Things of beauty are rare in the video game industry. For all the attempts at games that are works of art, only a few amount to something truly exceptional and worthy of effort to preserve. Okami, a game from the late PlayStation 2 era and arguably the greatest work of Capcom's now-defunct Clover Studio, has received such a preservation treatment for the second time. While the Wii port is more than a little infamous for some poorly implemented decisions, this newer update for the PlayStation 3 revives a classic with exceptional faith and beautiful upgrades.
Okami is, at its core, a Zelda-like adventure, down to the copious numbers of bonuses, collectibles and secrets. Cast as the wolf-like incarnation of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, the player sets out to save Japan from a great and powerful darkness: the demon-like beast known as Orochi. The game uses a silly, lighthearted, but exceptionally detailed take on Japanese mythology, from the peach-tree spirit village guardian to a quirky cast of animal spirits and even the villainous Oni. There is an unending sense of personality that is rare to find in any video game released today.
Rather than go into details of all of the merits of the original game, just look at our 9.6 rating on the original release, and 8.7 rating on the Wii version, which was marred by a few porting issues but remained a classic of the Wii lineup. With the original game being a bona fide classic, the developers had the challenge of making a port capable of living up to the original, and they met it admirably.
The most obvious change in the new version of Okami — and by far the largest — is the high-definition graphical update. This is not a game where simple upscaling would have worked, due to the game's distinctive art style, which renders everything to make the world look like water-colored scrolls. It's unclear how many of the game's designs had to be redrawn to preserve this appearance, but the results are absolutely beautiful, nearly devoid of blurry or otherwise messy signs of a hasty update. Just about every texture feels new, and the updated, matching shaders and the constant 60 frames per second bring the game's look into HD. Even interface textures have been enhanced and look better while fitting the original designs.
I say "nearly" because of one very odd exception: Amaterasu's back, which is admittedly only visible for a short time since the character nearly always has a weapon equipped. This could have been an attempt to make the character's back look more like fur, but every other marking is very crisp, making that one moment stand out.
In one of only two other significant changes from the original game, Okami HD allows you to choose between the original PS2 controls and a reimplementation of the Wii controls (now using a Move controller and either a Navigation controller or DualShock for your left hand). Unlike the Wii controls, which infamously used the inaccurate accelerometers, the Move has you pointing at the screen any time you use the Celestial Brush mechanic — and only during this mechanic. While this is in place, the celestial brush's interface tilts less than in the original to make it easier to point and draw.
Drawing with the brush feels less accurate than what the Wii version should have been, but more than accurate enough to let you rapidly draw any of the brush strokes the game demands and with very slight motions of the hand. To the game's benefit, the effect speeds up combat and puzzle-solving. While the classic controls are fine, the Move controls feel like they are how the game was meant to be played, making it even more magical than before.
There is one bit of bad news: The end credits do not have the original song. Really, that's it. Every other song in the 200-plus-large soundtrack is kept, as is the original pseudo-voicing and original sound effects.
There is no new content in Okami HD. Adding stuff could possibly be disrespectful to Clover Studio's magnum opus. This doesn't prevent the game from easily lasting 20-plus hours on a speed run. Okami was a very long game in its original release, and it remains loaded with secrets now.
In short, why haven't you already purchased Okami HD? At $20, Okami HD is one of the greatest gaming values of 2012, representing the greatest and largest Zelda-like adventure to not come from Nintendo. It's been updated beautifully and features strong, complementary use of the Move technology. Even at six years of age, the game is better than many modern contemporaries. Hopefully, the HD update finally brings Capcom the success that the game has long deserved.
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