The original PS2 version of Ōkami in 2006 was a critical success, even winning IGN’s Game of the Year despite relatively poor sales. The 2012 remastered PS3 edition gave the next-gen players a taste of this cult classic in beautiful HD, yet again its commercial success failed to match the heights of its critical achievements.
This may help explain why (until embarking on a recent nostalgia fuelled voyage through the best games of my childhood) I’d never even heard of it. What was this mysterious, gorgeous game constantly topping the lists of the best PS2 games of all time?
I didn’t have to wait long to find out, as luckily Capcom released an even further improved edition in December last year for the PS4, PC and Xbox One. Steeped in Japanese mythology, the game sees the player take control of the sun-goddess Amaterasu in the form of a giant wolf, sent to cleanse the land of Nippon (Japan) of the demons unleashed upon it. Effectively a beautiful merging of a Studio Ghibli film (Princess Mononoke springs to mind) and an episode of Bob Ross, Ōkami’s artwork, a blend of watercolour and traditional Japanese ink drawings, makes it one of the best-looking games available.
Effectively a beautiful merging of a Studio Ghibli film and an episode of Bob Ross
The game’s originality again shows itself through the Celestial Brush, a magical paintbrush which the player can use to their advantage. As they progress on their journey, Amaterasu learns a host of new brush techniques, which enable the player to do anything from rejuvenating cherry blossoms and drawing constellations in the sky, to making powerful attacks and bombs which the player can utilise during combat.
Often, the game seems more like an art therapy class than an action-adventure battle against evil. There’s little more tranquil than sitting back as the camera pans peacefully around a meadow whilst Amaterasu feeds a family of deer, or watching the land of Nippon spring back to life as the player rids it of the demonic curse spread in the aftermath of Orochi, the game’s main antagonist. As key gameplay mechanics, these actions grant Amaterasu praise, which the player can then spend to level up their abilities.
The tranquility can be broken at any second by the host of nightmarish monsters which roam the land
On the other hand, just as in a Ghibli movie, this tranquillity can be broken at any second by the appearance of the host of nightmarish monsters which roam the land. Some of the bosses are particularly grotesque, yet this balance provides the player with a perfect dynamic and sense of achievement as they bring the world back to its former glory.
The only slight downside of Ōkami HD has nothing to do with the gameplay, but only that it doesn’t always feel particularly HD. The game’s style makes it what it is, and the environments are still stunning, but it feels like some of the character models could have done with a little more work. Finally, if you get Ōkami, please don’t be put off by Issun, the irritating and slightly-too-creepy-for-a-12-rating (who obviously first appears from between a tree-sprite’s cleavage) inch-high artist who guides Amaterasu on her journey. You’ll get used to him eventually…