In a time when sequels, prequels and HD remakes make up the majority of video game releases, we should start to ask ourselves: what really warrants a makeover? Okami is no stranger to the porting process, having been originally released for the PS2 in 2007, and then ported to the Wii in 2008 without even a major graphical overhaul. This latest rendering of Okami HD for the PlayStation Network, however, is a rare gem that earns its place on the current-gen console.
For those unacquainted with the story of Okami, the game revolves around Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess incarnated as a wolf and armed with a celestial brush. Her job is to defeat the eight-headed beast Orochi, restore peace, and bring tranquillity to the land of Nippon. Okami draws upon utopian visions of Japanese classical history and agrarian lifestyles, bursting with memorable characters full of charm, humour, and equal complexity. The juxtaposing roles of the game’s silent protagonist and his faithful and comedic companion Issun perfectly complement each other, providing the right balance of humour and elegance, much like Wolf Link and Midna in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Sadly, the repetitive, robotic voice-overs of various villagers and Gods blemish the overall immersion of the game, especially given you are unable to skip or even speed-up the many long cut-scenes full of pages and pages of text.
Back in 2008, Nintendo Life wrote in their Wii review, “…frankly if this game was re-mastered using super clean high definition graphics it would be almost too beautiful to play”, and they were right – 1080p Okami HD is undeniably stunning. The remake retains the gorgeous sumi-e ink and watercolour cel-shaded art style that it was first famous for, and enhances it, creating breath-taking landscapes which pull you deep into Okami's classical Japanese origins. Yet even though the HD remake aims to enhance the graphics and visuals, blurry background scenery is prevalent in the PSN update as well as bad ‘pop-in’, causing nearby objects and scenery to spring up out of nowhere.
Okami’s core gameplay is composed of small, rural Japanese towns to investigate, extensive fields and terrains to cross, and dungeons which are synonymous with classic adventure games. With each new area comes the opportunity for Amaterasu to expand her Godly skills by learning new celestial brush-strokes, equally providing players with a reason to backtrack and use these new skills where they previously couldn't. For example, towards the beginning of the game you will only know a few brush skills, and will encounter stretches of water which you cannot cross. However, once you have learnt how to craft lily pads on to the water's surface, you can backtrack to earlier areas and use your new skill to reach previously unobtainable treasures.
The combat sections involve brandishing your celestial brush in order to defeat the many monsters you encounter. If you run out of ink you can also fight using melee attacks, by equipping primary and sub-weapons each with different offensive and defensive abilities. While the battle scenes are executed fluidly, using a mixture of melee and celestial brush attacks, the on-screen meters and after-battle statistic summaries can be confusing for first-time players to interpret. Okami HD also offers players the option to use the PlayStation Move and Navigation controllers to make you feel like you are manipulating your very own celestial brush; however this is marred by high sensitivity, making it hard for the game to recognise certain shapes. Because of this we advise you to stick with your normal DualShock 3 controllers.
As an adventure game, Okami is bursting with content, with a main quest lasting around 40+ hours, lots of small side-missions, items to collect, lands to blossom, and weapons, ink pots, health, and other menus to upgrade. With so much going on, it’s often easy to forget the story’s main objectives. This confusion is not helped by the extremely long cut-scenes and gameplay areas broken up by loading screens.
As with most PS3 remakes, Okami HD provides players with a chance to collect Trophies. Sadly, the majority of these trinkets are awarded purely for completing essential story sections, and hardly ever for achieving something truly challenging.
Okami HD is a timeless classic, full of charm, subtle ingenuity, and beauty, remade in stunning HD, yet sadly it's embellished with some graphical issues. It's a must-have for first-time buyers, but offers little improvement for those who have already enjoyed all 40+ hours of the game on other platforms.