Buy Okami HD
When the PS2 was starting to wind down in 2006, Capcom released Okami. A big and sprawling adventure that looked absolutely stunning, it became a critical darling. While it may not have sold as well as originally hoped, it made fans out of plenty of people and gave them a reason to hold on to that console for a little while longer. Two years later, the game came to the Wii, and while disputes between Capcom and original developer Clover Studios meant that some Easter eggs were removed, it did bring motion controls, which made the painting aspects much easier to control. Okami HD came to the PS3 in 2012 with motion controls intact and with a resolution bump to 720p. Five years have passed, and while the home consoles still haven’t seen a proper sequel, the game has once again been re-remastered and released for multiple consoles at the same time.
Long ago, the eight-headed beast known as Orochi terrorized a small Japanese village and demanded the sacrifice of a young maiden every year. That all changed one year, when a plucky young warrior and the goddess Amaterasu, under the guise of a wolf, defeated the beast and sent it slumbering for a hundred years. That period of peace was broken when a thief tried to take the sword that locked away Orochi and unleashed the monster on the world again. Lying dormant for that same amount of time, Amaterasu has also awoken, and with the help of a few friends, she departs on a journey to defeat the creature once more.
What helps the story is the fact that it balances every kind of emotion very well. There’s the grandeur of meeting with long-forgotten spirits that impart more knowledge so you can bring yourself back to your former level of power. There’s the drama coming from the people who are just trying to live their lives. There’s the humor that comes from everyday people and the lazy descendant of that great warrior who helped all those years ago. There’s also the sidekick who wants to mimic your powers for his own selfish reasons. As one of the big driving forces of the game, the story does its job very well.
If you wanted to describe the gameplay succinctly, think of it as The Legend of Zelda but leaning toward Ocarina of Time more so than The Wind Waker. The world is varied but split into distinct sectors. Since you’re a wolf, you attack with leaps and tackles, but you can also acquire different weapons, like rosaries and reflectors to vary your attacks. There are light RPG elements, as your actions garner XP, which can then be spent on things like expanding your life pool or wallet to buy more powers and weapons.
The real highlight, however, is the Celestial Brush. By holding down a button to flatten out the world, you can use your right analog stick to create patterns in the world that translate into tangible items and actions. Some are used to fill in gaps or solve puzzles, like drawing in broken bridges or extending rivers. Some are more defensive, like making wind gusts to blow out fires or creating trees to block out attacks. Others are more offensive in nature, like crafting cherry bombs or using the brush as a more powerful sword. There are 13 different actions in all, and you’ll certainly use all of them by game’s end.
As covered by the site’s previous reviews of the game throughout the years, the game mechanics come together through a good balance of combat and puzzle-solving. Finding the solutions can feel rewarding and sometimes humorous. This especially holds true for boss fights, many of which ask you to be inventive with your powers as you combine them to open up a good weak spot. Though there are no new levels, enemies, or bosses to contend with in this version, every single encounter remains just as enjoyable as it did in previous iterations.
About the only criticism one can warrant here is that the pace feels rather slow. For example, the opening sequence is quite lengthy, and it takes lots of skipping through text boxes before you finally get past the tutorial. There are also moments where some people and creatures speak rather slowly, and while whole scenes can be skipped with the press of a button, it can be rather annoying that you’ll do so simply because the game feels like it drags at times.
Of the three available versions, the PC ends up being the best option due to the inclusion of keyboard and mouse support. You can still use a controller if you want, but the switch between control schemes is instantaneous, so you can use the controller for almost everything while the mouse can be used for more accurate drawing and fishing. It also carries with it the minigames and Easter eggs of the original, just like the PS4 and Xbox One versions (yet missing in the PS3 and Wii releases) and native 4K resolution is easy to accomplish with mid-range hardware. The one downside is that, just like its console contemporaries, the game is capped at 30fps, and it’s also missing the usual slate of graphical options that PC gamers are used to. Thus, if you want to mess with things like film grain, you’ll need to grab some modding tools to do the job.
If you don’t mind those limitations, the game’s graphics still hold up well. Although the geometry is reminiscent of the PS2 days, you’ll hardly notice because of the rich, vibrant colors and use of a woodblock style that remains mesmerizing because so few games use it. The animations are well done, and the amount of particles on screen really makes you appreciate what Clover was able to do with the PS2. The soundtrack is also excellent, and while the use of mumbling for voices can be hit-and-miss depending on the player’s taste, it means that the acting quality won’t degrade over time.
Age has treated Okami HD well. Even if it didn’t come with the resolution boost, it would still be beautiful thanks to the art style alone, and the fact that the game is now on various platforms simultaneously helps greatly. Even with the game’s slow moments, the overall gameplay length feels worthwhile, and the mechanics make everything feel tight. As it stands now, Okami HD is really the definitive version of a classic and well worth checking out, especially if you’ve never played the previous iterations. Let’s hope this finally gives Capcom a reason to bring a sequel and not another re-re-re-release in the future.