The Average Gamer

Okami HD Review (PS3/Move)

Okami HD Logo
The Okami HD release is a wonderful thing. Originally made for the PS2 back in 2006, Okami passed me by again with its Wii release in 2008. I’ve finally caught up with this 6-year-old game and it’s amazing in all senses of the word.

You play as god in wolf’s clothing, Amaterasu, “Origin of all that is good and mother to us all”. Get used to that phrase, you’ll be hearing it a lot. Well, reading it because the game isn’t actually voiced. In finest Japanese RPG tradition, all the dialogue takes place in subtitles while a twittery voice effect burrows its way through your skull.

Okami HD - Fisher BoyOkami’s VO effect is annoying at first – it has that disturbing quality of sounding like it would be words if only you knew what those words were. Imagine Bob Dylan on helium. It’s quite distracting during the beautiful, yet long-winded backstory introduction but not so bad through the rest of the game.

As Amaterasu, your mothering role is to restore harmony to the world using your Celestial Brush, a magical device that allows you to cast spells by drawing on world as if it were a painting. In our world, it’s known as the PlayStation Move controller. At any point in the game you can squeeze the trigger to freeze the screen and draw around trees to make them bloom, or slash at containers to get at their goodies. While initially quite awkward, it soon becomes intuitive, partly because most of the spells involve drawing either a circle or a line, or in the case of the cherry bomb, a circle with a line through it. Sometimes you get to squiggle.

True to its PS2 origin, you can still play the game with just a normal controller but in a rare exception to the rule, I found it far more fun with the Move. Drawing circles and slashes with an analogue stick feels slow and clunky in comparison.

The joy of Okami lies very much in the storytelling. The world is filled with quirky characters trudging about their unrewarding chores. Thanks to your celestial brush, you can do things like help out an old woman washing her clothes by the river by calling the sun to dry them faster. Sure, that sounds fairly ignoble but their gratitude is a fair reminder that helping people with the smallest of things can have a real impact.

Levelling up is tied to actions like this – helping people brings you love, which translates to points you can spend on your skills and upgrades. Throughout the land you’ll find little clusters of birds, monkeys or larger animals picking away at the undergrowth. Feed them the appropriate foods and they’ll hop about excitedly, giving you a small level boost and generally looking adorable. I love it.

Later on you’ll be able to fish, which has comes with its own set of movement challenges. Fish can be sold to traders for extra cash to buy food, weapon upgrades and all that typical RPG malarkey.

Okami HD - Plant BossCombat is carried out with the celestial brush as well. You can usually avoid the random battles scattered about the land but they’re good for levelling up and tend to be over quickly. You can generally slash most enemies from a distance and finish them off with your weapon but the occasional one requires a more nuanced tactic. Blobbing them with ink will temporarily stun most attackers or, once you unlock the cherry bomb, just run around like a maniac, leaving bombs as you go and nipping in with your teeth when they’re stunned.

All that training with the new skills pays off when you reach the marvellous boss battles and set pieces. You’ll find the game constantly teaching you something new and then leaving you to apply that to a multitude of situations. No boss set piece in the same and it all makes perfect sense, both logically and in the game world’s fantasy context.

Every aspect of Okami, the combat, the art direction and the puzzles, ties neatly back to the celestial paintbrush. The game is literally about bringing happiness to the world and you can’t help but be carried along. 7 years after its release, Okami HD version is still a fantastic full-length game. Blow the dust off your Move controller and pick it up today.

Okami HD is available now on the PlayStation Store.

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