The Legend of Zelda series are incredible adventures with towns to explore, dungeons to conquer and enemies to down, but you don’t see many games trying to follow the formula which end up being something. Okami is one such contender though as it follows a similar format but has enough fresh new ideas and moments to make it strike out and bite. This wolf has fangs.
The day of darkness is upon the world of Nippon and only the Sun God Amaterasu with her fellow miniature painter friend Issun can save the day! The two travel the huge world going through forests, cities, mountains, blizzards, evil lairs and even under the sea as they vanquish the evil monsters which lurk in each region. It all starts with the eight headed serpent Orochi and it goes from there as they battle it out. It’s all based of Japanese myth and legend much like the hit manga series Naruto, and it adds a great deal of depth and cultural understanding of Japan, in a sense it has a tells a bit of history though with some slight alterations. So don’t go speaking this stories as the real myths, just be aware that all the names, monsters, settings and story have inspirations from all those old Eastern stories. With some perky fun characters and the references it makes for an epic and endearing plot to go with the huge game.
The game at a core is exploring areas, talking to characters, fighting enemies, partaking in mini games and solving puzzles using paint brush techniques. Progression and display is where the Zelda similarities lie with towns and open world between each dungeon and items such as health hearts are displayed much the same here, but they are orbs. The unique painted art style of the game makes it stand out as its own and the drawing techniques add something fresh to the action adventure genre. You can use the wii mote to draw bombs, create gusts, make paths and much more; it is really cool seeing the effects the powers bring to the world and all the signs are easy enough to remember and draw. Playing as the speedy wolf in this huge Japanese adventure is sounding almost too good to be true.
And it is a little. Problems persist in controls, combat and pace. While the painting isn’t too troublesome and the movement with everything else is fine, the controls fall apart in the mini games. The main culprit is the digging game which has you using the paint powers to chip away at rocks and get to the end. These moments show the paint techniques don’t really work under tight time based situations and it almost caused me to stop playing completely. Having bombs no form when time is running out is upsetting.
Another problems comes from the combat, it isn’t really that fun. You can use a combination of remote movements and paint brush techniques, but you really need to combine to deal major damage to the demons. The problem here is that wii controls don’t feel to responsive. Thrusting the remote and charing are both motion controller and sometimes you charge when you want to attack and can’t get the charge to actually turn into an attack. It’s incredibly frustrating and by the end I resorted to using a special item which deals damage by selecting it in a menu. Thankfully you can skip most of the fights and just deal with the major ones, but it is something when the combat appears so frustrating in a thirty hour adventure.
The final problem is the pace. At thirty hours long the game can feeling very tiring. After a story develops and an ending can be put in place, everything calms down and another big bad appears to take down. It means the game has a ton of value, but the pacing leaves big lulls after each big event and it takes a few hours to build the excitement levels up again. I found it best to take breaks after each major story scene which made the game last me almost three years. Some people will be able to slog through, but I felt the way the story was paced led to fatigue as everything feels like it keeps stopping and starting. It could still have contained all the story and lasted as long, they just needed to keep the tempo going.
Okami is a beautiful game to look at and the story, Japanese music and setting leaves memories long after playing. A shame the game has a few things stopping it from being truly amazing, but this is a magical game which people should definitely give a go. Just soldier on through the digging mini game, they only crop up a few times. I was howling for sure.