Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Okami (Part 1)

Greetings! I’m Toby, otherwise known as @timePoorGamer. Gray has kindly agreed to let me write the occasional column on his excellent website, so I’ll be chipping in from time to time with some kind of game related stuff. I’m going to be taking things in a more retrospective direction than Gray, so we shouldn’t crossover on subject matter too much. I have a tendency to write a lot, and he’s told me to keep them fairly short, so let’s see how this works. First up:

Ōkami (part 1 of 2)

Ōkami is the most beautiful game I have ever played. Yup, even in these days of high definition gaming, I have yet to see something that caught me in the same way it did. Sure, there are games now with better graphics – the gorgeous Skyrim being a great example – but with Ōkami there’s beauty in the entire package that’s not found in the same way anywhere else. It’s a game that gets frequently mentioned in the “Are games art?” debate; I’m not going to get into that here (do games even need to be art?), but if you are familiar with it, you’ll know why.

For those who haven’t played it, and there are many, here’s a little bit of information: Ōkami was created for the PS2 by Clover Studios, part of Capcom, and released in Japan and the US in 2006, and over here in February 2007. The game was met with considerable critical acclaim (including IGN’s Game of the Year for 2006) but poor sales figures. Its release coincided with the launch of the Wii, which had an established mega franchise going after the same kind of potential fan base: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. So, a while down the line, Capcom, with Clover now disbanded, and the main talent behind the game having left to form Platinum Games, turned to Ready at Dawn Studios, and asked them to convert the game for the Wii. Given some of the gameplay features, this seemed like a good move. Again, the game was very well received critically, but still no-one bought it. Bummer. Despite this lack of commercial success, the game did spawn a sequel, Ōkamiden on the DS, but I’m not going to touch on that here. And last year, Capcom gave it the HD-treatment, with a lovely version on the PS3, complete with optional Move controls, to give you a reason to take your Move off the shelf where it’s been gathering dust for the past 18 months. 

Ōkami borrows a lot from the excellent Legend of Zelda series; possibly not quite as much as the more recently released Darksiders, but gamers familiar with Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword will see some distinct hallmarks. The subject matter is a little unusual, to say the least, taking various elements of Japanese mythology as its starting point. You play as Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess, in wolf form. She is revived from a hundred-year sleep by Sakuya, a tree sprite,  to help purify the land of Nippon, which has been over-run by the return of the demon Orochi, an enormous eight-headed dragon, who is intent on, amongst other things, devouring a maiden every year. Here’s a trailer to whet your appetite: more coming next week!