Gaming has a rich history that spans multiple decades. To this end, The Last Word on Gaming Backlog is a series that looks back on titles across all generations. From the golden 8-bit era to the landscape-changing 64-bit scene and beyond, The LWOG Backlog’s aim is history. This time, we take a look at one of the most artistic, creative video games published by Capcom – Okami (2006)!
Okami (2006) – An Overview
Origin of All That is Good
When one thinks of Capcom, intellectual properties such as Mega Man, Street Fighter, and Resident Evil immediately spring to mind. However, the company hasn’t been without its lesser-known entities, some of which have seen more success than others. Among these is the Japanese culture-inspired title with an artistic vision known as Okami (2006). This title was published by Capcom and developed by Clover Studio. The latter is also known for developing Capcom titles Godhand and the Viewtiful Joe series.
Since its original release in 2006, Okami developed a strong following. Fans admired everything about the game from its distinct art style to its array of memorable characters to the gameplay itself. Okami was originally a PlayStation 2 title, but since then, it has found its way on many other platforms. These include, but aren’t limited to, the Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation 3, and the Nintendo Switch. Though Okami would see upgrades with different generations, including motion controls and high-definition presentation, its original magic remained intact.
Long-time Okami fans can attest to the aforementioned magic. However, those that are on the outside looking in may wonder what the fuss is about concerning this game starring a white wolf? Rest assured that this title is a work of art, even beyond the general aesthetic. Let’s take a look at everything that makes Okami a classic worthy of a true sequel.
The game puts the player in the role of Okami Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun that takes the physical form of a white wolf. It’s believed that she is the reincarnation of Shiranui, who defeated the legendary eight-headed dragon, Orochi, one hundred years ago. This was done alongside Nagi, a fabled swordsman. Fast forward one hundred years later and Nagi’s descendant, Susano, inadvertently releases Orochi into the world. Okami, who partners with a diminutive artist known as Issun, must defeat Orochi and restore life to Nippon, Japan.
Okami (2006) starts the player in a tutorial-like area before they enter the humble Kamiki Village, the latter being Orochi’s target. However, as the game progresses, Amaterasu and Issun travel to other areas of Nippon, including Shinshu Fields, Agata Forest, and Ryoshima Plains. Along the way, Okami will aid a memorable cast of characters with their distinct personalities and backgrounds. Even if characters play bit roles in Okami’s larger story, they exude so much charm that they leave lasting impressions.
Following Okami’s release, it won several awards, its story being a major reason. Okami is a lengthy, grand adventure that will take the player throughout Nippon. Each area aids the game’s narrative, whether in regard to characters met, dangers faced, or dungeons overcome. While Okami’s story may be a bit long for some, it’s seldom dull.
Okami (2006) is an action-adventure title not unlike the Legend of Zelda series. In fact, Hideki Kamiya, the director of Okami, stated that Zelda influenced much of the game’s design. This is especially true concerning combat. Once the player encounters a demon scroll, a sheet that ominously floats throughout any given location, they enter battle. The results of each fight are based on how quickly it’s finished and the amount of damage taken. Said results influence the end game results, so it’s in a player’s best interest to understand all techniques.
These techniques go beyond standard button-mashing, however. During the game, Amaterasu will learn new techniques that require the aid of her Celestial Brush. With this, she can pull up a canvas, suspending the game so that unique symbols can be drawn. Amaterasu can draw cherry bombs, bring on windstorms, harness the elements of fire and water, and more. Not only do these techniques aid one in combat, but they will be required to complete other in-game objectives. Upon Okami’s original release, the Celestial Brush began as a technique accessed with the analog stick; on subsequent platforms, motion controls were implemented, literally putting the power of the Sun god in the player’s hand.
Okami’s gameplay is varied in that combat is one piece of the larger puzzle. From one region to another, Amaterasu will restore life through her godly techniques, assist the good people of Nippon with their obstacles, and even go fishing. Okami isn’t entirely built around its combat. Much like any good piece of artwork, this game is multilayered, allowing players to appreciate every detail at their own pace. The gameplay will keep players hooked until the end.
Presentation (Graphics and Sound)
Not unlike Viewtiful Joe, Okami (2006) features a cel-shaded visual style. The game’s overall presentation feels like a watercolor painting come to life, full of lush colors and rich detail. From locations where Orochi’s dark influence had corrupted to areas where life had been restored, Okami can best be described as “eye-catching.” This is especially true when it comes to restoration. It never becomes old to see Amaterasu restore life through Guardian Saplings. The first time that a player sees cherry blossoms spread throughout the area is nothing short of impressive.
Okami’s sound captures the atmosphere of every situation, too. Case and point, upon entering a “cursed” location, the game’s soundtrack will turn somber, bringing to mind images of a once-thriving land that had fallen to Orochi. This changes, however, once Amaterasu restores life to the area, with the music becoming more upbeat and triumphant. Much like the rest of the game, Okami’s soundtrack is heavily inspired by Japanese culture. Every melody has purpose and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to start humming songs on occasion.
Okami has been described, by many, as a work of art in gaming. This has been said for many well-received titles throughout the years, but I believe this is most appropriate for Okami. The presentation is a major reason for this; it almost feels as though one is playing a painting come to life. Okami does this by providing solid gameplay and an overall presentation no other game has replicated.
On a standard playthrough, Okami (2006) is about thirty hours in length. This is a meaty adventure, to be certain, featuring a sizable Nippon to travel and play through. However, this is more or less the minimum amount of time it takes to complete Okami’s main story. Keep in mind the end game results mentioned earlier. Another factor that can influence results is the various collectibles one can receive throughout the game. When these are considered, one may find themselves doubling the time they would have spent playing otherwise.
Make no mistake, either: Okami has plenty of supplementary content to dive into. One may wish to hunt down Demon Fangs, which can be exchanged with merchants for rewards that can’t be found in other shops. Players may also wish to find all the Stray Beads in Nippon; by doing so, Amaterasu will acquire a new weapon that will turn the tide in her favor. These are just a few examples of how Okami can keep an involved player around. If one goes into this game to one-hundred percent it, they will receive more than their money’s worth.
The quality of Okami (2006) hasn’t gone unnoticed over the years. In fact, since its release, it won several awards based on qualities such as story and innovative game design. Okami would also go on to spawn a modest spinoff title on the Nintendo DS. Enter Okamiden, which starred Chibiterasu, the child of Amaterasu. Despite the limitations of the DS compared to console platforms, Okamiden reviewed well, with critics praising the game’s ability to transition many of Okami’s elements to the handheld.
Okami never saw a true sequel on a home console. Despite the original name being re-released on subsequent platforms, it would appear that neither Clover Studios nor Capcom have any plans to release an Okami 2. However, earlier this year, Ikumi Nakamura, who worked on the original Okami, spoke about the topic in an interview. Nakamura expressed interest in pushing a sequel forward, provided Kamiya took on a lead role. The possibility of Okami 2 remains uncertain; regardless, the original remains a classic any action-adventure fan would be wise to experience.