Okami revisited

Was it to the PS2's Zelda killer? Whether you agree with that or not, Okami is one of the very best games ever to grace Sony's second Playstation. And it's coming to the Wii...

Capcom, Capcom, Capcom… Whaddadamaddawidchoo? You’re more than capable of gracing the gaming community with some of the best titles ever made. Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Devil Mary Cry, the list goes on. So, why then, when a developer with as much talent and original thought such as Clover Studios comes along, you cut it off in its prime?

The people behind the excellent Viewtiful Joe, and the not so-excellent, but still great Godhand were beginning to show the kind of unique and innovative ideas they could produce, with perhaps their greatest triumph being the quirky, Zelda-esque cell-shaded epic, Okami on the PS2.

Okami saw players take control of Amaterasu, a Deity in the form of a white wolf. Re-appearing in the Japan-themed world of Nippon, Ammy (as she’s called in the game by tiny sidekick Issun) is needed to combat the imminent resurrection of Orochi, an evil, many-headed demon/dragon who last assaulted the land, but was defeated, 100 years previous. Unwittingly freed from its slumber by a local swordsman, Orochi drains the life and even the very colour from the land. Trees die, wildlife disappears and the people are left generally miserable. It’s up to Ammy to not only find and defeat Orochi, but also to bring back life and happiness to the land.

The gameplay was almost identical in its approach to Nintendo’s Zelda, with some even proclaiming that this was the PS2’s very own Zelda-killer. And while the term Zelda-killer may have been a little optimistic, Okami was undeniably excellent, and without doubt one of the best games to grace the PS2.

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The unique cell-shaded look was so novel as it wasn’t cell-shading as we’ve come to know it, but was instead designed to look like traditional Japanese watercolour paintings on parchment. This resulted in a striking visual style, with some impressive landscapes and enemy designs (particularly the bosses), as well as being the lynchpin for the game’s main guiding element – the inclusion of the ‘Celestial Brush’.

You see, with Ammy’s status as a god, she wields the intriguing Celestial Brush power, which bestows on her the ability to use ink to manipulate her environment, solve puzzles, create objects and even combat enemies.

By using her tail as a brush, Ammy can ‘paint’ directly onto the world (hold down a button on the controller and a canvas slides into view). Doing this she can do such things as draw bridges to span large gaps, draw circles around dead tress to bring them to life, and use special brush strokes to turn day into night, and vice versa.In combat, Ammy can use this brush alongside more traditional combat skills (and one of many weapons she can acquire through the game) to slash enemies into two, summon gale force winds or set foes on fire.

Okami also featured a huge open world crammed with varied locations, puzzles and foes, the game offered a rich and lush environment to roam around in. Many areas were left inaccessible initially, until the correct upgrades or Celestial Brush powers were acquired, Zelda-style. But, with the unique brush-centric powers and skills, many puzzles were far from the usual, ‘find the key to the door’ fare. And, Okami, being heavily Japan-influenced, had more than its fair share of memorable weird and wacky characters and situations. This, coupled with the heavy folklore theme created a wonderfully charming story.

The Celestial Brush power was one of the things that made the game so special, and using the analogue sticks was easy enough to paint the brushstrokes required, even during hectic combat. But… as good as this was, there’s one control method that would be even more suited to this – the Wiimote.

Yes, despite sending Clover Studio’s packing, Capcom realised (with considerable fan requests) that Okami, while good on the PS2, was pretty much tailor-made for the Wii, and soon, Wii owners will be able to experience Okami for themselves when the game hit’s store selves in June (with our American cousins already playing it as you read this).

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I’ll admit that, although Wii updates of older games can be great, with Resi 4 being a prime example, I’d like to see some real new titles (and no, not more party games or brain trainers PLEASE Nintendo!). But, with Okami, I don’t actually mind welcoming with open arms another re-hash. The singular fact that the Celestial Brush would work perfectly with the Wiimote is enough to make me want to play the game again. And, to be honest, Okami was just so good, with a great story, brilliant gameplay and a long and varied quest, that I’d just like to experience it again regardless.

Capcom hasn’t exactly been too concerned with any specific Wii changes other than the obvious control scheme, but it will add support for widescreen and 480p. No new content will be included so the game itself will be a straight port. That’s to be expected as the original Clover devs are not working on the Wii version, with Ready At Dawn handling the remake.

This isn’t really such a bad thing. The original game was long, more so that I expected, and there are already plenty of side quests and extras. A few new Celestial Brush powers would be nice though, given that the Wiimote is far more suited to painting onscreen.

But, regardless of any new features, Okami certainly has the potential to be one of the best games on the Wii, and one that makes full, justified use of the Wiimote. Now, if only Capcom would give Killer7 the same Wii treatment…