Thursday, September 11, 2014

One of my favorite gaming experiences of 2014: Okami HD (PS3)

100 years ago, the white wolf Shiranui died defeating the evil 8-headed serpent lord to save the village of Kamiki and all of Nippon...Here comes Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess who was resurrected as a white wolf to do the very same thing. Okami is a Japanese homophone that could be understood as "wolf" or "great/big god," and the title's cleverness is not the only pun in the 30+ hour epic story.

Freeze battle to use your Celestial Brush Slash - cut the enemy in half!

There is a lot of comedy, voiced by your flea-sized companion, Issun, who handles all of the brush-work and incorrectly voices your mute hero's decisions. Issun constantly chides Okami Amaterasu and makes greasy comments about the game's various attractive women, but he's not the only hilarious character. The other heroes, based on Japanese legends often make asses of themselves, and the game is mostly light-hearted, until it's really time to kick ass. You are a wolf, after all.

A bull-oni

This game drips with Japanese mythology and Ainu folklore that exposed me to more content than my confusing semester in East Asian studies, which I dropped as a major. The enemies you fight are different kinds of oni, Japanese devils, and you randomly collect cultural products (vases, traditional dishes) and artifacts (like Zodiac animal statues) to sell to buy other things for your quest.

Graphically, the game looks like the ukiyo-e (woodblock printing) painted on shoji (paper scrolls).

The artistic buck doesn't stop there; a massive feature of the game is that you can pause at almost any time, and use your Celestial Brush to paint missing or broken things into existence, slice enemies, and call various weather patterns and attacks as you acquire them. Each time you meet one of the gods, they are introduced in some kind of comical fashion, and half the time they'll try to kill you, or Amaterasu gets pissed off and tries to kill them. The game's score has lots of use of flutes, taiko drums and koto leaving no doubt that this game is 200% Japanese.

I was 8 years late to play this game, but I really understand why Clover Studios pushed this game through 2 rebuilds on 2 more consoles. It is badass, fun, culturally rich, hilarious, and incredibly gorgeous to both look at and listen to.

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