Okami – Amaterasu Has a Posse

Okami coverDon’t bother reading this. Just get it.

Once I slipped the disc in, I panicked that all my expectations outstripped anything this game could possibly deliver.

As soon as I gained control of Amaterasu, something seized me, however. I yelled out, “I’m a wolf, baby!”and began tearing around the screen.

I’m more of a kitty freak than a wolf lover, so this reaction was strange. In all the games I’ve played, in the past 10 years at least, I can’t think of any where I took on the role of an actual animal.

K reminded me about Cookie & Cream, those cooperative, time-addled bunnies we played with many years ago, but this isn’t the same. Nor are the various Donkey Kong don't count eithercompanion beasts like Epona in Ocarina of Time or Arokh in Drakan. In addition to these ancillary roles, the playable animals in my gaming experience have either been cartoonish or humanoid.

There is something to be said for this. The wolf Amaterasu is the primary character in Okami. Not somebody’s pet or mode of transportation. She’s not anybody’s backup, or quarry, or cuddly respite from the rigors of adventuring. She’s entirely herself, a reincarnated goddess of the Epona and Linksun rendered and drawn exquisitely; posessessing skill, intelligence, grace, and yes, artistry. Amaterasu kicks serious ass as a game hero.

During the opening movie, which takes its time with its reams of text that can’t be skipped through, I submitted willingly to the aesthetic of Japanese water color paintings that saturate the game. I felt myself being drawn in, as with Ico, to a play experience that insisted I adopt a different frame of mind.

Not rushing around from place to place, hurtling towards the next objective or fight. But taking the time to look around me, to wander. Thankfully, the camera facilitates this, though it took me a while to get used to it. You can rotate it to get a full 360 degree view of the gorgeous scenery, including when you’re in “brush mode”, which is really handy.

I am content just moving in Okami. Amaterasu’s lope that turns into a dash, with the sound of rustling leaves and green stalks sprouting in her wake is exhilirating for different reasons beyond just speed.

Amatersu smilingRestoring nature and color back into the world is a clichéd story device to be sure, but it fits so snugly into the world of Okami, executed brilliantly into the story Clover Studios has created. Tree-hugging tendencies aside, it’s one of the most gratifying play experiences I’ve ever had. This game is absolutely stunning. Even the fog looks cool.

Many of the same kinds of fetch quests, or help-the-NPC missions, are present here. But without the annoyance or resentment they typically engender in other games. One, because moving around from place to place is so enjoyable, and two, because all of these elements come together so well. You want to earn Praise from the whole wide world around you, people, animals and vegetation alike. It’s what enables you to save them all.

The quiet interludes when feeding animals are so unexpectedly gentle and sweet. Though the game lets you, I never skip them. Like so much else in Okami, they encourage you to slow down, experience the role of caretaker. These contemplative moments comprise so much of what I love about Ico.

This side quest is something K and I have taken to with great relish. Poor thing spent a really long time with a radish side quest because he thought it would help him feed some bunnies. But the little hearts the various creatures emit after you’ve successfully chosen the right type of food for them is so cute.

I’ve even figured out that like my approach to the game, my brush technique also benefits from being relaxed. Slashes and circles flow more effortlessly from my brush when I release the tension in my hands.

K’s playing it now. I’m trying to savor it. Hoard those bright moments for the rainy winter that will be here soon. But this is a game I’m just as happy to watch as play. Or wander around in, caring for the world, painting color and light slowly back into existence.

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14 Comments »

  1. mercy said

    I’ve never been any good at video games, so I’ve settled for watching my best friend play- as soon as he put the game in (which we all had been waiting for for months), our jaws dropped. Its insanely difficult to describe by words, other than “you just have to see it to belive it”.

  2. Jeremy said

    You speak as if you haven’t beat it yet.

    I’ve beaten it twice so far. Just wait till you beat it because the reward is the sweetest part.
    It’s great gameplay, but the story is gripping.
    The ending is perfect. It’s a beautiful ending to a great game, and it leaves you with a feeling that you’re not just playing it to play a game, but giving you a purpose.
    While the game isn’t terribly hard, it does have it’s moments. The enemies get better and better too. The first time through, I didn’t pay Lechku and Nechku much mind, but the second time through I focused more on what was going on with other people around me, and it dawned on me how clever the battle was.

    Halfway through, I thought to myself, “This game couldn’t possibly be over already”, knowing I didn’t have all the brush techniques, and then the story really began.

    The soundtrack is amazing too.

  3. notawesome said

    I haven’t beat it yet! I’m taking my sweet time; going back to old areas once I get a new ability or brush technique, talking to everyone, for any new critters I encounter, watching the animal feeding animations all the way through…

    Part of the reason why I’m intentionally drawing it out is because I don’t want it to end. Though, Final Fantasy XII is coming out tomorrow. But that would be another one-player game that K and I will have to play at separate times so we don’t see any spoilers.

    It’s been a while since we’ve played a nice co-op title. Right now, it’s looking like it might be Justice League Heroes or Marvel Ultimate Alliance. For the latter, I think I want to wait for the Wii version though. The gesture-based gameplay in this title look especially fun.

  4. Jeremy said

    That’s what me and my best friend did. We went through after we both had already beat it, and for the beads we didn’t find we saw the rest of the stories with the beads, and went back through to areas we didn’t get to at first.

    There are several battles you can revisit in the game that get harder and harder. I don’t want to give anything away, but one of them is in a gate underground in Rioshima coast. Normally you beat a gate and it goes away and gives you a nice reward, but this one stays for maybe 10+ more battles, each harder and harder. I actually died twice during one of them.

  5. Night said

    I love this game..that is really all that there is to it. I remember a loooong time ago before it even came out and I was watching TV about new games comming out. and as soon as I saw okami I fell in love..but then after all I am an animal lover and my favorite animal is a wolf..so you can see why ^^;

    I got the game this past christmas…and….omg..I couldnt even begin to describe how shocked and amazed I was at not only the artowrk and the music..but the fact that I could actually be a wolf! 😄

    another thing that I have to say about the game is that I think its like crack..I find myself playing a bit and then turning it off, only to come back a few minuets later saying ‘well..i’ll just play a little bit more…’ *8 hours later* (srly…in one sitting I put about 8-9 hours on that game)

    its a wonderful game. probably the best in my opinion!

  6. Rekameohs said

    I have always wanted to play this game ever since it came out, so about a month ago i finally was able to rent it, i was so taken by its art, and game play i have been renting his whole time, ((I can’t get to a game store so easily that is why i haven’t bought it yet)) but when fought the boss in the moon cave, and beaten him i was sad cause i thought that was the end of the game, but i was so happy after i realiazed i wasn’t even near half way done!!! 😀

    i highly recomend this game it is awesome, and the music is amazing!

  7. Laura said

    This is my favorite game of all time, I’ve recomended it to everyone I know. I fell in love with it when I first saw my big bro playing it near Christmas 2006. If you keep beating the game over and over, the Karmic Transformers get better and better.

  8. Ame said

    I absolutely ADORE this game. Although I haven’t even gotten past-NEAR- Orochi in particular (In moon cave) I still feel that I’ve come a long way through it LOL ^_^

  9. gabriella said

    my whole life has been change since i played okami amaterasu

  10. Tsorin said

    The gate under Ryoshima Coast is one of three: there’s one in Ryoshima Coast, one in North Ryoshima Coast, and one in Kamui. The get progressivly harder, and the one in Kamui is a killer!

    Seriously through, I’ve played this game too many times to count. I recently got all 100 stray beads, and the reward is well worth the hassel. Definnitly one of my favorite games of all time!

  11. shane said

    well i freaked out also when i first played cause i really like games where u play as animals but there were very few.. and the ones that had u play as animals stunked but this had fighting and loads of fun scenes it a 9.5!!! i love it and it was wierd fighting orochi twice… and also ninetails looks like it was from naruto and pokemon… but its okay with me. its not super hard but its not easy either its a great game.. BELIEVE IT! lol its fun finding all the secrets

  12. Kendra said

    I might be incredibly late in posting this, but I can definitely agree with you that’s it’s one of the most stunning, beautiful games I have ever played. I also play it when I feel like relaxing.

    Recently, I lent the game to my friend Vic… and couldn’t be more disappointed with his reaction. He gave the game back to me after the Spider Queen saying “This is seriously a Zelda ripoff. I hate it.”
    I honestly can’t believe he considers himself a serious gamer when the only things he’ll play through completely are Tales games, Zelda, Megaman, and WoW.

  13. Ãûŗøŗã♀™ said

    I have already beaten the game the first time through, though I kinda sped through it, didn’t get to see much of the extra stuff…which is why I’m going through it the second time and getting all the stray beads, brush technique upgrades, weapons, all the optional stuff, everything. Or at least try to, anyway…Anyway, getting off track. Okami is quite possibly the best game I’ve ever played in my entire life.

    • Wolfiez said

      Definitely my favorite game ever! (I love wolves). The world definitely lacks games where you are actually an animal. My brother thinks they took most of it from zelda, but I don’t really care. There are so many twists and turns in the game and funny characters (Issun.) I recommend it to everyone. EVERYONE

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