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I finally played Ōkami

Content of the article: "I finally played Ōkami"

Recently I played Ōkami. Well, Ōkami HD if you wanna get technical. After playing it I realized I had a lot of opinions about a lot of the game, so I decided to hack together a review for it. So without further ado I now present you…

A short yet way too involved review of Ōkami HD

Ōkami was released in April 2006, and just seven months later, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was released, making 2006 the best year for Zelda wolf games on record.

Calling Ōkami a Zelda clone would feel a bit reductive, so let's just say that it's… "heavily Zelda inspired". The story goes that you're the wolf incarnation of the sun goddess Amaterasu, and you're tasked with defeating ancient evils in various locations across Nippon, removing curses from the land and making nature return as you do so. A big part of Ōkami is manipulating your surroundings by painting on the screen with your "celestial brush" to create gusts of wind, make vegetation bloom, and more. This is your main way of solving puzzles as well as exploiting enemy weaknesses. On the switch the game does have motion controls for the celestial brush, but in my experience they did not work well, so I left them turned off.

The main draw of the game for me was definitely the visuals. The painted art style looked great, and Ōkami contains plenty of serene vistas inspired by classical Japan. For me, seeing the beautiful landscapes flourish and return to normal was enough of a reward for un-cursing the land. HOWEVER, this was a process that had diminishing returns. Throughout the game you gradually move away from the beautiful green fields and hills of the first arc to the quite boring city of the second arc, and the frigid wastes and frozen lakes of the third and final arc. Additionally, while the environments were great, most of the characters had way less personality than in Zelda games. With the exception of Amaterasu and her companion, as well as a few supporting characters, they all felt rather… uninteresting. This I think might partially be the art style not lending itself well to character design. It's hard to make an expressive-looking character when they all look like they're just painted on. However, there were a few notable highlights, like Susano, as well as the eight canine warriors. All of these guys were in arc one, which continues the theme of the first arc being the strongest part of Ōkami, with the other two trailing behind in most aspects. What's more, because of their lack of personality I never felt motivated to do side quests for any of the characters. The optional things in the game that I did bother with were the things that lead to nature returning to the land, but very few of the side quests did that — they only rewarded you with money or useless treasures to sell.

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At this point in the review I'd like to say a few words about the combat. The combat, while perfectly satisfactory, gets stale rather quickly. In fact, throughout the game I found myself avoiding the combat encounters as much as possible. It also doesn't help that combat locks you in a small arena which you have to break out of if you want to escape the encounter. I would rather have seen Ōkami rely more on puzzles and uninterrupted exploration of the pretty landscapes, and had it save the combat for bosses and other special occasions.

Before we wrap things up, let's discuss the length of the game. I finished it in 25 hours. That doesn't sound too bad, right? Well, the reason I finished it in 25 hours rather than 35 or 40 hours is because I skipped basically all the optional content. And here's the kicker: I actually still think it was a bit too long. As I mentioned earlier, the first arc, approximately the first ten hours of the game, was the strongest part of Ōkami. In fact, had the game only been that first arc, I would have had way less to complain about right now. Sure, all arcs of the game tie together quite nicely in the end, but the first arc is self-contained enough for it to be passed off as a shorter, simpler story. And that's what I personally think they should've done. That would've been good enough. I would've been happy. Instead what I got is a 25 hour experience where I liked the first ten and the final two hours but the middle fell a bit flat.

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Having said all this, overall I did still enjoy Ōkami. However I find it difficult to pinpoint what I like about it. I can barely point to a single thing and go "that, that is one of the reasons I like this game", but I like it all the same. Maybe the pretty scenery just weighs that heavy, I don't know. What I do know however is that you don't calculate your final verdict on a game, you feel it. Playing Ōkami is an experience I'm glad that I had, even if it wasn't perfect. Whether I'm reading books or playing video-games, I've always had an interest in reading up on the classics, so to speak, and this is one more classic that I can now put under my belt.


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