STAFF REVIEW of OKAMI HD (Xbox One)


Monday, January 15, 2018.
by Royce Dean

OKAMI HD Box art I’m an artsy person. I’ll admit that out loud like I’m proud of it or something. Granted in recent years my artwork has gone by the wayside in favor of other more financially rewarding ventures and less time consuming ones. Still, I like to dabble from time to time and promptly bellyache to myself about how much better I used to be. My medium of choice, as I am a simple man, has always been pencil and paper. Good old fashioned drawing as the Aztecs used to call it. Putting graphite to tree-pulp-squares has always felt good to me. The physicality of drawing in a book, as opposed to on a computer, is where I always felt at home. I feel more connected with what I’m doing.

In that way you’d think that I’d be totally on board with painting too. You would be wrong. I am not. Paint is hard. Mixing colors properly is a challenge beyond anything I have ever known. Cities have been built in faster time than it takes to recreate a color you didn’t make enough of the first time around...and now you can’t finish what you are doing because the whole thing will be thrown off with two different shades of blue. Watercolor is even worse. It’s all the bad parts about painting, but now there’s water involved to make your paper soggy. Just do what Capcom did, make video game watercolors instead.

Let me start off by saying that I have very little bad to say about Okami, so little in fact that the few negative points I’ve got feel like splitting hairs. There’s good reason this title has been re-released time and time again to different consoles across the ages. It plays good, it sounds good, and it looks daaaaayum good. For those that don’t know, Okami is a game in which you play as the Shinto Sun Goddess Amaterasu in the form of a white wolf. You’ll travel across ancient feudal Japan (Nippon) cleansing it of demon corruption, and restoring it to its natural beautiful self. Through your journey you’ll meet several other celestial “Brush Gods” that help you master combat and puzzle solving arts.


The first and most striking element to Okami as a whole is its art style. Okami already boasted a beautiful look, but it’s up scaling to high definition has taken it to a whole new level. Thick black lines and bright high contrasting colors give the game the look of a living and breathing watercolor painting. Watercolor has deep historical ties with Japanese culture, so it is the perfect fit for a game centered around Japanese mythology and gods. Each animation and action lends itself to the watercolored nature of the game. Simple attacks have splashing effects to them as if ink is coming from enemy targets instead of blood. Restoring the world around you transforms greyed-out drab bits of land into a lush green floral landscape. Even the backgrounds and skyboxes feature plain black line mountains or clouds like you would see from pieces of artwork in that style.

An integral part of the gameplay is built upon the art and artistry of Okami, and those are your brush-arts. At any time during play, either in combat or out, you can hold down RB to change your screen into a canvas. While holding RB, move your cursor around with the left stick and apply brush pressure with X to draw lines, dots, or whatever you may need. In this way you can effectively paint the world around you, but only in the limited ways the game allows for.

As you travel you’ll meet various Brush Gods that teach you new ways to paint in game, which will help you in combat or to solve puzzles. Drawing a horizontal line will slash at an enemy or object in front of you, while drawing a circle up in the night sky will call out the sun changing it from night to day. More complicated brush strokes, like a circle with a line through it at an upward angle, will summon a bomb into existence at the place you drew the symbol, which is useful for breaking down cracked walls.


Combat is simple, relying less on varying types of attack combinations and more on how to use acquired brush-arts to defeat enemies faster. Upon dishing out enough regular attacks, all enemies will become weakened and lose most of their color. When this happens, it’s a signal that they are now vulnerable to brush arts. Some require a simple slash, while others require more advanced arts like “Bloom”, which causes plant-like features to open up exposing weak points, or “Inferno”, which will melt away icy barriers.

Amaterasu can equip two types of weapons: a main weapon and a sub weapon. Your main weapon is, as the name implies, the weapon that you use to do the lion’s share of your attacks. Your sub-weapon offers various effects like a ranged rapid fire or a melee scatter-shot. Each weapon has a main and sub effect, so mixing, matching, and experimentation are welcomed.

To match the historically on-point artwork, Okami’s music features many traditional instruments such as Shamisen, Biwa lutes and Taiko drums. At risk of exposing my complete ignorance surrounding musical composition, I’ll stop at simply saying that the music sounds great. Like with other HD ports of past games, it’s harder to peg down the specific improvements on the audio side without spending large sums on top of the line sound systems. But, in many cases game music quality has improved less over the years than video quality due to lack of necessity having started in a better place to begin with.


My only major point of criticism for Okami is its weird camera movement. Thankfully the game comes with built in camera movement customization options for those that want to change their controls from the standard settings. By default the camera moves in every opposite direction you’d instinctively think to move. The up and down pan movement is inverted, which was popular at the time of its original release, but the left and right pan are opposites as well. Instead of moving the camera left and right from the back of the characters perspective like most all 3-D adventures have done previously, left and right moves the camera from the front. This doesn’t sound like a major problem when written out, but once it’s in your hands it feels very counter intuitive.

For me, Okami is a lesson in never putting off a great title. Having come out over ten years ago, Okami has touched the hearts and minds of gamers all over the world spawning fan art and clamor for sequels by the thousands, and yet this was my first time playing it. When you boot up a game that is made with love, care and genuine passion for the craft of video games, you can feel it immediately. I certainly did when playing this game. I enjoyed every moment exploring this world, meeting its peoples, curing its woes and slaying its demons. From one gamer to another, don’t do what I did. Don’t brush aside (get it!?) playing this classic any longer.

If you haven’t played Okami yet, then Okami HD is the perfect time to dive in and see what Nippon is all about. Okami represents the absolute pinnacle of art in games, an art that we all love, care about, and have passion for. An art form that we grew up with and helped mold us into the people we are today. The next time you meet somebody that doesn’t think games are art, show them Okami HD and show them how wrong they really are.




Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10

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