Released: 12 December 2017
Originally Released: 20 April 2006
Original Developer: Clover Studio
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (HD) and Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2 (Original)
Originally released for the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 2 back in 2006, Ōkami was the result of many combined ideas from the staff at Clover Studio. However, it was Hideki Kamiya, best know for developing Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996), who pushed for the game to focus on nature before the gameplay was eventually refined and the game’s unique visual presentation settled upon.
Though sales were considered to be somewhat poor and resulted in the closure of Clover Studios, Ōkami won (and was nominated for) several awards and enjoyed widespread critical acclaim, with critics praising the game’s length, use of the Wii’s motion controls, and attention to detail. However, many of these same reviews also pointed out some flaws in the game’s lengthy dialogue scenes and getting the game to register control inputs. Regardless, a HD remaster was later released, which received equally high praise and is generally considered to be the definitive version of the title.
One hundred years ago, in the land of Nippon, the feared white wolf Shiranui and renowned swordsman Nagi fought and sealed the eight-headed demon Orochi, giving their lives in the process. When Orochi returns, the sun goddess Amaterasu takes Shiranui’s form and, alongside a lewd, fairy-like artist named Issun, travels far and wide to rid the land of Orochi’s curse and the darkness that threatens to devour Nippon and all its inhabitants.
Ōkami is a narrative-heavy, semi-open-world action/adventure game; while it does have some elements of role-playing games (RPGs), the action and gameplay mechanics are very much like the Legend of Zelda series (Various, 1986 to present), with much of the game’s central concept being very similar to the wolf-based gameplay seen in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo EAD, 2006). I’m obviously not the first to make that comparison but it still rings true, though the difference here is that you play as a wolf from start to finish whereas Link would transform to and from a wolf throughout Twilight Princess, which remained primarily a classic 3D Zelda title that focused on swordplay and other mechanics rather than solely on the wolf.
In Ōkami, you are (eventually…) put in control of the white wolf Amaterasu who, for all her intelligence and sentience, looks, acts, animates, and controls very close to how a wolf or dog would, generally for comedic effect. This means that she can not only run along on all four paws, leaving a trail of blossoming flowers in her wake as her speed increases, but will also whimper, howl, and curl up into a ball when left idle. Amaterasu’s main form of attack is to tackle enemies head on with a press of the X button (which also functions as a ground and mid-air dash), bark with the B button (which doesn’t really seem to do anything but spook non-playable characters (NPCs)), jump (and wall jump) with A (and automatically jump over small objects as she runs at them, like Link in his 3D adventures, though Amaterasu doesn’t have to worry about taking fall damage), and dig up treasures and other objects with the Y button.
Amaterasu can also perform a doggy paddle when in water but will, eventually, run out of stamina and be dropped back on the last piece of dry land she stood on, though you can eventually earn techniques and abilities to make traversing water far easier. You can also bite with the Y button, which allows you to pick up objects (such as keys or other key items) to unlock doors or complete side quests; you can also bite NPCs or other animals for a laugh, if you like.
Amaterasu is not alone in her quest; she’s joined by the lewd travelling artist and swordsman Issun. Issun functions a lot like Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (ibid, 1998) in that he will constantly interrupt your progress and gameplay to spout dialogue and exposition and occasionally point you in the right direction or towards objects of interest but differs not only through his womanising ways and blunt sense of humour but also by actually aiding you in combat somewhat. Amaterasu is in possession of the “Celestial Brush”, an enchanted paint brush that allows players to solve puzzles, gain new combat techniques, and attack enemies by holding down the RB button and drawing with X.
As you explore the various different overworlds of Nippon, you’ll encounter floating, ominous Demon Scrolls; though these can, largely, be easily avoided, they will chase after you if you get to close and, upon touching you, lock you into a magically-enclosed arena to battle a number of enemies. When fighting in these arenas, your controls change slightly; now, you can attack with one of two different equippable weapons (or “Divine Instruments) which allow you to strike, defend, or unleash a ranged or combination attack with a variety of Reflectors, Rosaries, and Glaives and deal either massive damage or a finishing blow with the Celestial Brush (easier said than done thanks to the game’s odd idea of perspective). If you don’t feel like battling, you can attack the mystical barrier to open a hole to allow you to escape, avoid the Demon Scrolls, or slash at them with you Celestial Brush to make it easier to get around them. However, I’d advise battling every enemy at every opportunity as it’s a great way to earn rewards since you’re evaluated after each battle and earn additional Yen for finishing fights quickly and without taking damage.
There’s no escaping from boss battles or Devil Gates, though, and, when you enter new areas, you’ll find they’ve been cursed with a life-sapping black fog that can only be cleared by destroying a number of Devil Gates dotted around the area. Passing into one of these Devil Gates forces you to battle a number of enemies that are, generally, a little tougher than the average minions but defeating them is still pretty easy thanks to the breadth of the game’s simple, but effective, combat and victory will restore the land to its natural beauty and allow you to hunt for goodies.
As a God, Amaterasu can earn Praise by performing a number of tasks and side quests; these range from using the Celestial Brush to blossom and bloom withered trees, freeing areas from the cursed fog, feeding the myriad of wild animals you’ll encounter, helping out NPCs, and defeating bosses. Praise can then be used to upgrade Amaterasu’s maximum health, ink pots (using the Celestial Brush consumes ink, which automatically regenerates over time), Astral Pouch (when filled with the various food you can find throughout Nippon, this allows Amaterasu to resurrect from death if defeated), and her purse. As you upgrade each, the amount of Praise needed to upgrade further will increase so it’s recommended that you do anything and everything you can to gain even a small amount of praise. Honestly, though, the game isn’t really that difficult so you might not need all of these upgrades to succeed; I never died once in my playthrough and never seemed to be in danger of reaching the limit of my purse so I’m not entirely sure why you need to increase its capacity.
Like many RPGs and adventure games, Ōkami, sadly, doesn’t feature an autosave feature; instead, you must manually save at various Origin Mirrors (which also fully restore your health and ink) scattered across Nippon or after clearing the game’s dungeon (be sure to make at least one extra save file in case you get stuck or blunder into the game’s final dungeon with unfinished business still to do as you won’t be able to get back to the overworld otherwise). As you defeat enemies, break pots, dig up treasure chests, and generally play the game, you can collect various items to help you in your quest; ink pots will refill your ink, Solar Energy refills a portion of your health, food fills up your Astral Pouch, various treasures can be sold, items aid you in battle (different sizes of bones for health, Inkfinity tags to grant temporary infinite ink, buffs for your attack and defence and so forth), and Yen to purchase new weapons, items, and to pay to learn new techniques from the Onigiri-Sensei. You can also find Demon Fangs, which can be traded for Holy Artefacts; you can equip up to three of these to walk on water, safely cross lava, keep Demon Scrolls away, or attract collectables, among other things. Stray Beads can also be collected to earn both an Achievement and an extremely powerful Holy Artefact that basically makes you unstoppable. It’s one of those games where there’s a lot to see, do, and collect and many different ways to upgrade your abilities without the traditional use of experience points as you can also find and purchase Gold Dust to strengthen your Divine Instruments.
While you are given full 360-degree camera control, you may find that the camera is still less than helpful at some points as it can stutter, get stuck behind objects, and automatically snaps back to its default position every time you leave or enter an area or finish a cutscene, which is annoying as I much prefer the more zoomed out perspective. You can also hold LB to enter a first-person perspective to get a better view of your surroundings and both Amaterasu and the environment will turn transparent to help you spot platforms, areas, or Konohana Blossoms but, often, I found it awkward to actually direct Amaterasu and her brush, especially in certain boss battles and situations.
This is because it’s never entirely clear where your drawing will appear on the screen: sometimes, you’ll draw a straight line to slash open a rock and just bloom some flowers on the ground; other times, you’ll try to bloom a tree only to cause the sun to rise or a wind to pick up. This is because the thirteen different Celestial Brush techniques you acquire are all extremely simple in execution (generally one or more lines or a swirl of ink) but the game sometimes seems to get confused about wheat you’re doing, meaning you can waste ink performing the game’s more costly techniques or be needlessly frustrated by something as simple as drawing a line from point A to point B thanks to the dodgy camera and perspective.
Perhaps as a hold over from its time as a Wii and PlayStation 2 game, Ōkami features a fair amount of pop-up; Demon Scrolls, pots, boulders, and certain other landmarks will fade in and out of existence as you explore and I, personally, encountered a lot of annoying slowdown upon loading up my save file or when battling large groups of enemies. There are some benefits to this, though; Demon Scrolls don’t respawn until you leave the area you are in, for one thing, but pots do so it’s pretty easy to stock up on health, ink, and Yen as long as you can be bothered to keep breaking these items open.
Ōkami is a pretty exhausting experience, to be honest; I was expecting maybe a ten to twelve hour game but my final playthrough clocked in at more like fifty hours. There is a lot to see and do and a fair amount of backtracking required once you learn new techniques, as well as many side quests and distractions to keep you busy. The game features numerous towns spread across a wide, open field, with new areas (such as a swamp, bustling city, beach front, and frozen region) being equally large and full of things to do, as well as ten dungeons that vary in length and difficulty. Many of these dungeons revolve around a specific gimmick (the vine or wind technique, for example) and might be as simple as collecting a key from one area to unlock a door, learning a new technique, and then battling a boss to manipulating the game’s day/night cycle to raise or lower water levels.
Thankfully, the game has an extensive menu on offer that allows you to view, use, and equip items, review your objectives, read up on enemies and bosses you’ve faced, and keep track of any pending quests. The downside, however, is that many of these objectives and side quests, like the game’s puzzles, can be annoyingly vague at times; the map, while helpful, doesn’t display the names of everywhere you’ve visited (this only happens when you’re fast travelling, which is annoying) and Issun is more likely to berate you for taking too long to figure stuff out than help you actually solve puzzles, which range from pushing spheres either down a simple, narrow corridor or through a treacherous bit of quicksand and onto weighted switches (which can be tricky as Amaterasu doesn’t have opposable thumbs!), desperately trying to attach vines to a log (against a time limit) as it speeds through a raging stream, gathering ingredients or acquiring a mask to sneak past enemies, draining water, activating lifts, blasting open walls with cannons to reach new areas, or using your various brush techniques to cross chasms or navigate the dungeon.
Graphics and Sound:
Similar to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (ibid, 2002), Ōkami is presented in a gorgeous cel-shaded style that causes everything, from NPCs to environmental objects to Amaterasu, to pop out at you. Unlike that game, though, where everything kind of blended together to resemble a cartoon, Ōkami draws its inspiration more from the Ukiyo-e style of Japanese watercolour and wood carving art. Indeed, the game is heavily (and unapologetically) steeped in both Japanese cultural, mythology, and folklore; the result is a game with a distinct visual, artistic, and narrative identity and, while the Zelda comparisons are many, I found myself more reminded of Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka, 1997), a similarly bonkers action/adventure title full of weirdly hilarious and crude humour, eccentricities, and heavily influenced Japanese cultural and folklore.
Functionally, there’s not much here you haven’t seen before, particularly if you’ve played any of the 3D Zelda titles; Amaterasu travels to little towns and across wide, open plains, visiting dank dungeons, sunken ships, bustling cities, frozen wastelands, and even shrinking down to meet the pixie-like Poncles. Thanks to the game’s unique visual presentation, though, every area feels like a fresh and distinct take on clichés such as the water- or wind-based temples. The miniature village of Ponc’tan stood out for me quite a bit as it was a surreal, magical little mushroom kingdom that was a far cry from the ostentatious reality of Sei’an City or the quiet simplicity of Sasa Sanctuary.
Each place you visit has something new to see and a distinct flavour to it; the aforementioned Sasa Sanctuary is populated exclusively by the Sparrow Clan, for example, while frozen village of Wep’keer is home to the shape-shifting Oina tribe. Even the lands that surround these areas are teeming with life and NPCs, from merchants and blacksmiths to deities and talking dogs, moles who want to play hide and seek, the lethargic Susano, a bear who is particularly fond of balancing on spheres, the unfriendly and demonic Mr and Mrs Cutter, and Yoichi, who professes to Nippon’s greatest archer. Each of these NPCs, and others, needs Amaterasu’s help in some way and is given a little introduction so you know who they are and brought to life through the game’s unique visual style and a number of quirky characteristics.
Being an action/adventure game in the spiritual style of a 3D Zelda title, Ōkami features an abundance of cutscenes and dialogue; thankfully, you can skip these, though you’ll miss out on a lot of the game’s lore and information vital to your progression if you do. These cutscenes are rendered using both the in-game graphics and, at times, a kind of motion comic presentation where the narrator explains what’s going on as images are drawn onto a scroll. When characters do speak in the game, it’s largely through a combination of text boxes, pantomime, and a Banjo-Kazooie-like (Rare, 1998) gibberish, which I find endlessly charming, though it can be laborious having to constantly press A to advance the text. Worst of all is that, all-too-often, NPCs will waffle on and then finish talking, only for the game to indicate (though the presence of a green triangle over the NPC’s head) that the NPC has more to say; because of this, I’d advise pressing B rather than A so you don’t have to worry about accidentally jumping rather than continuing the conversation.
In keeping with its heavily Japanese presentation, Ōkami also features a soundtrack that is distinctly Japanese; inspired by classical Japanese works, the game features a blending of traditional and modern Japanese musical sensibilities to create a suitably whimsical and magical sense of awe and scope to the game’s proceedings. However, while it’s functional enough and serves to bring life to the various areas and situations you find yourself in, I can’t say that it was particularly catchy or memorable.
Enemies and Bosses:
In keeping with the game’s off the wall visual style and influence from Japanese folklore and mythology, Ōkami is populated by a wide variety of demonic creatures and weird and wacky monsters for you to fight. While their appearances may change as you progress, and their attacks and ability to absorb damage may become more aggressive and formidable, respectively, you are pretty much taught the fundamentals of how to handle the majority of the game’s enemies in the first few hours of gameplay.
The first types of enemies you’ll encounter are the Imps, which can either be Green, Red, Blue, Yellow, or Black; each one is slightly different, with the Blue Imps gliding in the air and needing to be slashed down, the Yellow Imps burrowing underground, and the Black Imps attack using the skulls of their victims. When you later encounter the Guardians, Namahage and Clay Army, you’ll find that these enemies are, essentially, stronger variants of the Imps and the same tactics can be used to defeat them regardless of how much tougher these later enemies are.
That’s not to say that the game doesn’t feature some pretty tough enemies; flying enemies like the Crow Tengu and Dead Fish can be troublesome since they like to block your attacks, the Wheel enemies require you to use your elemental brush techniques to make them vulnerable to attack (which can be difficult if you’re low on ink), and many of the larger enemies, such as the Ogres, are completely resistant to your attacks until you knock off their giant stone masks. Similarly, the Bud Ogre and Igloo Turtle will require your elemental brush techniques to get through their defences and, often (especially later in the game), you’ll be tasked with fighting a number of different types of enemies all at once, which requires a surprising amount of strategy at times.
As you enter new areas and explore Nippon and the game’s dungeons, you’ll encounter new enemies and many of the bigger/tougher ones could be classed as sub-bosses. Each of Ōkami’s dungeons is, of course, capped off by a boss battle, each of which is unique in its execution. The first boss of the game, the Spider Queen, is actually one of the most annoying and frustrating bosses you’ll encounter as the only way to damage her is to use the vine technique to attach three vines from nearby Konohana Blossoms to the hooks on her butt. This will fell her and cause her abdomen to open up like a flower, allowing you a short window of time to attack the eye-like globs that act as her sole weak point. You better get used to this piece of shit battle, though, since you’ll fight three Bandit Spiders in the game’s hidden Devil Gate Trials and the Spider Queen as part of the Ark of Yamato’s boss rush.
In comparison, the Crimson Helm is a veritable walk in the park, especially later when you have even more elemental powers at your disposal. This minotaur-like oaf charges at you wielding giant swords and covered in armour but you can lure him into crashing into pillars and attack him to break his armour off, and then use the wind technique to put out his flames and deal actual damage. Since you don’t need to worry about fighting the damn camera to expose the Crimson Helm’s weak point, this boss battle is actually enjoyable.
After reaching the Moon Cave, you’ll battle the resurrected Orochi, the eight-headed dragon that has cursed the land and is the subject of such terror and legend. Though large and imposing, Orochi is pretty simple to put down as long as you’re patient and clever about it; to start with, Orochi is invulnerable thanks to his golden armour so you have to use Amaterasu’s water-bending technique to direct some Sake-infused water into three of Orochi’s heads until it collapses, which allows you to attack a bell on its back. Once you whittle the bell’s health down, Orochi will be vulnerable and you must contend with the different elemental and physical attacks of each head, stunning them with the same Sake-tainted water and destroying each in turn. Though tedious, it’s stupidly easy to avoid Orochi’s attacks, so the battle’s difficulty comes from having the patience to destroy Orochi’s heads and the skill and timing to complete an annoying quick-time event (QTE) that follows the main fight, which sees Susano deliver the final blow to Orochi.
This isn’t, however, where the game ends; nor is it the last time you fight Orochi. When you briefly take a trip to a hundred years in the past, you’ll battle “True” Orochi, which is supposed to be Orochi at the peak of his powers…but it’s exactly the same as the previous battle, with the same level of difficulty and the same tactics, with the only difference being that the legendary warrior Nagi delivers the killing blow. You’ll also have to defeat Orochi one last time in the Ark of Yamato’s boss rush but you don’t have to complete the QTE that time, which is great since the game has a bit of trouble recognising that you’ve cut Orochi’s heads during these sequences.
After besting Orochi, the game’s bigger, far more expansive second half begins. The first boss of this next stage of the game is Blight, a possessed sword and suit of armour that is quite possibly the easiest boss in the game. Thanks to Amaterasu’s time-slowing “Veil of Mist” technique, you can slow Blight to a crawl for a few seconds, allowing you to dodge its attacks and attack it until its weak point, the possessed blade Goldnail, which can be easily dispatched using charged Glaive attacks.
When you explore the sunken ship and the waters around Ryoshima Coast, you’ll encounter the gigantic Water Dragon, which cannot be defeated and must be fled from and then entered to retrieve a key item. While inside of the Water Dragon, you’ll battle the Tube Foxes and an evil form of one of your allies, Rao; the Tube Foxes exhibit a decent amount of agility and can drain your ink, which can be bothersome, while you’ll need to reflect Evil Rao’s daggers back at her and attack when she’s vulnerable on the ground. Neither are particularly difficult though Evil Rao reappears in one of the game’s more frustrating Devil Gate Trials where you have to not only fight multiple versions of Evil Rao but also the similarly-sword-wielding Wakka.
The final boss of the game’s second portion is Ninetails, a large, nine-tailed kitsune who can only be harmed by directing lightning to its sword; this splits Ninetails into nine ghostly humanoids who attack Amaterasu incessantly. As you weather their attacks and destroy them, you’ll reduce Ninetails’ tails; do this enough times and Ninetails will be reduced to a normal, one-tailed fox and be vulnerable to your attacks but it’s still best to deliver massive damage with Amaterasu’s Thunderstrike technique. Though big and able to copy many of Amaterasu’s, and even cancel out any brush techniques you use, the hardest thing about this boss is dealing with all of the spirits that Ninetails splits into since they don’t flinch after being attacked.
When you reach the conclusion of the Waku Shrine, the game’s final (and biggest) dungeon, you’ll battle the giant mechanical owl Nechku; this fight is relatively simple since Shiranui, Amaterasu’s past self who is significantly more powerful, does the majority of the leg work for you. After defeating Nechku, you travel deeper into the dungeon and battle it again, this time as Amaterasu and alongside another of her friendly rivals, the shape-changing Oki, and Nechku is joined by its twin, Lechku. In this case, you need to use your Celestial Brush to interact with one of the many different items the two whip out in order to stun them and then grab Oki and fire him like an arrow to deal greater damage. Having two bosses to contend with makes this one of the more challenging boss battles but it’s still far from difficult, especially since you can slow things down with the Veil of Mists, and neither Nechku or Lechku appear in the Ark of Yamato’s boss rush.
Speaking of which, be sure to save before you board the Ark of Yamato as you won’t be able to return once you enter. Inside, you’ll have to battle the Spider Queen, the Crimson Helm, Blight, Ninetails, and Orochi again one after the other (though you can rest up and save between each battle) in order to confront the game’s true final boss, Yami. Yami (which is just a giant, glowing sphere, which is a bit underwhelming after everything you’ve seen and fought up to that point) strips you of all of your abilities and you must attack it, dealing with its five different forms to regain your abilities. In its first form, it tries to smash you with either a hammer of its spherical body, causing holes to form in the floor of the arena (if you fall down them, you respawn in the arena but take damage) and attacking it restores your Rejuvenation, Power Slash, and Greensporout techniques, which allow you to crack open the sphere at deal actual damage to Yami’s core.
Yami’s second form sees it engulf itself in fire and split into platforms, launching flaming parts of itself at you and forcing you to do some tricky platforming or jumping to damage the core and restore your Cherry Bomb, Waterspout, and Crescent techniques. Its third form sees it launch fireballs and freezing ice blocks at you and forces you to attack a slot machine to conjure these attacks, missiles, and even health and ink pots. Its fourth form sees Yami sprout legs and tentacles, which whip at you and form into swords for you to use Thunderstrike on, and is the toughest of Yami’s base forms since it takes a little more to expose the core, which can absorb quite a lot of damage.
For its final form, Yami sprouts a claw hand to protect its core, which constantly shields itself from your brush techniques. The only way to damage this final form is to use Sunrise to dispel the darkness in the arena, reflect missiles back at it, and attack the core when it busts out its massive laser. You can also deal damage by attacking Yami’s hand, which is easy enough to dodge, and its spherical shell to, eventually, stun it and expose the core to your more powerful attacks. This was the first time in the entire game I actually bothered to use items to increase my attack power as Yami can take quite a beating but, otherwise, this boss is tedious and long-winded but far from difficult.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Amaterasu has many options available to her to power-up her attacks and abilities; as mentioned, Gold Dust can increase the power of each of the Divine Instruments, which you can acquire after beating bosses, from weapons shops, or in treasure chests hidden throughout Nippon. You can also find and buy various Steel Fist Sake or Steel Soul Sake to increase your attack and defence, respectively.
As you explore, you’ll be able to pay an extortionate amount of money to the Onigiri-Sensei to upgrade and learn new attacks and techniques. This allows you to add additional attacks and build greater combos, dodge (and counter attack after a dodge), double jump, increase your attack power by equipping two of the same type of Divine Instrument and, of course, piss or shit in the middle of battle to insult enemies and force them to drop Demon Fangs!
One of the main objectives Amaterasu has, beyond restoring peace to Nippon, is the awakening of the thirteen Celestrial Brush Gods and re-learning their brush techniques. Most of these are elemental based, allowing you to conjure and manipulate fire, water, and wind, while others are tied to nature, allowing you to blossom withered trees. You can use the different brush techniques to open doors, repair broken bridges, cause platforms and paths to appear, and to attack enemies, with certain enemies being vulnerable to certain elements.
You can also use these techniques to slow down time, blow open cracked walls and floors with bombs, scale walls using cat statues, and freeze objects. You can perform multiple brush attacks at once but not in the same moment; so, if you want to do a Power Slash, draw a Cherry Bomb, and direct lightning to an enemy, you need to press and hold RB and draw with X in three separate instances rather than in one. By tossing an exorbitant amount of Yen into three Divine Springs, you can upgrade some of these abilities to make them stronger or allow you to draw more objects on screen at once.
Ōkami has fifty-one Achievements for you to earn, the majority of which are worth a mere 10G each, even some of the more time-consuming and long-winded ones, and are directly tied to story-based events so they can’t be missed. Technically, the only ones you can potentially miss are the “No Furball on the Menu” Achievement (which requires you to quickly draw yourself a lily pad and then use an Inkfinity Stone to relentlessly conjure wind to quickly carry you safely to shore before the Water Dragon can eat you) and the “From Imps to Demons” Achievement since the Fire Doom Mirror can only be fought during one mission in the game. The others can be achieved with enough patience by earning loads of Praise and Yen to max out all of your abilities and attacks and making sure that you defeat every enemy you see and don’t die (which is pretty easy to do).
As you might imagine, there are a whole host of side quests to keep you busy as you play, with many of them resulting in you earning Praise, Yen, and an Achievement. One has four NPCs ask you to hunt down and destroy certain monsters, which is easy enough to do (simply interact with every Demon Scroll in the surrounding area and they’ll eventually crop up), while another has you winning races against three different opponents (well, I see “win” but you only really need to win one of these races; the others just require you to catch up to your opponent and tackle them in three separate, increasingly-difficult challenges).
There are also a few mini games to eat up your play time; one has you tackling moles for rewards and is optional but the other two, the digging and fishing mini games, are required to complete to progress the story and to earn all of the game’s Achievements. I struggled a bit with the fishing mini games at first since the game didn’t seem to want to register my brush strokes but then I must have either gotten better or the game decided to play along and let me draw the line and slash the fish without much issue. The digging mini games are a lot of trial and error that have you digging, bashing, slashing, and exploding rocks against a time limit while an NPC follows along, walking into spikes and needing to be guided to a specific point to unearth a treasure.
There are also a couple of optional boss battles, of sorts; as part of the story, you have to find and recruit the five Canine Warriors and, after finishing Oni Island, you can return to the Gale Shrine to battle these five dogs once more. Known as the Kusa 5, you must fight them in both groups and waves. As in the initial battles against the dogs, they like to dash, jump, and tackle you, dig holes to bury you and hurt you with the dirt, and leave explosive turds to damage you. In this battle, they are said to be more powerful than Orochi and, while that’s certainly true, they’re actually slightly less bothersome to fight since they can be damaged without jumping through a bunch of hoops and you can always use the Veil of Mist technique for an advantage.
You can also learn a more powerful dig move to unearth three secret Devil Gate Trials; at first, these chasms are guarded by three Bandit Spiders but, when you return, you’ll have to pass through ten Devil Gates in succession, defeating wave upon wave of the game’s toughest and most annoying enemies. If you leave the area at any point, you’ll have to start all over again, so it’s best to stock up on items and equip the Wood Mat (which restores your health, at the cost of some Yen, when you leave Amaterasu idle) to heal up between gates. This, and the Kusa 5, are easily the most challenging parts of the game but challenging in a way that is tedious and annoying rather than necessarily difficult as, as long as you spam the Veil of Mist and equip the right Divine Instruments, you should be able to best each trial with the skills you’ve mastered.
After you defeat Yami and complete the game, you receive both a final evaluation and a number of awards, unlocking a gallery and such from the main menu and some skins to utilise in the game’s “New Game+” mode. When you play New Game+, you retain all of the progress you made in your first playthrough except for the brush techniques, some weapons, and a few Holy Artefacts and other items. This means that it’s pretty easy to finish upgrading any of Amaterasu’s abilities you missed the first time around and to make short work of the game’s earlier enemies but I’d recommend creating a save point before you enter the Ark of Yamato so you don’t have to play through the entirety of the game from the start to finish your Bestiary or treasure tome.
Ōkami is certainly a beautiful game to look at and play through and I can see why many praise its visual presentation and narrative; it’s a long, sprawling adventure that sees you exploring a unique and quirky fictional land, meeting and battling all kinds of characters and monsters, and certainly stands out against other games of its type. However, as lovely as it is to look at and as fun as it can be to play, I was often frustrated by a lot of little annoyances; the day/night cycle, for one thing, the camera’s jerkiness and clumsiness (especially in boss battles), for another, and the game’s unreliable nature when it comes to registering brush strokes.
The platforming and jumping aspects can also be needlessly annoying and, at times, the hints and directions you get are far too vague. While this opens the game up to exploration and experimentation, it can be annoying to be stuck in a room or area with no idea of how to proceed and the map is less than helpful in this regard. Still, overall, it’s a solid title with some intense and engaging boss battles, a rich and intriguing lore, and plenty of side quests and distractions to constantly keep you busy.
Have you ever played Ōkami? If so, did you play the original version or, like me, have you only experienced the HD version of the game? If you’ve played both, how do you find the HD version holds up compared to the original? What did you think to Ōkami’s unique world, characters, and lore? Did you find the game to be a bit too long and convoluted and the brush and camera to be less than reliable or were you engrossed in the game’s complex story and pleased with the game’s controls and mechanics? Which of the game’s areas, dungeons, bosses, and/or characters was your favourite and why? Would you like to see more from Ōkami or do you feel its best that it was one and done and how would you compare the game to others in its genre, like the Zelda series? Whatever your thoughts on Ōkami, feel free to leave a comment below.