Okami Finds a New Gallery on Wii
It’s been nearly two years since Clover Studio’s swan song, Okami, was released on the PlayStation 2. Hailed for its unique one-of-a-kind art direction, expansive storyline, and thought-provoking paint brush mechanic, it received more than its share of acclaim. Unfortunately, this didn’t translate into sales, but through the use of the Wii’s versatile remote this living piece of art has found a new gallery.
The story that unfolds in Okami is one of beauty, and travesty. Tugging
at your emotions, Okami’s living tapestry is like an independent
popcorn flick. A legendary eight-headed monster known as Orochi--
feared for its temper and strong distaste for mother nature--was
defeated at the paws of a legendary white wolf over 100 years ago.
But history has a nasty way of repeating itself. Fast forward to the present, and a dim-witted fool mistakenly awakens the once dormant beast—allowing it to wreak havoc across the sacred land. Once again the white wolf must take on Orochi through dark and desolate locations—using its healing powers to revive the land. The text-heavy plot leans towards a PG-13 feel, yet it manages to remain comical, and thought-provoking.
Allow us to state the obvious: Okami shares a lot of properties with Nintendo’s Zelda series. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Abundantly rich in mountainous terrain, the overworld serves as the base for exploration, where you’ll find yourself completing numerous tasks--either assigned to you by villagers, or Okami’s version of Zelda’s Navi, Issun. Tasks include talking with key characters, retrieving objects, or using newfound powers to open previously locked pathways. Your time is also equally divided into dungeon exploration, where light puzzle solving is needed to advance from room to room. Finally, each dungeon features a menacing boss you’ll face-off against, where strategy plays a pretty important role.
Okami’s most unique design facet, however, lies within its fabled celestial paintbrush technique. Simply pressing down on the B button causes the on-screen action to freeze, promptly washing away all color and instead replacing the screen with a nice sepia tone. Once you’ve acquired the new abilities, this is where you physically “paint” shapes using the Wii remote to alter the surrounding environment to your benefit.
Celestial brush techniques such as bloom, vine, or lilly pad provide ways to reach previously unobtainable areas. Other paintbrush techniques include the power slash and cherry bomb; two powerful attacks that serve a grand purpose in combat. In all, Okami features 13 separate brush techniques.
The combat system--a hefty chunk of what Okami offers--shares little common ground with Zelda. This is due to a far-less free roaming environment. Enemies in the overworld often appear as floating curses, and will engage you if you get too close. This immediately enacts an enclosed circular area, devoid of anything other than you and your enemies. Escape is not an option so you must kill baddies by either jostling the Wii-mote for your regular attack, use an offensive celestial brush techniques, or both.
Okami is strictly a single-player game, with no added modes or bonuses from the PS2 original. Even so, it’s quite a lengthy quest and no one will complain that they didn’t get their money’s worth.
Those who have played through Twilight Princess will find noticeable similarities between wolf Link and Amaterasu, particularly in their movements. Jumping and running feels second nature, and never burdens the player when exploring the world. By waggling the Wii’s remote, you control Amaterasu’s primary attack; which is used for everything from battling to breaking treasure chests and obtaining new items.
Ironically, the Wii’s versatile remote, while fine for your primary attack, is not the best place for Okami’s celestial paintbrush techniques. Simple procedures, such as drawing a straight line for the power slash technique, requires multiple tries due to unfair inconsistencies. The learning curve can feel pretty steep at times, and will have you cursing out loud when, for example, particular story-driven segments require a steady hand to draw multiple celestial brush circles during an interactive cutscene. These control issues don’t overly burden the experience found in Okami, since you do have the ability to try, try again. But the paintbrush control issues will certainly make you wish the game was a little more lenient when it came to drawing simple shapes. After all, this isn’t art class.
If there’s one area where Okami shines it’s in the presentation. The vibrant worlds, mixed with the water-color style, and calligraphy make for a majestic appearance. The Wii adds a few noticeable touches not previously found on the PS2 iteration, most notably widescreen support and 480P output. These little quirks make the games’ calligraphy art-style stand out more vividly than before. However, those with keen eyesight will notice that the PS2 version retains more of a ‘papery’ effect than the Wii, but not by much. This is directly related to the vibrant colors found on the wii, as opposed to a more washed-out look on the PS2.
The Wii version also features the convenience of being able to skip over every cutscene, even the 20-plus minute opening story segment. This might not sound like an important new feature, but those who’ve read through the hundredth un-skippable conversation on the PS2 will no doubt appreciate it.
By re-releasing Okami on the Wii, Capcom and Clover Studio have once again proven that this is a very special game, and one that deserves the attention of anyone who appreciates video games as art, has an affinity for action/adventure titles, or simply wants to sink into a great game. The Wii controls aren’t perfect for celestial paintbrush techniques, but they certainly don’t detract from the overall experience. With widescreen support, and improved visual fidelity, you’ll find very little to complain about.