By now, you’ve probably heard of Ōkami. It was originally released in 2006, and has since made itself a favorite to fans everywhere.
Today, you’re going to hear about it again, because I JUST FINISHED, AND I NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS WOLF AND THE SUN AND HER LITTLE BUG FRIEND FIGHTING THE FORCES OF DARKNESS IN THE LAND OF NIPPON.
Buckle up, folks. This one’s an AMAZING game. (One which I will not spoil because the experience is best, well, experienced, so read on without fear!)
At this point, Ōkami is available on multiple platforms. Personally, I purchased it as a digital download on my Nintendo Switch, because it was $20 and I found a gift card left over from Christmas.
Let me tell you, not only was that $20 well spent, but I would absolutely pay more than $20 for this game if I had to. Don’t get me wrong, I love the price as it is (my wallet appreciates not paying more), but it’s so good I wouldn’t complain if it were more expensive.
As a quick overview for those unfamiliar with the game, in Ōkami, you play as the sun god/wolf Amaterasu, and you’re guided by a tiny, bug-like companion named Issun the Wandering Artist. Together, it’s your aim to beat back the darkness engulfing Nippon, and to restore the world to its vibrant, prosperous glory it was experiencing before the darkness returned. Along the way, you learn new brush techniques from the other brush gods that allow you to use motion controls (TV mode) or to draw on the screen (handheld mode), which unlock all manner of secrets and help you in your quest to save the world.
This emphasis on the brush techniques Amaterasu uses affects the game’s appearance, too. It’s why the game has such a fluid painterly style, with a little bit of gentle jitter to suggest constant motion. It’s absolutely one of the most visually appealing games I’ve ever played, and every now and then, I stop to just take the environments in. It’s not like Breath of the Wild in its open-world majesty, but comparing the two hardly seems fair given the individual, striking appearance of Ōkami.
As for gameplay, it’s remarkably straightforward. Combat isn’t overwhelmingly complicated, and you have a good deal of freedom to explore, which only broadens as you learn new brush techniques. There are side quests galore which earn you Praise, a mechanic that allows you to power Amaterasu up (I recommend really investing in expanding your ink meter as you go; that stuff’s important), and the progression of the main story is linked in such a wonderful way. You never lose sight of where the story began, but it unfolds on a grand level, introducing bigger and bigger bads until you at last reach the biggest bad of them all and begin your showdown over the fate of the world. In some ways, the increasing big bad structure is a little corny, but in an enjoyable kind of way. It’s never boring, not at all, and I like the variety that new major antagonists bring to the table.
Additionally, there’s an undercurrent of lore to the whole thing that ties it all together nicely. Clearly, it’s based on Japanese mythology and Japan in general. The brush gods are based on the Chinese zodiac (with the inclusion of the cat to bring the total number of brush gods to thirteen), and the environments and architecture openly display the origins of their influence. Character costumes as well have a distinct appearance that locates the game in this fantasy version of Japan, and overall, it is remarkably cohesive and beautiful in a way that pulls you into the story and keeps you there.
My only disappointment, I think is that there really isn’t a ton of post-game. On one hand, this means you can spend nearly fifty hours doing a casual run through the game by the time you get to the final boss, and by then, you’ve done everything. On the other hand, once it’s done, it’s done. There’s some replay value in the incredible story, and collecting all 100 Strays Beads gives you access to a power that makes a second run a breeze, but it just ends, and I’m more of a fan of having at least a little post-game at hand to ease out of the world as I look for a new game to explore. Or for some post-game that provides replayability without getting too repetitive.
When it comes down to it, though, Ōkami exceeded every single expectation I have, and I’m still stunned by how phenomenal every hour spent on it has been. I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you’re a fan of single-player, story-driven games, and especially if you’re looking for a new game that isn’t $60 or more. For $20, Ōkami delivers over and over again on the emotional and structural payoff of the game. Plus, you can find the sequel for the DS, Ōkamiden, for roughly $20 through Gamestop, if you can’t get enough of the series. I’m certainly planning to pick it up once I have the money to spare, since I’m not quite ready to let go of this series.
So, have you played Ōkami yet? Think you’re going to give it a try? We should absolutely talk about it, because there can’t possibly be enough hype for this game. It needs more!