Okami - Game Review

Image: Okami - Game Review

Okami (pronounced aw-kah-mih) was a sleeper-hit on PS2 and Wii from the now-defunct Clover Studios.  Following in the footsteps of The Legend of Zelda, Okami is an epic adventure set ...

Okami (pronounced aw-kah-mih) was a sleeper-hit on PS2 and Wii from the now-defunct Clover Studios. Following in the footsteps of The Legend of Zelda, Okami is an epic adventure set in a beautiful mythological ancient Japan – and a truly fantastic experience.

In Okami, the powerful demon Orochi has been released on the land of Nippon.  You play the role of Amaterasu, the Japanese god of the Sun.  Called back from the dead as a snowy-white wolf, she must travel across the land, turning back the tide of evil spread by Orochi.  To do this, “Ammy” wields the Celestial Brush – a divine Japanese calligraphy brush with the power to manipulate the world simply by drawing on it.  As the game progresses, you gain more brush techniques to use adventuring and in battle against the forces of evil.

Okami is one of the most gorgeous games you will ever play.  Its “cell-shaded” graphics mimic Japanese watercolour paintings beautifully.  Its artistic style is amazing and it brings Okami’s stunning natural environments to vivid life.

The Celestial Brush mechanic is very well done and matches Okami’s graphical style.  It’s easy to use, but you will often find that the brush strokes fail to register, even when you thought it was perfect.  However, as there is no penalty for a failed attempt (most of the time), you’ll rarely find this frustrating.

The PS2’s controls all work fine, but the Wii’s are a bit of a mixed bag.  Drawing with the Celestial Brush is easy, as are the controls used when adventuring.  However, in battle, the “waggles” used for attacking and for dodging require practice.  When attacking, you must learn by trial-and-error the certain rhythm that you need for each weapon, and dodging rarely – if ever – works the way you want it to.

The storyline and character development of Okami is superb.  It expertly balances drama, suspense, twists and humour to deliver a very satisfying package.

Levelling up your divine character is done by collecting “Praise points” from carrying out acts of “divine intervention” with the Celestial Brush.  These miracles cause the people of Nippon to praise the gods, leading to the gods becoming stronger.  While it is a good game mechanic, Christians must be careful here.  The idea that we Christians “raise God to a position of power by praising him” has been gaining popularity in some circles.  But the Bible tells us that God is in charge of everything no matter what, so we should guard against such ideas.

As Okami is set in the legends of ancient Japan (with some artistic license), the gods of Shinto – Japan’s national religion – have a prominent role.  There is a god for almost everything in Shinto, and many make an appearance in the game.  When playing this game, we should remember that God has told us in the Bible that he is the only true and living God.  That said, Okami does give us a small insight into some of the beliefs of 137 million people, and through this understanding we can better find ways to reach people from a Japanese background.  On top of that, you can use Okami as a discussion-starter with friends.  “Here is a game where ‘the gods’ play an important role in everyone’s lives.  What do you think of the divine?”


 

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