Written by  :  Ben K (23935)
Written on  :  Mar 19, 2007
Platform  :  PlayStation 2
Rating  :  3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars

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A Strikingly Beautiful Adventure

The Good

What better role to step into than the role of a God? As Amaterasu, the Sun God, you are the embodiment of life itself. Flowers spring up as you run across the fields, your strikingly white form zipping across the landscape. If there were a contender for the ambiguous "Are Games Art?" prize, then Ōkami would certainly be in the running. The supporting cast are also an interesting lot. From the crazy old village elder with an orange on his head, to the lazy Susano, supposed descendant of the village hero, to the terrifying eight headed beast Orochi - each character is rich in personality and their own particular quirks that make them quite memorable.

And it's not all just about a pretty face, either, although the presentation does help. As you hold the Analog Stick in the direction you want to move, Amaterasu will simply get progressively faster, giving an amazing sense of speed. When you learn new Celestial Brush techniques, you'll be able to paint stars in the sky, slice rocks and trees in half, conjure cherry bombs from thin air, slow down time, and more. There are a total of thirteen techniques to master (some of them upgradable), and getting them all is quite a feat. The techniques can both be used to solve puzzles in the game world, or turn the tide of battle when fighting assorted demons in the many cursed zones that you'll encounter.

The Bad

However, like all games, Ōkami is not perfect. While the story is engaging and fascinating, the opening story is told in a series of images. This is not the problem - the problem is that accompanying the images is unskippable text that t-y-p-e-s i-t-s-e-l-f o-u-t l-i-k-e t-h-i-s. It's agonizingly slow, and the player has to wait before it's fully typed out before they can progress to the next set of text. Because of this long-winded way of opening Ōkami, the game takes literally half an hour to start. And by start, I mean that you can actually interact with Amaterasu. The 'tutorial' section of the game takes about another half an hour, taking away an hour of the player's actual life before they can even begin the game.

Compound this with the fact that any story progression parts of the game are told in a similar fashion (slow typing text with a series of stills) and your game's play time is artificially inflated. It's such a painfully obvious flaw in an otherwise great game. How could this be missed? Surely testers played the game - did they waste an hour of their life before each playthrough? Did they skip it? What happened? Either way, the final product becomes needlessly frustrating.

Aside from the excruciatingly slow storytelling, the other main flaw of the game is the lack of the ability to quickly travel between the vast land. You do eventually gain an ability that allows you to do this, but in a game like this, quick and easy travel is something that should be acquired sooner rather than later. By forcing the player to backtrack and go between assorted parts of Nippon that they've already seen, the attention of the player begins to waver and instead of thinking what a beautiful, entertaining game this is, thoughts like "What do you mean I have to go back to that village again for? I was just there!" begin to creep in.

The Bottom Line

Ōkami is an exquisite game, no doubt about it. The art direction is incredible, and the illusion of a living, breathing Japanese painting is maintained visually and aurally throughout the game. The things that break this illusion, incredibly slow story progression and pointless backtracking, minor as they may seem, are significant. As a result, you're annoyingly jolted back to reality because of stupid game flaws that keep getting repeated. Just because a game can be forty hours long, doesn't mean that it should be.