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.
Okami's impending DS sequel may not be the last we see of Capcom's cult lupine adventure franchise. According to the game's producer, Japanese sales are healthy and the door is open for future follow-ups.
Speaking in an interview with GamesRadar, Okamiden producer Motohide Eshiro said that Capcom would be delighted to make a sequel if enough fans demanded it.
"The game's been out in Japan for a little while, and we're pleased with the reviews – users seem to be very happy – and sales are healthy," he explained.
Okami is, in my estimation, the only challenger ever to have beaten Zelda at its own game. It shared Zelda's themes and its structure – exploration and discovery, gentle but absorbing puzzling, an unobtrusive but captivating narrative gently ushering you through a sequence of towns and dungeons whilst leaving you free to distract yourself.
Andriasang reports that next week's issue of Japanese games magazine Famitsu will feature a game called Okamiden - a recent Capcom trademark, rumoured to be a sequel to the gorgeous PS2 and Wii adventure, Okami.
This shouldn't be happening. To quote from Kristan's review of Okami on the PlayStation 2: "Okami's ideas would have worked far better on the Wii, but that's never going to happen, now, is it?" And yet - marvellously, unbelievably - here we are, a year and a half later, playing Okami again in progressive-scan widescreen on the Wii, wielding the Celestial Brush again with a remote, despite Clover's closure and below-average sales. And Kristan was right - Okami's ideas do work better on the Wii.
The very basics of Okami's design are similar to the Zelda series' - indeed, this is probably the only truly great game outside of that series that has ever managed to pull it off so well. The story, like the visual style and striking music, draws its inspiration from Japanese mythology; playing as a legendary white wolf infused with the spirit of the sun god, Amaterasu, we go about saving the world from a great evil, albeit in a stunningly well-realised and visually entrancing way.
Okami's world is fairly open, and spreads gradually outwards as Amaterasu moves between beautiful outdoor scenes and bigger, puzzle-filled, delightfully inventive dungeons. Getting rid of the evil in a place by defeating dungeon bosses restores life and vitality to areas of the map in a breathtaking tidal wave of colour, foliage and wildlife. After that, the area is free to be explored; secretive corners of the map draw you to them with hidden items, side-quests and colourful, often humorous characters. The wealth of things to do outside the dungeon structure is quite amazing - even apart from the side-quests and exploration, there are wild animals to be fed, trinkets to collect and little residual pockets of darkness to take care of. The more you partake in Okami's world, the more it rewards you, slowly building up Amaterasu's wolfy abilities outside the dungeons as well as rewarding her with new weapons and techniques inside them. It is captivating design, complemented by fluid, gorgeous and unique visuals.
Porting Okami to the Wii always seemed like an obvious decision to make - at least on a mechanical level, with its gesture-based controls lending themselves well to the Nintendo machine. But, for a long time, the chances of this ever happening appeared to be a distant prospect. Despite numerous Game of the Year awards in 2006, this nailed-down 10/10 classic just didn't sell, and cold business logic dictated that Capcom eventually had to pull the plug on Clover Studios.
Nintendo of America has issued an enormous pile of release dates and estimates for its upcoming games and those of its cherished third parties. Obviously these only apply to the US, but they are still encouraging yardsticks for when things will be finished and ready to be quickly released in Europe no excuses this time.
When I was little, before girls and hair, me and my family used to march to a house full of old people and sing songs at them on Christmas Eve. Interesting creatures, full of stories and sticky toffee sweets, and if you played your cards right you might land your very first kiss. Funny smelling places though, like someone kept forgetting to flush the toilet, but then they are old so maybe it is forgiveable. Soap: another withered person smell. The moral is that old things are not useless and ready to be thrown away; my Grandma used to give me stacks of 20 pence pieces when I saw her. Back of the net.
It ended with a bang. At the first Capcom Gamers' Day to be held in Europe - our own fair capital of London, to be precise - it looked for ten excruciating seconds like the big reveal of an extremely lengthy press conference really was going to be the announcement of a PS3 version of Lost Planet. But we should have known better.
Capcom has finally confirmed persistent rumours that Okami is coming to Nintendo Wii, telling a London audience this week that the game will arrive on our screens in spring 2008.
Celebrated on PS2 for its absorbing puzzle and action adventure mechanics, gripping narrative inspired by Japanese folklore and beautiful watercolour visuals, its rebirth on Wii has been much hyped.
The game also lends itself rather well to the potential of Nintendo's Wiimote for control. Amaterasu's Celestial Brush - a paintbrush used in combat and for solving puzzles - is a perfect fit for the Wiimote, and so it proves, while combat will also include various "motion-controlled physical attacks".
Once or twice a year a game like this comes along. A game so engrossing, so crafted and so life-affirming that nothing else in the world seems to matter. It's snowing outside, you say? Anna Nicole Smith's dead? England beat the Aussies? Meh. You're pregnant?! Hang on a minute, I've just got to finish off this section...
Trying to neatly extol the virtues of Okami's endless charms isn't an easy task. It's one of those gaming experiences with so many interesting quirks about it and so many magic moments that merely running through the back-story and explaining what you do won't give you a hope of relating to how special this game really is. At worst, going into too much detail could turn this into an anti-review.
Bite-sized synopsis? It takes all the best bits of Zelda (the structure, atmosphere, puzzles), throws in wonderfully original combat and the most adorable art style ever seen in a videogame. It's not just one of the most consistently engaging action adventures we've played, but one that feels utterly unique in many ways that matter. It really is an exceptional achievement on so many levels.
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In my head, Capcom's divided into two parts these days. The first part makes all the obvious stuff - Resident Evil, Onimusha, Devil May Cry, and all the other breadwinners. The second part basically takes drugs all the time and occasionally does a game about a schizophrenic assassin who has sex with nurses, or a wolf who is actually a god and uses a paintbrush to cut people in half in heaven in between listening to a garrulous flea ramble on about mice with swords.
I'll probably sound like a small-minded xenophobic cretinous impatient simplistic boorish halfwit for saying this [promising start -Ed], but hearing that a game is based upon "Japanese mythology" tends to put me off these days. Normally what follows such a revelation is the equally startling revelation that swords, demons and wronged children and/or warlords are involved, with a lead character whose latent folklore-y-ness is key to progression, and pause menus drawn on scrolls.