Game review: Okami HD

By Angus Deacon

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Okami HD. Photo / Supplied
Okami HD. Photo / Supplied

The original Okami, released on the PS2 back in 2006, received various accolades both in Japan and in the Western gaming market due to its unique art direction and hypnotic visuals. Unfortunately, Okami's success was hampered by the fact that it was released shortly before the PS3 arrived on the scene - a factor that resulted in a low-key marketing campaign, poor sales within Japan, and the sad demise of its developers, Clover Studio. Despite all of this though, Okami earned a cult-like status and punctuated the end of the PS2 era with a loud exclamation point.

Okami has now been given the magical rebirth it deserves. It has been reincarnated on the PS3 and is looking better than ever, thanks to an HD overhaul. Furthermore, the game even benefits from today's motion control technology, which adds an extra level of charm and accessibility.

Okami is an adventure game set sometime in mythical Japanese history. Combining numerous legends and folklore, it tells the story of how the world was saved from darkness by a goddess in the form of a great white wolf, named Amaterasu. 'Okami' translated from Japanese literally means 'great spirit' or 'wolf'.

Although one of Okami's unique aspects was playing as a non-speaking animal character, the game's most memorable attribute was the distinctive sumi-e-inspired cel-shaded graphics that gave the game a memorable aesthetic. Okami looks like a living, breathing, water-colour painting, complete with fluid brush strokes, and a soft colour palette that makes love to your hippocampus.

All of this eye-candy gets the attention it deserves here on the PS3, where the detail has been painstakingly recreated. The frame-rate has been increased dramatically as well, allowing players to truly appreciate the finesse and beauty throughout the game. Looking back at the PS2 version (which was impressive for its time) it is staggering to see Okami in such a crisp and vibrant form.

Most of Okami's gameplay is a typical platformer broken down into three areas. Combat, where you will be able to use weapons and special attacks to dispatch a variety of 'ghostly' enemies, solving basic puzzles or completing side quests, and - occasionally - basic role-playing aspects such as meeting merchants, upgrading dojos, and finding special items.

But Okami's main attraction, apart from the visuals, lies in a feature known as the Celestial Brush. This is where players can pause the game and call up a canvas that allows them to draw symbols and characters on the screen. Normally this would be done with the left analogue stick, but Okami HD benefits from the additional support of the Move wand to literally 'air paint' symbols as if holding a paintbrush. Unlike the clunky Wii port a couple of years back, the motion controls feel fairly natural here. However I personally preferred the traditional approach of using the analogue stick.

Okami has a variety of spells (or miracles) to unlock throughout the game, and each one plays a part in combat or solving puzzles. For example, you could summon a strong wind by drawing a loop, cut enemies in twain by drawing lines, or fix bridges by painting in new planks. There are plenty of Celestial brush techniques to explore (each inspired by the Chinese zodiac) and later in the game you'll even be able to create fire out of thin air. Cleverly though, the game limits the use of Celestial brushes by each one requiring a certain amount of ink, which must be restored over time.

Naturally fans of the original Okami will want to try this out, if only for nostalgia purposes. Apart from the Move controller support and typical in-game trophies to collect, the game hasn't changed much at all in content. Meanwhile those who can't remember the PS2 classic, this game could be worth the purchase if you enjoyed titles like The Legend of Zelda or even Shadow of the Colossus to a lesser extent. Okami is beautiful to witness and plays like a true classic. It's definitely a worthy addition to today's PSN line-up.

Stars: 4.5/5
Platform: PS3

- NZGAMER.COM

- NZ Herald

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