Okami HD – game review.
Okami just debuted on the third generation of consoles in a row. In the case of other titles, we usually say that the publisher has made another jump on the box office, but the reviewed item deserves commercial success. It is worth playing the adventures of Amaterasu on a regular basis, using any equipment – it is such a great production.
In the heyday of PlayStation 2, Capcom periodically delivered great games to the market, among which the productions under the chisel of Clover Studio enjoyed great recognition among reviewers and players. Two parts of Viewtiful Joe are cult items, but the greatest work left by the studio, closed in 2007, is Okami. Referring to the Japanese art of sumi-e, the developers created a fantastic response to The Legend of Zelda, creating a title that is extremely playable, beautiful and unique in several respects on the scheme of Link’s adventures. Unfortunately, despite the great artistic success, Okami fell in stores, which was the direct cause of the closure of the capable studio by the yellow-blue. Soon after, the said item was released on the Wii, and at the end of 2012 in the HD version on PlayStation 3. The edition prepared for PS4, XOne and PC is based on a great remaster from five years ago. Fans know exactly what to expect from the next re-release of their beloved title, but what awaits those for whom this will be their first contact with the great adventure of Amaterasu?
Zelda without Zelda
The story presented in the game is based on a classic Japanese legend, but screenwriter Hideki Kamiya made every effort to ensure that the story was also followed with interest by players who are not interested in Asian folklore on a daily basis. Okami takes place in Nippon, which a hundred years earlier had a hard time due to the attack of demonic forces. At the very beginning, we learn the story of the snow-white wolf Shiranui and the sword master Nagi, who together defeated the eight-headed demon Orochi and saved the village of Kamiki along with Miss Nami’s chosen heart. Shiranui and Nagi were unable to finally destroy Orochi, but managed to banish the demon. One hundred years later, Orochi returns, poisoning the green areas of Nippon. Then the spirit of the forest and the guardian of the village of Kamiki, Sakuya, summons the fourth Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who, together with the artist Issin, must save the land seized by Orochi, who is thirsty for revenge. If you are counting on a dramatic story, with today’s mandatory “twist” saved for the finale, you may be a little disappointed. Okami is primarily a game of fairy-tale conventions, full of eccentric characters, references and allusions to Japanese culture and pop culture (including other Capcom games), full of humor, honest and direct in its message. Although the artistic soul of this title may suggest that the authors take their work very seriously, in fact it is not. Having an important mission to fulfill, Issun is sometimes more interested in Sakuya’s seductive body than in saving Nippon, and the artist’s relationship with Amma (as our heroine calls it) is not the easiest. The author of the script even made a joke with the game’s producer, Atsushi Inaba (Metal Gear Rising: NieR: Automata), naming a dog belonging to one of the NPCs the same.
The storyline is therefore Japanese to the bone, while in the subject of the game it is commonly said that Okami is one of the best installments of The Legend of Zelda, without the name of the princess in the title. The scheme of the game from the very beginning brings associations with the famous Nintendo series. Simply put, during the 40-hour adventure, we move around fancifully designed locations, we forge through dungeons, collecting various items along the way, overcome simple platform challenges, solve simple puzzles, talk with encountered characters for whom we perform various activities . It was sprinkled with an RPG layer, i.e. character development or a simple economic system. The game remains friendly to the player all the time and does not try to complicate his life. When we get stuck for a moment, an indicator appears, directing us to the nearest target, without entering the menu, we can look at the location map at any time, a detailed activity log is also very useful (main, side quests, challenges, statistics, etc.). Completing the main plot is a task for two days, besides, we will find here a lot of optional activities and minor “sweethearts”. The downside for some may be the fact that the game is not much of a challenge most of the time, requiring only basic mechanics and a few purchases in the store before the boss fight. Apart from exploration, combat is the most dominant element of the game. When we rely on Amaterasu’s skills, the system looks pretty standard, resembling many other Japanese action RPGs, although this is how you can “plant” most of your opponents. It gets more interesting when Issun reaches for a brush …
There is no such second
This way, we have reached the first of two elements that make Okami a unique title. The so-called The Celestial Brush can be used practically at any time of the game, using the R1 button (PS4 version) to turn the still frame into a fragment of the canvas, and then draw any shape on it using the analog stick. It sounds simple in theory and it is in practice, because playing with a heavenly brush is extremely intuitive – in the course of the adventure, we get to know the next figures that, when placed on the picture, give a specific effect. Thus, a symbol of the sun painted in the sky will turn night into day, while another figure will heal a sick tree. The “spells” obtained along the way are useful both during exploration (rebuilding objects, destroying obstacles, changing the time of day), and during combat, when, for example, we have to tie the arms of an attacking monster or weaken the enemy with an explosive or a strong damn. There are plenty of possibilities and I bet that even at the end of the game, no one will get bored of using this tool. I enjoyed the mere appearance of the graphic filter accompanying the painting process, and then the effect of my actions enforced by the console. Fortunately, the authors consciously linked this mechanism with most of the game’s activities, so we grab Issun’s brush at almost every step. The entire spectacle, as in the editions dedicated to PS2, PS3 and Wii, is watched in thirty frames per second. The manufacturer’s decision may seem strange to us, considering the remaster of a title from the PlayStation 2 era, however, the developers claim that the game was designed to work in this mode. Tests were carried out with a frame at the level of sixty frames, unfortunately problems with collision detection and animation made the item unplayable. It is a pity, although if I did not mention it, I suspect that hardly anyone would pay attention to it.
Okami’s graphic design is based on the old Japanese art of sumi-e. The effect is amazing – the game world and heroes made in the cel-shading technique resemble an image set in motion, from which it’s hard to take your eyes off. The production of Clover Studio was fantastic in 2006, 2012, today it looks great, and in ten years I will probably be able to write the same – the said game is on the short list of titles that will probably never get old in terms of visuals. I can’t write the same about voice-acting, which is simply not in the game. It is a pity, because the Japanese seiyuu are reliable and their participation in the project would certainly have a better effect than irritating gibberish over time. On the other hand, this was the intention of the creators, and this procedure was another element of Hideki Kamiya’s artistic vision. At the other extreme, there is an extremely rich and varied soundtrack inspired by classical Japanese music, on which a quartet of composers has worked. We already know all this from the PS2, and in a better version – from the PS3. So what new did the authors prepare? First of all, there is an option to scroll the text during dialogues, which should please everyone without exception. Nostalgic fans can now switch the aspect ratio from 16: 9 to 4: 3, while owners of appropriate TV sets will enjoy 4K resolution. Restored loading mini-games that were cut from the Wii and PS3 versions. It is also worth mentioning that the PS4 and PS3 releases share one set of trophies (so we won’t win two independent platinum trophies), PS Move support has also dropped out of the game, although I doubt anyone would cry about it.
Reviewing the conversion of several years of productions, especially the so-called remasters is a difficult topic. After all, how to judge a long-known title, which differs from the original sometimes only in that it works in higher resolution? Praise the average production for the quality of the new release or maybe spill slop on a great game that the developers moved to the next console on the line of least resistance? My position is the same as in the case of reissues of older films on new media, so I am primarily interested in what such a position presents here and now. And Okami HD in 2017 is still one of the best installments of The Legend of Zelda, without Zelda in the title. I sincerely envy all those who have this adventure ahead.