Okami

Okami
Okami Cover
Platforms PS2, Wii
Genre Story-slogged Adventure
MtAMinutes to Action 29
Score 2  Clock score of 2Gameplay: 3
Fun Factor: 2
Gfx/Sound: 9
Story: 6
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In a few years, Okami is probably going to be one of those games that gamers call a "work of art" but hardly any of them will actually have played it. Well, I think that's actually happening right now but someday it will be a lot more prevalent. Anyways, for those unaware, Okami is basically a Legend of Zelda game set in feudal Japan with most of your abilities being executed using a calligraphy brush. The Celestial Brush is used by holding R1 (which freezes time and grays the screen) and then moving the thumbstick around while holding down a face button to draw. Offensive slashes can be drawn with a quick, straight stroke, or you can light an enemy on fire by drawing a line from a torch to the baddie. There are a whole bunch of different strokes available by the end of the game, but I'm only interested in the first hour. Do we even get to use the brush early on or should we cross that off our list of fun in favor of something... a whole lot less fun? Time will tell and it's about to start the clock.

I actually wrote this review about two weeks ago, but since I had the opportunity to play and review Portal, this review was delayed a week!

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the hour begins. A girl's voice echoes: "Okami... Okami... Okami...". The story sequence begins right off. Looks like I have to press X to keep it going. The background looks hand drawn and there are cherry blossom petals falling across the screen.

01 - The game is telling me about Kamiki village and its dark secrets.

02 - Turns out an eight-headed dragon is fed a maiden every year! The village even makes a festival out of it.

Okami Orochi Moon Cave Cutscene

03 - This intro could really use some voice over narrating. Instead, I'm stuck here reading everything. Even if it was in Japanese it would be much more interesting. Anyways, the story tells me about a white wolf that kept an eye on the village around festival time. The backgrounds are scrolling along with the text, and there's silhouettes of the characters being described. Looks pretty cool.

04 - A village named Nagi tried to fight the white wolf, Shiranui. No luck though as Shiranui was very swift.

05 - Concerning the lack of voice acting again, the words are accompanied instead by a weird, computer generated sounding voice. Almost like something is being read backwards. They did this in the last few Zelda games too (another series that could use some voice acting).

06 - Turns out Nagi's girlfriend was picked to be eaten this year, so Nagi went to confront Orochi, the octo-dragon.

08 - With Nagi unable to put a dent in Orochi, it's Shiranui's chance to confront the demon. The music has a nice harp sounding to it. It sounds appropriate for storytime, but it's been going on for eight minutes now...

09 - We see some of the Celestial Brush in action warding off Orochi, first by creating wind to blow fire back in his face, and then to sprout a tree to stop his advances.

11 - Shiranui and Nagi finally team up to tumble the giant. Shiranui gives him the power of the moon or something and Nagi starts lopping off Orochi's heads with his golden sword.

Okami Amaterasu

13 - Shiranui is mortally wounded by Orochi's poison and Nagi carries the wolf back to Kamiki village. The remnants of Orochi behind them, Shiranui "falls asleep."

14 - Wow, the first story scene is over! The music has stopped and there's color! I see for the first time the artistic style this game is going to offer.

15 - Well, one story is over, and another is about to begin it appears. A 100 years have passed since the epic battle and something bad is gonna happen!

16 - Someone is stealing the sword that sealed in Orochi - they pull it out and a giant shadow serpent appears. The thief hightails it out of there as Orochi erupts from his crypt.

17 - Fires ravage the nearby area as the sky darkens. Hey, a loading screen...

18 - We're loading another cutscene. This is a more dramatic one with the music pumped up. We see Shiranui's statue in Kamiki village, protecting the small town from Orochi's evil power. "It is here the real story begins." I hope.

19 - A woman in a leaf bikini appears - Wood Sprite Sakuya the game informs me.

Okami Sakuya

20 - She throws a shield at the statue of Shiranui, causing the statue to come alive and become the white wolf! Shiranui no more though, this is Okami Amaterasu. The mother and origin of all that is.

21 - Amaterasu seems bored with Sakuya's speech. Join the club.

22 - I get a backview of Sakuya... she's got a plumber's crack in that dress! And the designers bestowed upon her Dead or Alive style physics.

23 - A little bug pops out of Sakuya's cleavage. It's Issun the wandering artists.

25 - Amaterasu pops Issun in her mouth, but unfortunately, Issun escapes and calls me furball. It should be mentioned now that you can not speed up the text at all, you always have to wait for it to slowly appear on the screen. I might only be at the 15 minute mark right now if I could do that.

27 - Sakuya morphs into a big tree with some fruit on it. Supposedly the villager's spirits are kept inside the fruit for whatever reason.

Okami Sakuya Cleavage

28 - OH MY! I finally get control! I guide Amaterasu inside the tree.

29 - I arrive inside another world. I can move around, but my actions are limited to basically jumping, dashing, and barking. Issun teaches me about saving, but no need for that in the first hour I think. It should be noted that I can kind of fast-forward through text now. Something that should have been available from the start.

31 - I bust open some pots with my head and collect Yen. Then I learn how to wall jump. I'd better learn how to double jump soon!

32 - Issun teaches me a little about using the brush. There's a broken bridge and he magically repairs it with ink! Kind of cool! This power if called Rejuvination, there are 13 brush strokes in all, one for each brush god.

34 - We look into the sky and see a constellation, but it's missing a star! I get to draw the missing star by holding R1 and pressing Square where the star should be.

Okami Celestial Brush Constellation

35 - A giant white serpent (only one head) appears. It's Yomigami, and he suffers from slow text too! Yomigami is the god of restoration. I have to seek out and reunite all the brush techniques to renew the flow of stardust... That's an odd mission.

37 - Amaterasu herself receives the power of restoration, time to use it! I scribble over some water and create a sort of liquid bridge over the cosmos below, cool! Oh, it's a river of stardust. Issun is impressed.

39 - After slowly crossing the bridge, I get an Astral Pouch. It stores food and will resurrect me if I die. But first I have to "feed" it and fill it up. I collect some fruit in the area.

40 - I enter through another shining door and into a new area. It's still perpetual night, but I'm climbing a grassy hill with Japanese architecture littered across it.

Okami Collecting Praise

41 - As I hold forward on the joystick, Amaterasu begins speeding up! There seems to be no other way to run except to keep running and eventually you'll go faster. Neat gameplay aspect.

43 - I enter a large cave and right in the middle is a big old statue of Nagi. And when I say big, this thing looks Statue of Liberty big! He's even holding up a broken sword like a torch.

44 - If it wasn't obvious what to do already, Issun chimes in: I have to restore Nagi's broken sword with my brush power. I draw a bunch of sort of straight lines and his sword returns (where did this matter appear from?).

45 - Another constellation appears above Nagi in the open air. It looks like a little mouse... well, it's some sort of rodent, Tachigami. This thing could actually be like a pikachu or something.

Okami Amaterasu Tachigami

47 - I received the power slash technique, basically a sword but wielded by my brush strokes! I slice a boulder in two. Issun finally realizes that Amaterasu is Shiranui reborn and decides to tag along for the long haul. Lucky me...

48 - Now I have to head out the way I came. There's a big orange arrow right in my face showing me the way. Why not just teleport me out of here!?

49 - Oh snap, some bad guys! I beat them up using the shield thingy on my back and my power slash.

50 - The orange arrow continues to beckon. Objects are popping in and out of view pretty quickly, sometimes it's a little distracting. Oh, another battle.

Okami Celestial Brush Power Slash

53 - I finally make it out of the stardust land, now to use my power slash on the fruit from the tree. The fruit falls and causes the whole area to blossom and green up! It's a really cool affect watching the village become alive again as grass grows, trees sprout up, and water rushes into the river.

54 - Issun makes a lewd comment about hanging out with Sakuya more, and then mentions it's time to head into the village.

55 - Too bad all the villagers have turned to stone! The game presents an orange arrow pointing toward high ground so I can get a better look at the trouble.

57 - We start into the dark sky and Issun mentions that we should draw a sun in the sky, simply by drawing a circle in the air. Preposterous! Well, I try it anyway and it works. A Japanesey sun appears in the sky lighting the area. The villagers have awoken!

Okami Drawing Sun

58 - An old guy (Mr. Orange) appears behind me with playful music playing. He's a village elder and really, really old. Seems like he recognizes Amaterasu...

60 - As Mr. Orange blabbers on, some monsters appear! I guess this is my final minute boss? Well, they go down easy and as a reward I get Praise. Praise is like a reward from your followers, makes sense. Issun tells me he's going to show me around the village, but time's up! And my epic adventure was just starting to begin... I think.

Now for some scores out of 10.

Okami Amaterasu Running

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 29

Gameplay: 3
Maybe if I would have actually been able to play the game, this score would have been higher, but half an hour of tapping X doesn't really lend to a great gameplay score. The opening really could have used some voice acting too. And like I said above, even if the narrator was Japanese, it would have been exponentially more interesting. Instead we just hear some weird squawking and the clicking of my controller. My perfect opening would have been a Japanese storyteller with the words appearing across the screen without my interaction. Then I could have concentrated more on the actual story being told instead of my great annoyance at the pokiness of it all. Anyways, that's the first half hour, the second half hour actually features real gameplay using more than one button. Running around is all very Zelda-like and almost feels like a direct rip-off (wolf and all, but that's probably more of a coincidence than anything) at times, until you get to use the Celestial Brush! This weapon/tool feels so much more natural than anything a 3D Zelda ever threw at us and it's cool too! Freezing time and slicing up bad guys is fun! I just wish I had gotten a few more moves in the first hour but that's okay, the game is obviously moving at a pretty slow pace. The Celestial Brush itself pretty much earns the game 3 points in this category.

Fun Factor: 2
"This game is not fun. The first hour moves really slow. But it looks gorgeous." There's my Okami haiku, I counted hour as one syllable and gorgeous as two syllables, guess it depends on your accent. It's also a little blunt but it's time to lay it down straight. It is incredibly obnoxious to sit there and stare at the screen for 30 minutes waiting for something to happen. I was so happy when I was finally able to do something I just about soiled my Okami underwear. The text moves slow, the game feels generic (until you get the brush), and there really aren't even any colors until you get past the story section. Okami is a story driven game but usually along with a story you get interesting characters, not here. Amaterasu doesn't do much and Issun the bug is just plain Navi-annoying. Not much fun here in the first hour.

Graphics and Sound: 9
The game is beautiful. I've probably said that a few times in my reviews already, but seriously, this game looks great! The art style is so wonderfully charming and very true to the original art it is modeled after. And I can say this after only playing an hour (half hour of real gameplay) and seeing very limited environments. The music fits the mood, soft flutes and some drums to accompany the story, I didn't really notice anything noteworthy while actually playing. The sound effects work for the game, nothing special, though the "voices" are kind of annoying. But Okami's graphics are just perfect and goes to show you don't need next-gen to have a beautiful game. There are some clipping problems and the lack of even a widescreen option is somewhat disappointing.

Story: 6
Okami's story is so well developed in the first hour, it barely leaves room for anything else! Literally half of the entire hour is devoted to story time. The whole back-story seems pretty interesting and Japanesey: you have a giant, eight-headed dragon taking a maiden from a village every year until finally a white wolf and a local swordsman stand up to the monster and slay him. The problem is, after the back-story is completed, it seems like we are about to reenact the whole thing all over again, this time 100 years later. Some guy steals the legendary sword, awaking the eight-headed dragon and causing the white wolf to reappear. This is both good and bad as I think it would be really cool to kill off a giant serpent like Orochi, but at the same time, I just watched a half hour slideshow of the game doing it for me! I can't say that the first hour of Okami leaves me with a lot of confidence for the story, but if you're into Japanese culture and history, it will definitely intrigue you.

Overall: 2
Okami's first hour is probably not what you hoped for, but if it is, you are a masochist and probably imagine everyone talking in slow text bubbles as you press X on a PS2 controller tattooed on your arm. My minutes to action time of 29 is probably generous too because the first "action" consists of me using the thumbstick for the first time. I'd say the real action starts at the 49 minute mark (20 minutes later) when you finally get to fight some enemies and use your Celestial Brush offensively. But the minutes to action time is highly subjective game to game and once it gets past 10 minutes it doesn't matter too much (game designers read: you have gone on far too long at this point). The intro really ruined the first hour of Okami for me and really held the game back from exploring what gamers are interested: fun gameplay and using the brush's powers. I know they have a grand story to tell but there are other ways to tell it instead of in a giant block right after you press start. Disappointing. But the graphics are great, not sure how much they could even improve on the newer systems, though there are persistent rumors that Okami will be released on the Wii which seems like a perfect fit. (At the time I wrote this, Okami Wii was just a rumor, now it's really coming!) Time will tell, but Okami's first hour is up.

Okami Amaterasu Art Fire
me: just finished the first hour of okami
friend: zzzzzzzz
me: exactly
friend: I stopped playing it after my first hour