An Unbiased Review of Ōkami

okami-cover

Five things that sucked:

1. Load Times

Count up to 90.

But Baka-Raptor, that’s a horrible waste of time!

That’s how long it takes to turn on your PS2 and load up a saved game in Okami. One minute and 30 seconds of loading, credit screens, loading, selecting a save point, and more loading.

Load times are so bad there’s actually a load screen game to help ease the pain. The Wii version had to cut this miraculous innovation because the game loads too quickly.

Perhaps it’s fitting that my last Playstation game is the only one that frustrated me with its load times.

2. Camera Angles

Battles are much more fun when you don’t have to constantly spin some combination of the character and the camera around to try to find the enemies. To be fair, it doesn’t help that there’s a wild-goose chase at the beginning of each battle because the enemies don’t appear until about five seconds in. (Did I mention the load times sucked?)

Camera angles are a little less frustrating on the brush screen, where you’re allowed to shift the camera in addition to rotating it. It’s a shame that heavy camera manipulation feels incredibly cheap to an honorable warrior such as myself.

3. Easy Battles

I died only once in the entire game. If not for a stupid misunderstanding of the Vine technique, I wouldn’t have died at all. This has little to do with my masterful gamesmanship and much to do with game’s many layers of idiot-proofing.

Presumably so little kids could have fun running around as a moé wolf without getting clobbered, the game makes it easy to suck without dying. HP-restoring items are cheap, effective, and readily available. Should you run out of those, the Astral Pouch revives you with full HP. This can be upgraded to potentially four revivals in a single battle. As if that’s not generous enough, you can squeeze out even more revivals by using Golden Peaches mid-battle to refill your Astral Pouch.

Sure, you don’t have to use items. You don’t have to fill up your Astral Pouch. You don’t have to upgrade your stats. You don’t have to use the most powerful weapons at your disposal. You could theoretically self-impose all kinds of restrictions to make the game more difficult. But then what’s the point of having those features? Why earn money? Why search for items? Why acquire new weapons? Why do side quests? Plus, if your restrictions are out of balance, they could backfire and make the game even less enjoyable. This game is a perfect candidate for a hard mode. The game takes long enough to load; it couldn’t hurt to load up a few more variables and conditional branches to put a hard mode in place.

On the bright side, since you know you won’t die, you can get away with skipping save points. Less load time to deal with. (Did I mention the load times sucked?)

4. Stray Beads

Reminds me of those bullshit Gummi blocks from Kingdom Hearts. How about giving me a treasure I’m actually going to use?

straybeads

Stray Beads only pay off if you collect all 100. Good luck. I did a fair amount of exploration and side questing. I even got an S-rank for praise, yet I ended up collecting less than half of the stray beads.

The main benefit of collecting all 100 stray beads is invincibility. If you’re good enough to collect them all, chances are you couldn’t die if you tried, so what’s the point?

5. Endless Dialogue

I don’t remember text dialogue being this exhausting. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by vocal dialogue. Or maybe there really is something exhausting about several required conversations being so long that they break off midway, allowing you to take a breather or save or something, before you’re required to return to the same person and finish the conversation.

Five things that rocked:

1. Amaterasu’s Mannerisms

ammybrown

Since Ammy can’t communicate with humans directly, Ammy’s partner, Issun, does all the talking. Meanwhile, Ammy’s always getting distracted, spacing out, yawning, and falling sleep. Given the lengthy dialogue in the game, I can’t blame her.

Another cool thing about Ammy is that little was done to feminize her. No eyelashes, no glinty eyes, no excessive curves, no pink, no nothing. Her attributes and demeanor are all dog, no bitch.

2. Brush Techniques

Okami-brush

I don’t have a Wii or a DS, nor do I have a general awareness of the gaming industry, so I can’t make an objective claim that the brush techniques of Okami were a unique or novel form of gameplay. The best I can do is make the subjective claim that they kicked ass and were unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

3. The Ninetails and Shiranui battles

ninetails

Battles with characters having equal or opposite powers are expected to be awesome. What elevates these two battles as exceptionally badass is the invasion of your brush screen. Time is normally frozen when you’re using your brush screen. It’s a place of comfort and tranquility in the middle of a heated battle. When that peace is compromised, you get freaked out. It’s intense.

4. Art

okamiowls

Heavily stylized artistry usually makes me hate culture. Not this time.

5. This Cosplay

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(Technically not part of the game)

Five things I was indifferent about:

1. Fanservice

I always cringe a bit when jiggle physics butt into otherwise family-friendly material. For ten years, I didn’t have my own room. For eight years after that, I had my own room but no lock. I was never dumb/horny enough to watch obviously risqué stuff when my parents were around. It’s the unexpected stuff that’d burn me.

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2. Mini-Games

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I’m usually no fan of mini-games. It’s like ordering the chicken at a seafood restaurant. Who does that? You don’t go to a seafood restaurant to eat chicken, and you don’t play Okami to go fishing.

I’m giving the mini-games a neutral grade because I grew to like the digging game once the brush techniques got more involved. The brush techniques are the essence of Okami. This mini-game wisely took advantage of that.

The fishing game remained annoying, and don’t get me started on balls.

sleepybear

3. Hints

Part of this game’s idiot-proofing was to drop hints wherever possible. Your map got marked, you could visit the fortune teller, your menu screen listed all current quests, important dialogue was highlighted, and additional conversation was added if you screwed something up the first time. For the most part this was great. Most RPGs do a lousy job of guiding you through the game, thus forcing you to refer to a strategy guide in undeserved humiliation.

Why the indifferent grade then? The system backfired horribly at one point. Make that several points.

BlockDots

There’s a type of enemy whose weak points briefly appear on screen. You beat them by drawing dots where the weak points appeared. Simple enough? WRONG. What the game neglects to tell you is that you have to draw the points in the same order they appeared in. If you screw up, the game still doesn’t mention anything about the order; it just shoves the same useless admonitions in your face. After a while you begin to realize something’s wrong, but it’s Okami! How could you possibly need to run away to a strategy guide? So you keep fucking up until you coincidentally draw the dots in the right order.

4. Japanese Mythology

Naruto ruined it.

5. Sudden Drama

Random enemy dies. We’re supposed to be sad. I was not.

Final Grade: ++

Now that I’ve beaten Okami, it’s time to officially retire my 10-year-old PS2.

Final Grade: +++

I’ll be deciding between the PS3 and Xbox 360 soon enough, but first, there’s a game I’ve been meaning to cross off my to-play list for a long time.

zelda64