Review: Okami (Wii)

The highly stylised adventure game Okami paints its way onto Wii, but is it a masterpiece?

Okami (Japanese for "wolf"), first released in 2006, was one of the few convincing reasons to still own a PS2. Capcom soon realised that a Wii port would be a good idea, the combination of Wiimote and Nunchuk could perfectly suit the games drawing techniques, one year later and we have the revised version.

In Okami you play as the wolf incarnation of the sun god Amaterasu and its upto you to channel your divine powers through the mighty "celestial brush" to restore beauty and order to a bleak world overrun by evil. The game starts 100 years after Shiranui, a pure white wolf, and Nagi, a swordsman, who together fought and defeated the eight-headed demon Orochi in order to save Kamiki village and the maiden Nami, Nagi's beloved.

The game is set during an unspecified part of historic Japan and draws huge influence and style from Japanese watercolour artistry. From the very first frame Okami oozes floral style and has a heavy emphasis on the floral way of life, restoring everything to bloom and blossom is your prerogative.

Essentially Okami is a classic adventure game and plays remarkably similar to recent The Legend of Zelda games, if you remember playing as Wolf Link in the Twilight Realm you'll pretty much understand how Okami works.

As the wolf Ammy, you're required to re-master your skills of the ancient "celestial brush", a paint brush of the gods, which holds many hidden powers. The whole brush concept is also integral to the gameplay and is one of Okami's most distinctive features.

Triggered at any point during the game, the celestial brush acts as both an adventure aid as well as being one of your primary weapon. Once activated the game freezes and your brush appears on screen, its now up to you to paint different strokes and shapes to affect the activity currently on screen.

This painting concept works beautify with the Wii, the Wiimote is the perfect tool for drawing your shapes on screen. Clearly this new activity takes a few minutes to get used to, but once mastered you'll find it a breeze to draw the different gestures and control the game as required.

General gameplay is simple and quick to understand, walking around is done by the control stick, jumping is automatic in places but is also trigged by (A) whilst (B) is used to summon your celestial brush. Z is your action button for talking to people, feeding animals and such and (C) makes Ammy dig.

Moving around the beautiful environments is also similar to Zelda games, you start off in a pretty little village before discovering the wider, sprawling field which leads off to a number of adjacent locations each with their own mini quest and dungeon.

You'll encounter a vast number of weird and wonderful enemies in Okami, there are the "light" fiends scattered around the environment which are dispatched easily, things don't really heat up until you encounter a real beast which quickly setup a forcefield of evil around you, giving you limited space to beat them and nowhere to hide. The enemy battles are once again very similar to Twilight Princess, remember fighting off Shadow Beasts in the Twilight Realm? Okami employees a very similar technique.

During your quest you will encounter 13 brush gods, each of which will teach you a new brush technique which adds another weapon/tool to your arsenal, these range from the simple power slash attack, the cheery bomb which is used to blow things up, the water lily that allows Ammy to walk across water to the simple bloom technique which restores and rejuvenates flora.

You really have to remember the possibilities of all your brush strokes to get you through the adventure, for example you never know when you might need a quick sunrise to lighten an area. Okami also employees a number of power ups and collectables which can be used for various side tasks like feeding animals and gaining additional life points.

Okami is an incredibly stylish game, it has a deep sense of identity which it manages to effortlessly carry throughout. The game's presentation is almost a pixel for pixel copy of the PS2 version, which sadly is one of its few flaws. However the developers made the right decision not to improve the graphics too much, as Okami is a game perhaps born one generation before its time because frankly if this game was re-mastered using super clean high definition graphics it would be almost too beautiful to play.

The Wii version is a worthy addition, the game's heart is with the celestial brush which works infinity better on a Wiimote than any other console, this, like Resident Evil 4, is proof that it most certainly is worth porting certain games to a slightly newer system.

Okami seems to borrow alot of elements from Zelda games, the general mechanics of the game is almost identical but the story and visual style separates it enough to warrant its own existence. Like most adventure games the longevity can be questioned and replay value takes a hit, thankfully Okami suffers from neither and is long enough that completing it once is a worthy exercise indeed.

Conclusion

Okami is a fantastic game and deserves to be alongside Zelda in the top echelon of adventure games. Oozing a vivid style and a unique calligraphy control system Okami is a must have title for all adventure fans, anyone that enjoyed Twilight Princess or even those who simply enjoy soaking up anything overwhelming Japanese. A clear improvement over the PS2 version but not a drastic re-invention like some might of hoped, those who completed the original will find little in an otherwise bloomin' marvellous game from Capcom.