When play.tm's Stevie Smith first reviewed Okami on the PS2 back in early 2007, he described the game as "an artistically-inspired gaming masterpiece," enthusing that "it deserves your time, and it certainly deserves your money" before urging us, as if we needed any further encouragement to "buy two copies."
Sadly, it turns out that critical adoration sometimes isn't enough, Capcom and Clover's opus not quite selling in the bucketloads it certainly deserved to. Clover has in fact closed since, yet some enterprising exec's at the publisher clearly kept the faith - employing the ever-reliable Ready At Dawn to mastermind Okami's move to the Wii console, cultists and critics cooing that the title was perfectly suited to Nintendo's 'disruptive' control scheme.
They were of course right, the celestial brush game mechanic works a treat with the brush strokes that comprise perhaps the game's most innovative aspect working a treat when created using the sensitivities of the Wiimote. The nunchuck also works perfectly as a similtaneous method for controlling our hero - Amaterasu (a good-natured wolf carrying the spirit of the sun god on a quest to rid the world of infection and defeat the villainous Orochi).
Plot is at the heart of Okami, and if you don't like an involving and occasionally indulgent yarn this unique experience may not be for you. That said, if you enjoy Japanese mythology and a plot that is at the very heart of the gameplay (Zelda parallels are not far of the mark), then you'll relish every minute of this special game. Moving through ancient 'Nippon', Amaterasu battles the demons corrupting the world, taking on quests, garnering new skills, items and meeting new characters - reviving a natural world riddled with nastiness with some panache.
At the centre of this is the afore-mentioned celestial brush, which you can pull up at most times with the 'B' button, at which point the world around you freezes, forming a papyrus parchment on which your brush strokes can form shapes which take real world form. From the outset you'll use the sun (a simple circle) to revive nature, and cut objects with a slashing-line brush stroke. Certain moves help in combat, as when your brush forms a lethal bomb or a protective wall of trees. Likewise, you can negate streams by drawing lilies to step on, and this technique works a treat with the Wiimote even if occasionally your strokes won't be quite good enough to create the desired object. Still, this mechanism works much better than on the PS2.
Taking on the variety of baddies that fill the world is also fairly simply using the nunchuck and Wiimote combined, although sometimes you'll find yourself shirking a battle in favour of more exploration or another puzzle you're striving to overcome in order to progress the deep and involving story.
The world of Okami is huge, and if you're happy to be diverted by side-quests, and other pleasantries like feeding the game world's animals, discovering treasure and engaging with the colourful characters you'll meet, the experience could last tens of hours. This is a vast and immersive landscape, and you'll find as you progress that new areas open into new areas, as you journey through the land, taking in all manner of enthralling locales; which leads us nicely onto Okami's breathtaking artistic vision.
Even without the the processing power of the Xbox 360 or the PS3, Okami is a stunningly beautiful game. The mythlogical setting is perfectly reflected in the old-style brush-work water-colour world, alive with texture, flourishes of detail and almost every scene could be considered a picture in its own right. Couple this wondrous Japanese aesthetic vision with the plot, the brush-stroke game mechanic, and the subtle nuances of the game world and this is perhaps the game I'm most comfortable labeling 'art'. It looks a a little better on the Wii than it did on the PS2 as well, and that's not a comment I make lightly.
Beyond the difficulties of expressing in words just how much there is to do and savour in Okami, I'm also struggling to describe the way it makes you feel. The splashes of vivid nature that trail your trusty wolf, the almighty explosions of rainbow-like colour as your cleanse a large areas, really are engaging - this isn't just about in-game progress, Okami really does touch you at times.
Combat, story, characterisation, puzzles, exploration, open-world elements, closed-world elements, an imaginative control system and wholly original visual flair combine in Okami with near-perfect results. The Wii's best game to-date, if you'll just give it a chance to shine.