Okami is an action-adventure video game developed by Clover Studio and published by Capcom. It was originally released on the PlayStation 2 but has been ported to many systems since. The player controls the goddess Amaterasu – the titular ‘Okami’, which is meant to be a play on words, meaning great goddess or wolf. The gameplay style is a mix of action, platform, and puzzle gaming genres.
Link to game’s website: http://www.okami-game.com/
Lens 9: The elemental tetrad
The story is based on various parts of Japanese folklore, where the sun goddess Amaterasu is called upon to save the world from the snake demon Orochi who has been unsealed due to the folly of man. Taking the form of the legendary white wolf, it is now up to Amaterasu to stop Orochi and put an end to the source of the demons who have since plagued Japan.
The game itself is very stylised, featuring an inkbrush-inspired cel shaded visual style. This ties in heavily with the other aspects of the tetrad, with its Japanese-inspired story roots, painting mechanics and the utilisation of technology to carry them out.
The game uses a unique paintbrush mechanic, where a player can pause the game at any time to paint over the world and affect it as desired. For example, painting a sun causes the sun to come up, illuminating dark areas. Delivering a straight paint stroke across trees and walls cuts them in half. You can even paint bombs during combat to damage enemies.
The game was hampered by technology in a sense that it was originally meant to have a more photo-realistic style but was scrapped due to it putting to much strain on the then aging PS2. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it would not have aged as well, compared to the cel-shaded style it currently uses.
On the plus side, it benefited greatly from the motion controls of the Wii, PlayStation, and Xbox, furthering the mechanics and aesthetics of the painting process.
Lens 24: Novelty
The game is novel in two separate ways: the art style and the mechanics. While cel shaded art styles are nothing new, the inkbrush visual style differs slightly where instead of using different shades to represent depth in a 2D model, the lines are drawn to be thicker while retaining the same shade of black, similar an inkbrush. This makes the contrast between the vivid colours of the world and the thick black outlines very evident and thus characters have a very distinct form.
Pair this with the concept of being able to directly influence the world in any way you wish; slowing down time, creating flowers, burning NPCs for no apparent reason and you get one of the most unique games to have ever been released.
Lens 58: The puzzle
Okami contains a mix of action, platforming, and puzzle segments, with the latter being more prominent. As the player you have a lot of power and skills at your disposal – being able to manipulate earth, wind, fire, water, and time, just to name a few. The game does not shy away from giving the players puzzles which require certain skills or combinations of skills to solve. Progressing through the main story, you would encounter a comfortable amount of said puzzles that are not too challenging. However, if you simply do not wish to rack your brain over them, you could simply ask for advice from your travelling companion Issun. When it comes to optional content however, apparently anything is fair game, where some of the puzzles become really challenging, thus giving players the option of differing difficulties when it comes to puzzles. Easy – story with hints; Normal – story without hints; Hard – optional content
Lens 76: The Hero’s Journey
Clichés are called clichés because they get used so often, and the reason why that is so is that they are a solid foundation for creating a story that has been tried and tested in the past. Okami follows in its predecessors’ footsteps, where our hero is tasked with saving the world against the evil demons, exploring villages, fighting enemies, and gaining new skills along the way together with her trusty sidekick. What sets it apart from the typical tale is that the main character is a wolf goddess instead of a normal human being. Considering you could get the NPCs in the world to come play with you and pet Amaterasu, that makes it a plus in my book.
Lens 81: Indirect Control
Optional content such as side quests and collectibles, although optional in name, have always been added by developers who want their worlds to feel fleshed out and for the players to experience something more. Okami is no exception, with various indirect cues being given by the game designer to encourage players to explore beyond the main questline. Although obvious signposting such as giant exclamation marks above NPCs for side quests still exist, they are rare as compared to the more subtle efforts. Certain chests or items are placed in very conspicuous places just out of reach to encourage players to solve optional puzzles for the rewards; visual designs such as withered trees and barren land encourage players to start blossoming flowers and rejuvenating trees in order to beautify the environment, which in turn gets them collectibles.
My overall opinion on Okami is that it is a masterclass when it comes to game design. Its style and mechanics were novel during its time and still is today; it is backed with a solid story foundation, a beautiful world that encourages exploration and puzzles of varying difficulty to appeal to casuals and veterans alike. Not many games can ever come close to achieving what it has.