When not perusing the Internet for dank memes or disturbing YouTube videos, I can be found still glued to my monitor screen in search of the elusive chicken dinner. One day, lads, one day.
Without a doubt, Famitsu are relentless when leaking major news in the gaming industry. The popular Japanese magazine claimed Capcom as their latest victim, revealing details of a new remastered title. Rather than refute, the Japanese publisher announced yet another Okami HD remake days later. Released over ten years ago, players will once again relive memories from the magical adventure on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Out for sale on December 12th, the game shall be rendered in 4K and players will be able to revel in their nostalgia with an option to select between 16:9 and 4:3 resolutions. The entertaining loading screen puzzles missing in previous editions will also return. While this is fine and dandy, three Okami titles (including the original PlayStation 2 version) have since been produced and fans may feel dismayed at the decision to not further the plot.
But more importantly, how has this iconic title changed throughout the years?
Okami takes most, if not, all of its inspiration from Japanese folklore and mythology. The premise is rather straightforward – following a conventional, linear good-versus-evil storyline. As sun goddess Amaterasu, the player controls her white wolf form as she embarks on a journey to cleanse the lands from Orochi’s corruption.
Enamoured with the team behind popular survival horror game Resident Evil, director Hideki Kamiya sought to recreate the visuals and depictions of realism during the early developmental stages of Okami. As fate decreed, he was forced to abandon this art direction due to the PlayStation 2’s hardware limitations. The end-product was a brave decision, with design inspired by Japanese ink washing and cel-shading to produce a world with a beautiful mottled paper effect.
This chosen art style adds degrees of authenticity, reproducing a whimsical feel of medieval Japan. In doing so, it also sets in stone ambience and narrative. However, the inclusion of actual dialogue rather than a Simlish-esque language could have bolstered the immersion. While the majority of the game is spent reversing the antagonist’s curse, the overall tone exudes tranquility. The game’s fantastic soundtrack and lengthy cut-scenes riddled with tear-jerking moments helps the player forget Okami is a game, a dated one at that, but instead view it as work of art. Moments such as these can be appreciated when clearing an area from Orochi’s corruption as the land begins to heal itself and restore vibrant colours.
Appropriately, the game’s core mechanic, “Celestial Brush” is an integrated calligraphy system primarily used to combat enemies and solve challenging puzzles. At the beginning, Amaterasu lacks a repertoire of weapons and moves at her disposal but as the game progresses, she begins to gather strength and unlock new abilities. Kamiya is a known long-time fan of the Zelda franchise so it comes as no surprise to see the influence.
With each newly unlocked ability, the player must learn the ropes and enemy move-sets in order to defeat them. While the game earns full-marks when presenting new adversaries with different strategies, the challenge of thwarting the threat is lacklustre. Many have completed Okami without once seeing the Game Over text, but considering the player is controlling a deity and game’s poetic vibe, perhaps this may have been the intent from the get-go.
After all, Kamiya does encourage use of the Celestial Brush in the absence of violence. For example, the mechanic often yields hilarious scenarios such as inconveniencing non-playable characters scattered throughout the world. Speaking of which, Okami has multiple moments of memorable hilarity, especially from Amaterasu’s trusted sidekick, Issun.
More often than not, games, particular typical action adventure games such as Zelda notify the player through diversifying biomes that they are entering a dungeon or area of hostility. In Okami, the transition is more seamless and hostile areas in the traditional sense are not as apparent.
Although the game is nearly flawless in its execution, it historically sold poorly despite its critical acclaim. In fact, developers Clover Studio were dissolved two months after the games release, effectively ending hopes the fanbase would have of a “true” sequel. A few years later, Capcom hired Ready at Dawn to work on the first remaster for the Nintendo Wii, which received mixed reviews. The infamous controversy surrounding the IGN watermark on the box-art left aficionados fuming as the publisher pledged to make amends with updated replacements. The progressive scan or 480p resolution was an added improvement but the distinctive paper effect was less pronounced than the original. Adding to woes, the first remake struggled to read off the Wii nunchuk’s motion sensor and the framerate issue when entering crowd areas with people and trees wasn’t resolved.
Nevertheless, the most significant change was the omission of Clover Studios from the credits upon game completion. In 2012, Capcom ensured the former studio would be credited once more for the PlayStation 3 re-release. Featuring a dazzling 1080p resolution, initially rendered at 4K but downsampled, it exemplifies the timeless nature of the game’s graphics. This remake succeeds in what the Nintendo version failed to do with its motion sensor. Instead, the PlayStation Move is more adept at replicating the motion controls, but the DualShock control scheme is simple-to-use – a breath of fresh air considering the frustrating delay caused by activating the Celestial Brush button in the 2006 edition.
Okami is by no stretch of the imagination a story that can be finished in a matter of hours. It will eat away many hours of gameplay and perhaps deter gamers who have already beat them game before. For those unfortunate enough to have not touched this gem, the 4K graphics and demanded frame-rate fix should urge all types of gamers to sit through the game. With a plethora of Okami revisions released, success of the current-generation of console could encourage a push for a future Nintendo Switch release.