestiary keeps a list of monsters and the methods to defeat them and can easily be accessed in the midst of combat.
The margin of error in dodging an attack is generally very forgiving in Okami. When enemies are about to unleash a super attack, they'll often provide an obvious signal for it. If Amaterasu does happen to fall in battle, the Astral Pouch can give you up to four more chances at life. Filling the Astral Pouch with food to get another shot at life isn't too difficult while you're on the field. Slashing or breaking just about anything will net you some food and several characters encountered on Amaterasu's journey are happy enough to share extra rations with the friendly, dog-life wolf. That consuming an Astral Pouch doesn't count as a Game Over in the records menu is a nice benefit too.
Combat, though, isn't the meat of Okami. It's toying with the brush techniques and seeing what one can do specifically as Amaterasu. Circling people with your brush will made them adore you and scamper over to pet you. Mis-paint and draw over them and they blink in confusion as to why they are temporarily covered in ink. Drawing lines over the grass will make it burst into colorful bloom, delighting nearby animals. For the more sadistic, you can also bomb them, burn them, zap them, or blow wind at them and everyone will react to these strange, godly phenomenons. There are many things you can do with the brush that are not required to finish the game and you are encouraged to try them out to get the most out of the game.
You meet all sorts of colorful characters, many of which will have lots to talk about in strings of jumbled gibberish. Amaterasu, herself, doesn't speak except in doggy barks though your fairy partner, Issun, will do enough talking for the both of you. Bits and pieces of Japanese mythology and calligraphy are floating around everywhere. Japanese style paintings will be often employed in the place of cutscenes to narrate stories. Locations and names and the music are all very artistically Japanese. You'll be seeing a lot of pink blooming cherry trees on Amaterasu's journey.
It's a beautiful game. The brush is implemented well so that it isn't just a bothersome gimmick. The characters and world are charming and colorful. There's a lot to interact with and many sidequests to get involved with, easily making the game 30-50 hours. Even with the addition of the Mermaid Pools and teleporting Mirrors that allow instantaneous travel to just about anywhere in Nippon you'd want to go, rarely does the game feel like filler or pointless traveling. There's a lot to look around at. Occasionally, this will result in a minor hiccup in lag, but it's because the rest of the game flows so smoothly that you'd notice the lag at all.
It's a superiorly made adventure game. It isn't revolutionary but it looks great, it plays great, and has one of those 3-D cameras that are easy to control and don't get in your way, which is a rare blessing in itself.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/01/07
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