"I LOVE this game! But there are some problems with it..."
I can't get enough of Okami! I've beaten it and am started on a second play-though. Any action-RPG game fan has to at least try this game! The title basically says it all. It is a typically Japanese play on words, since, depending on how you translate it, "Okami" can mean either "wolf" or "king of the gods". For those people to whom that is not enough information to really understand the game, here are the basics:
100 years before the game's beginning, a huge 8-headed dragon monster called the Orochi menaced the small village of Kamiki. After suffering Orochi's tyranny for years, the village's champion, Nagi, and a white wolf the village dubbed Shiranui, defeated the Orochi. Shiranui died from his wounds after the fight, and the village built a shrine for him. Peace reigned for 100 years, until the evil suddenly and mysteriously reappeared...
You control Shiranui reborn in a quest to save the land from the evil. You travel all over the land of Nippon (which is Japanese for "Japan"; how original) fighting monsters, helping people, and healing nature of the curse of evil. The story is nothing new, and is both very linear and quite predictable. But it is very well done, mixing japanese mythology into a classic hero story, with a generous helping of humor to give it flavor.
The story has one major downside, though: it is told through cut scenes that contain bucket-loads of exposition. You will often find yourself button-mashing X desperately to try to speed things along, and that does not work very well because the important cut scenes don't let you speed up the dialogue. For instance, the very first cut scene that opens the game literally takes at least 15 minutes to get through before you can get to the action. Most of the rest are not nearly that long, but several of them do take a good 5 minutes at least. To say that it gets tedious is an understatement.
Still, the cell-shaded graphics largely make up for the tedious cut scenes. They are done in a very beautiful, yet simplistic style that evokes a traditional Japanese ink painting. Despite the simple style, though, the level of detail is outstanding. In fact, it is so detailed that there is the occasional spot of graphical slowdown. This game really pushes the hardware of the PS2 to its limits.
The music and sound are also fantastic. Most of the music evokes traditional Japanese art as much as the graphics do, while the sound effects range from wolf barks and footfalls to wind blowing gently through trees, and more. The mood is always set perfectly for whatever environment you're visiting.
Except, possibly, with the voices. Rather than real voices, people talk in a form of gibberish that sounds like someone trying to talk underwater. While it does not bother me personally, some people simply can not listen to these voice effects. Either you'll hate the voice noises with a passion, or you won't care at all. Either way, this is not a good point for the game.
The controls take a bit of getting used to, but when you have gotten used to them they become second nature. Unlike the "Legend of Zelda" games, there is no enemy lock-on during combat. Instead, you automatically target the closest monster(s) when you push the attack button. This simplifies combat without turning it into a button-mashing cake walk. It works perfectly...unless you get hit by the controller bug.
Yes, a *bug* in the game. Thankfully rare, as I only encountered it twice in 60+ hours of game play. Still, when it happens it is extremely annoying. During combat, while you're wailing away on a monster, the options-menu will suddenly open for no reason. Usually, the analog control on your controller will also go crazy, either just turning off or madly flickering on and off. Either case makes the game impossible to play, of course, since you control your in-game avatar with the left analog stick. The first case is easy to fix; just turn the analog control back on and exit the menu. In the second case, you can only fix it by literally unplugging the controller and then plugging it back in.
Far more common than the controller bug are the load times. They usually are not terrible, but it seems like a loading screen comes up at least every five minutes or so. Between these and the long cut-scenes, you might sometimes wonder if there is actually any game play included.
But there *is* game play, and it is a lot of fun. There is a great deal to keep you occupied, from the compelling story line to the many treasure hunts, races, puzzles, and mini-games. Between fighting to save the world, you can go fishing, feed animals, catch thieves, and a lot more. Plus, after you beat the game once it unlocks lots of extras, including image galleries and the sound track. All of that and the wonderful atmosphere definitely make this a game worth checking out. Rent it before you buy it, if possible, to make sure you can deal with the long cut scenes, numerous load times, and weird voice effects. But if you are a fan of action RPGs like "Legend of Zelda", you will definitely want to add Okami to your game library.
- Great story
- Great graphics
- Great music/sound
- Wonderful atmosphere
- Lots of culture and mythology to give it flavor
- Plentiful activities and mini-games
- Unlockable extras after beating the game
- Occasional graphic slowdown
- Too much exposition
- Tedious cut-scenes
- Lots of load times
- Rare controller bug
- Voice noises that you might or might not hate
Over-all: lots and lots of fun-fun-fun! But a few rather serious problems that knock the grade down a bit.