There are some games that I just wished I’d played a couple of generations ago when they first released. One is Jet Set Radio, another is Super Mario World and then of course there is the critical hit that is top of that pile… Okami.
Originally released on PS2 in 2006, this game was acclaimed by every man and their dog. A BAFTA winner and lauded by gamers with its beautiful art visuals and superb gameplay, now is the chance for us Xbox One owners to experience what all the fuss is about with an updated 4K shiny version of the game. But does Okami stand up to the test of time?
Okami HD puts you in the capable paws of a god wolf called Amaterasu, who with the help of their little insect buddy Issun, has to save the world of Nippon from a terrible evil. This evil is an eight headed demon who has woken up after a hundred years of cursing the land, whilst filling it with terrible monsters and poison. It’s up to you to try and gain back your magical powers of the celestial brush and rid the curse away.
The first thing I will say though, as a newcomer to this game, is to please don’t get put off by the 20 minute intro scene that goes on and on and delivers some serious pacing issues. Just don’t stop there, because you will be missing out on a treasure of a game. You see, when Okami HD gets going, it really gets going!
You wander around the world of Nippon, interacting with characters and items, partaking in a main story and completing a load of side quests. As you progress you gain special powers where you can use your brush technique, which is one of the most innovative pieces of gameplay design ever made. It works very simply, but the combinations are so interesting and complex. For example the power slash mode works by simply pausing the action mid fight with RB and then drawing a slash across the enemy or item, before damage occurs or the item is smashed. Or there’s bloom, where you draw a sun in the sky, to make a village light again and to grow mushrooms so you can climb to a higher point. Then there is the cherry bomb which lets you create a bomb that can be used to open secret entrances or help you out in battle. I’m not going to spoil anymore of the secrets of Okami HD because they’re a joy to play with.
In the combat you are placed in a closed off battle arena, with a little window to escape through if things start to get too rough. You gain special attacks and weapons as you get deeper into the game, but everything in Okami basically follows a formula of attacking, dodging, defending and using your brush power attack to finish them off, with the end of each battle seeing you gather up money depending on how well you have done in battle. These fights are great fun and for me never get boring, but occasionally things are a bit random. However you can probably escape those by just avoiding the creatures on the map. The boss battles are very inventive too – but be warned some can be very tricky indeed.
The rest of Okami HD consists of you exploring the map, and bringing life back to the infected and cursed areas with your magic brush. There is a whole lot of content and tons to do, with you probably looking at something around the 25 hour mark or more if you decide to tackle all the tasks and mini quests.
But for all the good, there are a couple of little wrongs, with the camera being one of my pet hates. It’s not the game’s fault or the design, because that’s how we played games back in the day, but for the here and now in 2017 it really grates and gets on your wick. Please don’t let it spoil your fun though because you will eventually get used to it. Another thing that is hard to take with Okami HD is the pacing of the cutscenes and the annoying sound effects that are used instead of proper dialogue. I understand why the they had to go down this route originally, but technology has come a long way since Okami first saw a release and after 10 hours you’ll want to turn down the sound when a cutscene comes on. But don’t let the audio worry you, because there is plenty to look at…
The visual stylings of Okami HD were rather special when it originally released, pushing the dying PS2 to its limits. Now we have the same art work, but with a 4K upgrade to compliment the latest generation of consoles. In all, it’s still very beautiful to look at with its cel shading, amazing colour palette, character design and locations. It’s a great looking game and for me doesn’t look dated at all.
Okami HD originally had me in two minds. The start of the experience saw the old PS2 ghosts of Christmas Past hanging around like a bad smell, with long cutscenes, strange sounds and a weird camera. But when the game kicked on, I began to be amazed at the visuals, the invention and the whole experience. Okami HD is a massive game and for £15.99 it swings the score right up there into the high brackets – and if like me you’ve never played it but always fancied giving it a go, now is your chance to let Okami shine.