Capcom’s classic Zelda-esque adventure is remastered in 4K for the Xbox One and PS4, but can the old PS2 game still impress?
Considering there were two new versions just this year, Skyrim probably holds the record for the most number of times we’ve reviewed essentially the same game. Okami runs it a good race though, since this is the fourth major release of a game that stretches all the way back to the PlayStation 2 era. But there is a big difference between the two games: Skyrim always sells.
Okami has always been critically acclaimed, but it’s unusual premise has meant it’s never been a huge sales success. Originally released in 2006, it was the penultimate project by Capcom’s acclaimed internal developer Clover Studio. After the release of God Hand the same year, Clover were shut down and most of the senior staff went on to form Bayonetta developer PlatinumGames.
There’s some speculation (fuelled by one of our own interviews with creator Hideki Kamiya), that Platinum may be interested in working on a sequel to Okami, but this port is by Japanese developer HexaDrive – who also worked on the last gen versions. The game itself is a Zelda style arcade adventure that comes the closest anyone has to equalling Nintendo’s franchise, and even surpassing some of the lesser entries.
It’s pointless to discuss anything else in the game without first mentioning the stunning visuals. Using a variant of cel-shading, that mimics the Japanese art of Sumi-e, the whole game world looks like it is painted in sumptuous water colours.
The effect is still as unique as it is beautiful, and is perfectly exploited by both the gameplay and the storyline – which sees you returning colour and life to a world cursed into darkness. The low polygon count belays the game’s age, but that’s no real issue. Especially at 4K, the game almost looks like it was made yesterday, with the only other technical shortcoming being the slightly unhelpful camera.
Throughout the game you control the goddess Amaterasu, who appears as a white wolf (okami is a pun on the Japanese words for both wolf and god). The structure of the game is very similar to the pre-Breath Of The Wild 3D Zelda games, as you gradually open up access to a large overworld and a series of dungeons.
You’re guided in your quest, a little too closely it has to be said, by a talking bug named Issun. He’s something of the Jar Jar Binks of the series, made worse by the game using an irritating gibberish noise, similar to Banjo-Kazooie, instead of real speech.
Although Amaterasu can jump and headbutt, her primary interaction with the world is via the celestial brush, as she paints on the screen with her tail. As you progress you learn new magical shapes that allow you to create objects in the world, make plant life bloom, or set off giant bombs. The PlayStation 3 version used to have PlayStation Move support but it’s been removed here, presumably an acknowledgment that it didn’t help as much as you’d think.
Combat in the game is initiated by moving close to a generic demonic banner, at which point you become enclosed in a small circular arena. As well as brush attacks you can use a range of other weapons, swapping between primary and secondary slots at will. Despite this the combat is not a highlight of the game, since it’s rather too easy and often repetitive.
If this really was a Zelda game it would be criticised for its overt signposting, and sometimes poor pacing. It’s also one of a small number of video games that feels just too long. There’s an infamous part in the game where you could swear it was all just wrapping up, and yet you later realise it’s barely begun.
Okami is a hard game to get tired of though, even on the fourth time round, in large part thanks to the visuals, which prove that while graphics may age good art never does.
In Short: Still one of the most beautiful video games ever created, not to mention the best Zelda game that never was.
Pros: Stunning watercolour graphics, huge 30+ hour adventure filled with sub quests. Celestial brush is a great idea.
Cons: Too much signposting and arguably too long. Annoying gibberish voiceovers and overlong cut scenes. Camera and simplistic combat are showing their age.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Developer: HexaDrive and Clover Studio
Release Date: 12th December 2017
Age Rating: 12