If games can be art, here’s the best possible example.
In our earlier preview of Okami, we boldly stated that the game would affect your life. After saving this hand-painted world from certain doom, we can safely say that claim holds up throughout the game’s lengthy quest. Absolutely everything about this adventure is top of the line, blending the very best puzzle aspects of Zelda with a visual style that no other title can match.
Graphics aren’t everything, but in Okami ‘s case, they help define a universe. Whether you’re searching for lost warrior dogs or scouring a labyrinth for an eyeball-shaped key, you’ll never once discover some glaring flaw that yanks you out of the mood.
The dungeons, people and environment are pieced together in such a beautiful, artistic way that they don’t even look like graphics – they look like another, existing realm that we’ve been lucky enough to witness. Even your character, the revived wolf-goddess Amaterasu, radiates with divine energy.
Even smaller details, like babbling water and chirping insects, breathe constant life into every area you visit. Even though most new locales are covered in a murky, cursed fog, your godly powers slowly cleanse the countryside and bring blue skies back to the delight of cuddly forest animals everywhere. People start moving back into their homes, rivers flow once more… there’s always a reward for pressing on.
And just like Zelda, you’re given more abilities as the adventure opens up. Seeing as the game looks like a moving painting, it’s fitting that Amaterasu’s main power comes from the landscape-changing Celestial Brush, a weapon that lets you draw, slash and ink away the world’s problems.
The Celestial Brush is used in everything from solving puzzles to tackling the enormous bosses that lurk inside various temples across the land. Sometimes you’ll literally have to draw a new bridge or slash away a rock that’s blocking your path – you’ll be able to control water, wind and fire too, as Amaterasu’s godlike divinity is slowly restored. It all drives home the idea that not only is this world a painting, but you’re the creator and can mess with it as you see fit.
Not all fights can be solved with magic ink, though. Demons wander the same grounds you’re trying to take back, and they require a more in-your-face style of attack. The close combat weapons range from beads to oversized swords, but their button-mashing combo attacks are basically the same from beginning to end.
Not that combat is the focus here, but after the first 10 hours or so, you’ll start avoiding enemies just to keep running through the lush open fields. Boss battles, on the other hand, are long and involve all your Brush skills – too bad there are only a handful of these fights. And from time to time, it’s not quite clear where you need to head next, leading to a lot of meandering around. Exploration is part of the genre, but a few more clues wouldn’t hurt.
Other than those minor annoyances, there’s barely anything about Okami we can complain about. It’s one of the few non-Nintendo games that manages to capture the awe and magic of playing a new Zelda, a feat that instantly rockets Okami into the upper tier of PS2 games (plus, unlike Zelda, you can actually jump). You’re getting a long quest packed with life-giving missions and a presentation that’s unlike anything you’ve ever played. If you consider yourself a gamer in any way, buy this right now. You will not be disappointed.