Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Ōkami HD ★★★★★


Late into the PlayStation 2's life-cycle, it began to showcase games that were thought way beyond the console's capabilities. God of War 2 was an amazing visual spectacle, running at 60 frames and capable of outputting at 720p (remember, this is over 10 years ago). GTA: San Andreas had a ridiculously large open world with endless amounts of silliness to be had. Shadow of the Colossus showing a level of scale, equal to its mournful sorrow. Devil May Cry 3 had... umm... a crazy difficulty level. And then there was Ōkami. Whenever the debate of “are games art?”, is subjected, it's generally Ōkami that gets held aloft as the level 99 shield. - The graceful sword is usually Journey.


Hideki Kamiya (best known for Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry and Bayonetta), while he himself didn't work directly on, was highly inspired by the level of detail in Resident Evil 4 and wanted to make a game of the polar opposite, in vibe, but with the same level of visual fidelity. He formed Clover Studio, under the wing of Capcom, and set about doing just that. For a fair way through development, the game took on a more realistic approach, but due to this being a strain on the machine and not working, quite as planned, it was dropped for a more Japanese ink wash art style known as "Sumi-e". This decision was definitely more fitting of the game's overall setting and way of storytelling and also gave Ōkami its own unique visual style. While there had been "Cel-Shaded" games before, Ōkami is more of an ink and watercolour affair.

The game’s plot plays heavily on Japanese Spiritual and Legendary folklore. You play as the white wolf Amaterasu, The Goddess of the Sun, who’s summoned by, Sakuya, the guardian of Kamiki village after the demon Orochi is foolishly freed by Susano, the ancestor of the Nagi, A legendary swordsman who beat the eight-headed demon, 100 years prior. The first half of the game has you restoring the beauty and nature to the land of Nippon (Japan).

Ōkami’s (aforementioned) change in art style inspired many of the game's core mechanics, such as the Celestial Brush. Sort of like the game's Swiss army knife of paint brushes. At the press of a button, the Celestial Brush freezes the game's action and allows you to paint over the scene, in real time. This is used in combat, puzzle solving and just for toying around and interacting with the environment. As you progress through the story you unlock dozens of new abilities and ways to use the Celestial brush. From using it as a slash attack on enemies, painting in bridges or rivers to cross, manipulating elements like wind or just making it sunny to cheer people up.

The game plays like a, much more, mellow Zelda, Including having its own irritating exposition and navigation device named Issun, who acts as a chatty, ignorant, C3PO to Amaterasu’s R2D2 like exchanges. Amaterasu gains access to more areas of the world as she unlocks more of her powers. The game is deceptively longer than it first appears to be, especially if you're trying to collect everything. A much-welcomed addition to this version is the ability to finally skip cutscenes and diatribes of text... there is a lot of text... Issun and the people of Nippon like to explain things, about three times over, and everything speaks in that late 90's, N64 Banjo Kazooie, noises as a language, sort of way. Sometimes it's nice to just chill and feed the little animals.


Technically this is just a further update upon the PlayStation 3 HD Remaster. The game now runs at a smooth, locked 30fps at 4k on PS4 Pro and 30fps at 1080p on a standard PlayStation 4. There is also a 4:3 mode, in case someone wants to play it in a square on their modern TV. There's no benefit or reason for doing this other than playing in Ōkami's original screen ratio; but well done for giving the option, I guess.

Ōkami is not a game for everyone, but if you like large adventure games such as Psychonauts, Horizon or Zelda (yeah, those three don’t really fit together) then you should find this to your liking. The art style has helped save the game from the curse of ageing too drastically but, the update doesn't really add enough to make this a must-have for those who’ve already played it, especially if you already owned the Xbox 360/PS3 HD port, then there's not much new for you here.

★★★★★
Bry Wyatt

Ōkami HD at CeX




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