Okami HD Review

Okami HD Review – Paint me a picture of the past

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There’s a reason that Okami is on its umpteenth port – having made an appearance on the PS2, the Wii, the PS3 and now the PS4 and Xbox One.

It’s great. Bloody great.

Okami was a critically acclaimed gem when it was first release and it’s a no-brainer for platform holders, publishers and whomever else stands to make money off it to keep it in circulation.  Yes, that sounds a mite cynical. But let’s be honest; the reason games from a bygone age – the PS2 is old enough to drive a car and vote by now – is because they transcend generations. The mechanics are as tight as ever and the visuals are simply swoon-worthy.

Okami ticks a ton of boxes and looks effortless doing so. It’s a beat-’em-up. It’s an RPG. It’s open world. It even boasts a mechanic to keep the hipster crowd hooked, which involves painting. It’s the sort of game that would never be made in the current industry environment. It’s not franchise-friendly. It’s a self-contained experience. It’s a one-shot, one-time-only game that would probably have been pounded to death if it had been released initially on the PS3 or Xbox 360.

Like many great pieces of art, Okami steals liberally. The template for this game is The Legend Of Zelda; an RPG with simple combat mechanics and a menu that doesn’t require too much micro-management. What Okami brings to the plate is achingly beautiful presentation and a slightly irritating sidekick.

Okami tells the story of Amaterasu, a sun goddess in wolf form, who rises from her stone-statue prison in order to save the world from an encroaching darkness. You know, epic, sword and sorcery stuff.

Things kick off at a rather sedated pace; players will find themselves engaged in some pretty lightweight quests early on, but all are necessary in order to bolster Amaterasu’s stats because the bosses that pitch up in later stages of the game are no joke. This may put off some players particularly those who enjoy twitch mechanic or who want the action to start as quickly as possible. Okami’s opening alone will be a challenge for these players, as it involves reading a shedload of unskippable, badly written text.

Like many Japanese games of the PS2 era, Okami isn’t just a game to become lost in, it’s one that requires surrender and commitment. This isn’t a dip-in dip-out affair – much like Assassin’s Creed or any COD you care to mention. Between the silly dialogue, languid pacing and rather impressive length, Okami feels like a meal that’s made to be swallowed whole. It’s an experience players are encouraged to let wash over them.

The visual upgrade the game has received makes it easy on the eye throughout. Yes, Okami was always a lovely game to look at – in fact, the lion’s share of the praise heaped on it at launch focussed mainly on the visuals – but there’s a sizeable leap between this version and the ones on earlier platforms. Playing the game is like interacting with an ancient Japanese watercolour; it’s sublime, beautiful and unique in the way it looks.

That having been said, Okami does contain a couple of peccadilloes that can grate; the camera occasionally goes bonkers and the endless reams of unskippable text can be a chore to sit through. There’s also the paint brush mechanic that’s distinctly hit and miss; during puzzle solving sections it can be fun, but as a combat mechanic it’s a bit of a bust, since the protagonist’s positioning can occasionally render it useless.

Okami HD Review – Verdict

But all that having been said, Okami does deserve a look for its sheer uniqueness. Like a lot of games receiving the remaster treatment, Okami HD functions like a kind of portal into a time when the gaming industry still took a chance every now and then. When innovation and the need to make money weren’t as disparate, developers could produce wonders like this game, that still manages to enthral, in spite of its imperfections.

It’s still great. Bloody great.