Returning to the Vibrant Lands of Nippon
In 2006 Capcom and now-closed developers, Clover Studios, released a breathtaking adventure at the paws of the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu. Okami captivated a cult following of fans that can never seem to quite get enough of the Celestial Brush techniques and the beauty that enveloped players when embarking on the timeless journey. With now 4 separate re-releases across 3 different console generations, Okami HD returns once again, now graced in stunning 4K visuals.
The tale of Okami starts off with a rather long, but heartfelt story that takes place 100 years prior to our adventure, about a dreadful curse that lay upon the lands of Nippon. The abominable 8-headed dragon beast – Orochi – tormented the modest settlement of Kamiki Village. Until one night, the great warrior Nagi, and the mysterious white wolf Shiranui, slayed the beast in epic fashion. Now, after a century of peace, the curse has been released once again, and with it comes Orochi, and much, much more.
Reincarnated as the sun goddess – Amaterasu – in elegant white wolf form, players will begin their journey amidst a beautifully crafted setting, meet memorable and adoring characters, and experience a game brimming with ancient Japanese folklore and flourishing colors. While harnessing power of the Celestial Brush techniques, and the guidance of your faithful companion – Issun, the wandering artist – Okami provides an experience not found in any other adventure game released still to this day, some 11 years after its Playstation 2 debut.
A Beautifully Crafted Masterpiece
Featured in an artistic styling reflecting Japanese water-color painting and cel-shaded graphics, the concept behind ridding the cursed lands and surfacing the natural beauty that surrounds Nippon is perfect for the astounding visuals. As each Guardian Sapling – enormous trees acting as the source of natural beauty across the lands – blooms from Amaterasu’s celestial powers, a rush of flora and color spring forward, wiping out any trace of blackened cursed land. Of course, the ‘Bloom’ technique is only the start of learning all of the coveted Celestial Brush techniques available.
By freezing time and painting a simple design over the canvas, Amaterasu has the ability to create and perform miracles all over Nippon. From blooming cursed wildlife, creating gusts of wind, turning night into day or vice versa, to planting bombs, power slashing through foes and painting lily pads to cross bodies of water, the Celestial Brush is a magnificent way to add depth to not only the story and characters, but the combat and puzzles as well. The further players push through the roughly 40 hour game, Amaterasu will learn a long list of Celestial Brush techniques given to her by the 13 ancient Celestial gods.
Modeled after the Chinese zodiac symbols, each godly animal harnesses a different Celestial Brush power that is given to Amaterasu upon her releasing them from various star constellations found throughout the game. By adding one or a few of the missing stars from each constellation discovered (which happens as you progress through the story), the Celestial god will embrace Amaterasu with one of the many powers that the Celestial Brush wields.
The Power of the Celestial Brush
While the primary mechanic to puzzle solving, and often combat is the Celestial Brush, the game still offers tons of exploration, slashing combat and platforming gameplay to the mix as well. The map of Nippon is broken up into many different areas, taking the player across valleys, plains, beaches, villages, cities, forests and snowy mountain tops, among multiple other interesting and creative dungeons and maps. Secrets and tons of other hidden areas are found all over the gorgeous lands of Nippon, most of which reached by using particular Brush techniques.
Along with many faces of NPC characters found crossing Amaterasu and Issun’s path are the enemy scrolls, which act as the free-roaming combat situations. Upon running through the mischievously floating scrolls, players are engaged in battle with a ribbon-like wall creating a small circled battle arena around Amaterasu and her enemies. The foes range from simple attacking weaklings, to devious and diabolical monsters with unique methods of defeat. Some may hover in the air and require a gust of wind to bring down to ground level, while others may be weak to fire or slashing damage. There are over 70 different enemies to battle in Okami, fully utilizing the strength and uniqueness of the Celestial Brush techniques.
Of course, Amaterasu is also equipped with weapons known as a Divine Instruments, which are represented in one of three forms: the Reflector, the Rosaries and the Glaive. These powerful weapons each have multiple forms which are earned throughout the game’s progression, or purchased using coveted Demon Fangs, or the game’s currency – yen. Equipping two different instruments, one as a primary and the other as a secondary, Amaterasu is able to pull off melee combos that pair perfectly with the powerful Celestial Brush techniques.
Crossing Into New Territory
The astounding and enchanting journey of Okami has been followed for over 11 years now, solely on Sony and Nintendo consoles. For the first time ever, PC and Xbox fans have the chance to wade through this unmistakable journey that has seen new light throughout every generation since its debut. The newest release doesn’t add much to the 2012 HD version on the Playstation 3 other than the update to 4K visuals. Every stunning barrage of color, every brush stroke and enemy encounter presents itself in sharp water-color paint aesthetic.
The original score of Okami is breathtaking in its own way. Using the form of classical Japanese pieces, the soundtrack resonates seamlessly with the lore and themes that are scattered throughout the ancient lands of Nippon. Emotions flutter from every angle across the lengthy story, and much credit to the entrancing songs that seem to nestle players right in center of the heroic adventure.
With all of its glory now on numerous, 4K enhanced consoles, there are a couple of things that could have been done differently. For all of the Playstation Trophy hunters out there, the trophy list in Okami HD is the same from the PS3 version. Simply transferring your trophy data over to the PS4 version, netting you zero new trophies to earn if you’ve already succeeded in achieving them all. While this isn’t a deal breaker to most who have experienced Okami, the sheer enjoyment of witnessing the beauty behind the Nippon adventure is enough to satisfy even the most dedicated trophy earners.
Another small detail that could have been implemented into the game is a sleek ‘camera mode’. The game looks gorgeous in many aspects, and having a photo editor to capture these moments while freeze framing, using a selection of filters and other editing tools could create tons of captivating moments to be shared around the world. Again, not a deal breaker as players are still free to snap photos with their console photo/share button, but the use of an editing tool would make for some excellent shots otherwise not captured in real-time.
The addition of a couple of menu options has also been thrown into the mix, now being able to change the aspect ratio, and most notable the ability to turn on the loading screen mini games. Found on the original PS2 version when load times were much longer of a wait, Okami had two separate loading screens which, if the player was quick enough, could net a rare demon fang. Mashing the appropriate face button to fill up the canvas loading screen with paw prints, or creating a line of six large paw prints timed perfectly over the default miniature ones were excellent ways to kill time during the exhausting loading screens, and a solid way to earn one of the game’s most valuable items.
While no major additions to Okami HD have been registered to the latest release, having this enticing journey available on a number of current gen gaming systems is a treat all in its own. Through the years, Okami, while known by the dedicated fan base as one of the greatest games ever made, a massive chunk of the mainstream audience has yet to even acknowledge the sheer beauty this emotionally charged adventure stirs up. Regardless, the re re re-release of Clover Studios masterpiece, Okami, now presented in 4K is perfect for newcomers, or long-time fans itching for yet another run at one of gaming’s most memorable titles.
With a timeless journey able to captivate the hearts of fans around the world, Okami is still a one of the all-time best adventure titles to ever grace the industry. Capcom struck gold as they’ve been able to release one of the most visually stunning titles over and over again, only to meet the same praise as the debut, over 11 years ago.
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