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Okami (PlayStation 2) artwork

Okami (PlayStation 2) review

"In a gaming field brimming with adrenaline-pumping realism and in-your-face action, Okami is not only proof of the strength of imagination and mysticism, but also a courageous breath of fresh air."

Where Zelda is a hardened legend, Okami is a mythical tapestry. Every picture is crafted with the skill of a refined scroll painting. Every scene is shaped by a brush-art style that interprets tried and true gameplay with organic and optimistic vigor. Surprisingly, for as bold as its aesthetics are, framed around a story in which you play as the wolf reincarnation of the Shinto Sun Goddess Amaterasu, nothing here takes itself too seriously. Between fierce battles against demons from Japanese folklore, you spend a healthy amount of time rejuvenating fauna and flora, conjuring celestial powers with simple calligraphy, and sprinting across verdant fields with flowers and sparkling dust trailing behind your tail. In a gaming field brimming with adrenaline-pumping realism and in-your-face action, Okami is not only proof of the strength of imagination and mysticism, but also a courageous breath of fresh air.

Much of the adventure takes its inspiration from the Ocarina of Time, so on first impressions, you may think the game to be mindless copy-and-pasting. Sun Fragments - like Pieces of Heart - complete units of Solar Energy. Collecting 100 Stray Beads - like Skulltulas - earns a special reward. Issun, your pint-sized companion and guide, also acts as a loquacious Navi of sorts. Even the last boss before the final chapter, ala the Sorceress Sisters Twinrova, is a twin pair of fire-red and ice-blue owls that have their own theme song.

Thankfully, though both games are designed from the same fabric, Okami's texture is original enough so that you don't feel cheated. In contrast to the second half of the Ocarina of Time, Orochi - a fearsome eight-headed serpent that you killed at the cost of your life 100 years ago - has been resurrected, blanketing Nippon in a second darkness. Enshrined as a statue, you are reborn to restore the land with the divine powers of your Celestial Brush. At any time, you can pause the screen - turning it into a still black-and-white painting - and draw specific lines and shapes to make wind blow, water raise, trees rise, and enemies fall to the ground, cut in two halves.

Okami's presentation, in more ways than one, takes such a seamless stroke through the gameplay that you will unintentionally take it for granted. Intensified by a soundtrack flowing with transverse flutes, zithers, and a range of Japanese instruments, animations have a swift, strong, and colorful movement. This is artwork that will deftly immerse you in a storybook of enchanted fables.

As such, Okami has the instant appeal of a classic children's story. Its linear dungeons and generous number of healing items wash out some of its difficulty, but being able to finish a more than 40-hour adventure and find most of its secrets without a strategy guide is refreshing. Any misgivings about its simplicity are swept away by its innocent charm. Restoring the earth and the gaming world back to its natural beauty, Okami has the kindred spirit to turn anyone into a gamer.

draqq_zyxx's avatar
Community review by draqq_zyxx (November 19, 2006)

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