Released more than 12 years ago, the original Okami arrived during the PlayStation 2's twilight years. It's a sprawling open-ended action RPG fusing The Legend of Zelda with ancient Japanese history and at the time of its initial release, it was also one of the most ambitious and expensive games undertaken by publisher Capcom. It's a beautiful adventure and one the firm has seen fit to re-release across three generations of consoles - and it now arrives on Nintendo Switch, boasting new features including touchscreen input and motion control, along with HD visuals in line with the other current-gen ports.
And honestly, it works. The visual aesthetic is timeless - it's one of those games that manages to hold up even when viewed through the lens of a modern 4K TV. Okami is one of those titles with timeless charm, created by genuine gaming artisans. Back in the day, Capcom's Clover Studio was a development group formed by Capcom to develop new IPs and explore new genres. With the talents of Shinji Mikami, Hideki Kamiya, Atsushi Inaba and others behind it, Clover produced some true classics during its short lifespan. While the studio no longer exists today, the spirit of Clover lives on through Platinum Games - but Okami remains a superb example of this remarkable team's early work.
With an enormous pool of talent and money behind the game, Okami was released to critical acclaim back in 2006. It may not have ignited sales charts, but it's widely considered a classic of its era. It's still a great game today but what stands out most is its visual style. Clover Studio pushed its cel-shading techniques to the next level but rather than mimicking the look of a modern anime or manga as was common at the time, the team focused instead on replicating the style of Japanese sumi-e paintings.
UPDATE 16/5/18: Following Capcom's announcement in March that beloved action-adventure Okami would be heading to Switch "this summer" in its recent, excellent high-definition remaster guise, the publisher has now confirmed a release date of August 9th.
Digital Foundry on The Wind Waker's HD treatment, and which other GameCube classics could follow suit.
HD remasters have continued to fill release schedules over the past couple of years, leaving many console owners feeling a bit of a remaster fatigue. Despite that, we still believe in them. While the likes of Saints Row 4: Re-Elected and Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition are obvious cash grabs, we feel that a high-quality remaster can serve not only to preserve classic games but also open them up to a new audience altogether. If there's one publisher that still has a lot of untapped potential in this field it has to be Nintendo. Going all the way back to Super Mario All-Stars on SNES, Nintendo's work on remastering projects has always been first-rate.
And yet, during the packed 2013 Autumn release schedule, exactly one such release slipped entirely under our radar - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. It's an interesting conversion of the original GameCube release that goes a bit further than your average remaster project; Nintendo EAD enhanced both the visuals and gameplay to refresh the game for a new audience while preserving what made it great to begin with. It was an exercise no doubt designed to familiarise the team with HD development in its preparation of a brand new Wii U Zelda title, but it highlights the potential in tackling more of its back catalogue. But just how good is Wind Waker HD as an example of what could be done, and what other projects would benefit from similar treatment?
Wind Waker HD isn't the first time Nintendo has returned to a classic Zelda game on a new platform; Ocarina of Time 3D was released more than two years prior with entirely revamped visuals in tow. However, with Wind Waker HD, EAD chose to stick with the original 3D meshes, instead using other means to improve the visuals. It starts with a crisp 1920x1080 output, something of a rarity on Wii U, combined with a post-process edge filter that does a reasonable job of keeping aliasing at bay.
I've played Okami before. I've written a review of it before. (I can't say where, but you can probably figure it out and find the review online.) Daniel Craig's first James Bond film was in cinemas around then, and PlayStation 3 was on the point of release in Japan and the US.
That was six years ago - not that long in real terms, but an entire generation in the weird world of pop culture, where reinvention is everything. Now Craig is back on our screens, rebooting his reboot in Skyfall, and console gamers are once again wringing the last drops of enjoyment from tomorrow's useless plastic and looking forward to the next round. As Spinal Tap once sang: "The more it stays the same, the less it changes."
But as I explore Clover's wonderful, mystical adventure again in this handsome new reissue for PS3, I can't claim that I'm experiencing total déjà vu. This generation is not like the last, and you can scarcely find a better demonstration of that than Okami, a game that stands out even more now than it did in 2006.