Okami was one the few games developed by Capcom’s now non-existent Clover Studio. Originally for the PS2, it received a Wii port a couple of years after its initial release. The plot and characters of the game are all based on Japanese mythology, and the art style and soundtrack is distinctly Japanese as well. Okami features an engaging battle system as well as an enjoyable method for obtaining upgrades to weapons and various attributes.
The game begins with a short narrative telling how the 8-headed dragon, Orochi, was sealed away by the hero Nagi with the help of the white wolf Shiranui. Fast forward one hundred years, and the player assumes control of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun and Shiranui incarnate. Orochi has begun to break his seal, and using the power of the Celestial Brush, Amaterasu is charged with killing the beast once and for all.
She is joined by Issun “The Wandering Artist”, who is so small he sits comfortably between the wolf’s ears. To defeat Orochi, Amaterasu is instructed by the tree spirit Sakuya to restore the land of Nippon to its former beauty and awaken the other twelve gods in order to obtain their powers. She must also recruit the lazy warrior Susano, who claims to be the descendant of the great Nagi. Along the way Amaterasu and Issun meet many other unusual characters in some stunning locations.
The art of Okami sets itself apart by using sumi-e style ink wash painting. The visuals are gorgeous; stepping out into Shinshu Field for the first time, it is cloaked in darkness due to the guardian sapling in the area having withered. After obtaining an ability from one of the twelve hidden gods, it becomes possible to revive dead plants. Doing so on a guardian sapling will initiate a short cinematic in which the unnatural darkness in an area will be banished as a wall of flowers springs up and rapidly pushes it out, in one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed in a game.
Restoring the land thus will also earn the player ‘Praise’, which can be used to upgrade weapons and health. Praise can further be earned by feeding animals using various food items. Few people in Nippon have faith in the gods anymore; restoring this faith is another way to earn Praise. This is a very satisfying mechanic, as you watch as more and more people start to believe in the power of Amaterasu and the land is steadily healed. There are many things to find in the corners of Nippon, which can be used to increase maximum health or generate more Praise. Exploring Nippon is made even more enjoyable by the memorable soundtrack composed by Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Rei Kondoh, Akari Groves and JUN, from Shinshu Field to Ryoshima Coast and back to Kamiki Village.
The puzzles in Okami are fun to solve. Many of them require the use of the Celestial Brush, which is a gameplay element unique to Okami. It works especially well with the Wii’s motion controls, allowing for free and easy drawing. Activating the brush will freeze time and allow Amaterasu to use the powers she gains from the other gods. Drawing a circle in the sky, for example, allows her to change the time from night to day, while quickly drawing a straight line across an object will cause her to slash it, as if with a sword. These abilities can be used in battle too, adding flexibility and variety to the fights. Roaming Nippon are Demon Scrolls that float around the world and will start to chase Amaterasu if she wanders too close. Touching a scroll initiates a real-time battle. Okami features three weapons that can be equipped as the main or sub weapon. Depending on how it’s equipped, each weapon will function differently. The Celestial Brush can be used mid-battle to cause damage to enemies; they can be slashed, set on fire, frozen, have multiple bombs dropped on them, and so on.
Okami has a New Game + feature, permitting the player to complete the game again using all the weapons and upgrades acquired throughout their first playthrough.
This game is a stand-out among Japanese games, and you may even learn a thing or two about classical Japanese myth. Anyone who owns a Wii should try to find this game somewhere.