Okami is much more than a game; it is a work of art like a painting would be. Although it is technically listed as a game, Okami pushes the concept of what constitutes a video game with its sleek, beautiful innovation and interaction.
Upon release, Gamestop.com's PS2 front page boldly featured an image of the character you play as: Amaterasu, the sun goddess, reincarnated in the form of a wolf ("okami," in Japanese). A description followed the image: "Okami takes place in a time when people still believed in the existence of God." While the premise behind that statement is largely pessimistic, Okami, as a game, is rather enlightening, rooted in a shrewd combination of Japanese Shinto mythology and lively pop culture.
Okami's mainstream appeal rests upon two familiar gaming concepts: adventure and exploration. These have been prevailing themes in the tradition of video games, but Okami takes that a step further and allows the gamer to literally use a brush to paint on the screen and create life. As you progress through the game, you will encounter the fifteen divine brush spirits who will endow you with the power to rejuvenate the dispirited and defeat your enemies.
The game begins by telling the story of a legendary warrior, Nagi, and wolf, Shiranui, who battle Orochi, a demon serpent who plagues the peaceful village of Kamiki in the country of Nippon. Eventually Nagi and Shiranui emerge victorious; however the wolf dies from Orochi's poison. A memorial statue of Shiranui is erected in the town; Nagi eventually passes away, and another statue dedicated to his honor is created Moon Cave. The tale becomes a legend in the town of Kamiki.
It's now a hundred years later, and someone has awakened an evil presence by wandering into Moon Cave and removing Nagi's legendary sword that keeps the demon, Orochi, at bay. The world once again becomes engulfed in darkness, imps appear, and villagers turn to stone. Sakuya, a divine wood nymph appears and brings a statue of the wolf to life. Her power soon dwindles, and you become the primary source of restoration for the world. Issun, a small wispy bug, pops out from her kimono; he latches onto you like a flea and becomes your guide, explaining the various brush techniques and plot points in the game in layman's terms.
The visual presentation of Okami is quite distinctive; cell-shaded visuals overlap a distinctive Hokusai-style Japanese woodblock print. As you restore color to the world, black and gray become vibrant greens, pinks, and blues. In fact, there are several moments in the game where you cannot avoid letting the controller rest to admire its aesthetic beauty. Stopping to feed animals after restoring life to an area is just one of the many.
The music in Okami is what you'd expect; a beautiful oriental-influenced orchestral score dripping with fervor. The score and sound are a large motivating force in your quests.
There's so much more to do in Okami: befriend characters, earn praise or experience, dig for treasures, find and collect statues, and defeat creatures. The characters in the game are also colorful and entertaining; An orange sits atop the head Kamiki village head, Mr. Orange, who is goofy and wise; Susano, the fumbling warrior is hopelessly optimistic. Waka, misled guardian of Moon Cave, utilizes French expressions and assumes himself your enemy. The game even has a sake brewer, Kushi, who is kind and supportive on your various quests. Its diverse nomenclature provides gamers with much replay value and entertainment.
While Okami is at the pinnacle of adventure gaming, it is still not a flawless masterpiece. Its quirkiness and visual representation will not appeal to all gamers. Character voices are also represented by an incomprehensible mumbling language. In this respect, it is similar to last year's Killer 7 game. Still, regardless, I find no reason to not call Okami one of the games of the year. Its unique visual language will find a home in many gamers who desire something a little different than just your standard shooter or action/adventure game.