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June 2019


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Clover Studio
Release Date: Aug. 9, 2018


Switch Review - 'Okami HD'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 24, 2018 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Okami depicts a stark world devoid of color that the player must return to its natural state. In Okami, color represents the life blood of the land and sucking this life are supernatural monsters that inhabit the surrounding areas.

Buy Okami HD

Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda franchise is perhaps one of the most iconic and well- loved games in the history of gaming. Despite this, you're more likely to see things inspired by some of its mechanics than direct knock-offs or clones. It's hard to make a good Zelda game, and even Zelda fans can't agree on what exactly makes Zelda good. Why do I bring this up? If Okami were a real Zelda game, it would be one of the best Zeldas ever made, and Okami HD for the Switch is by far the best version of the game available.

Okami is the story of the goddess Amaterasu, who incarnates in the form of a white wolf — the titular Okami. Amaterasu returns to a world ravaged by the terrifying demonic Orochi and sets out on a quest to restore the world to its true state. Along for the ride is the irascible Issun, who serves as her guide and voice to the outside world. Together, the pair discovers lost celestial gods, would-be heroes, and demons of legend.

The plot of Okami is pretty straightforward, especially if you're familiar with Japanese mythology. It's an incredibly enjoyable experience: The characters are colorful and memorable, and the world is a delight. It's frequently funny but managed to hit emotional beats well enough. Perhaps the only flaw is the same as in many Zelda games: sometimes the story and character speech can be too slow for its own good.

The core gameplay of Okami HD is the usual Zelda-style gameplay loop. You explore areas, which unlock new abilities that you can use to explore new areas. It has a fun, satisfying and simple gameplay loop. The game is well-paced and does a good job of stringing together various abilities. It's no Breath of the Wild when it comes to freedom, but it has a variety of interesting areas to explore.

The combat system comes from the development team who would later go on to form Platinum Games, and it shows. It's a simple combat system, but one with a lot of polish and variety. Combat mostly takes place inside confined arenas that pop up when enemies attack. As in a lot of Platinum's games, you're graded on how effectively you fight, which provides encouragement to learn enemy weaknesses and use all of the tools at your disposal.

The most memorable mechanic in Okami is the Celestial Paintbrush. At any time during the game, you can "pause" the world and use Amaterasu's ability to paint on reality. Using the paintbrush, you'll be able to do things like re-create broke objects, use grappling points, control the sun and the moon, and so on. These moves can also be used in combat, where you can create bombs, slash enemies, and throw magical ink on foes to weaken them. In essence, it's the usual set of Zelda tools but compressed into an interesting mechanic.

Because this mechanic is so important, the Switch version is the best version of the game. In the original PS2 release, you had to use the limited motion of the analog stick to control the paintbrush. Subsequent releases added alternate control methods, and the Switch supports all of them. You can draw with the analog stick, the Joycon motion controls, or use the touch-screen in portable mode. It's a relatively minor change, but it makes the core gameplay mechanic more accessible and fun than it has ever been.

Okami is also a hefty game. It may be linear, but that isn't the same as being short. There's a ton to do in the game: countless collectibles, hidden widgets, and unlockable moves. Some are a bit weird — for example, you can unlock the ability to urinate or defecate on your opponents — but a lot of the moves or gadgets freshen up the game. You can unlock upgraded weapons, which increase your killing ability and look awesome. Even if you rush through the game, you'll probably spend a few dozen hours, and unlocking everything can easily push it into the 60-hour range.

If Okami has one serious flaw, it's that the game is perhaps too long. When you finish the first half of the game, it's shocking that there's a second half, since it feels like it was leading up to an ending. Once you finish the second arc, there's one more arc to go that feels less polished, more repetitive, and more recycled. I can't say the game becomes bad because it's still fun to play, but if it had been a hair shorter, it would be in the game's best interest. There were a few points in the last arc where I though, "Oh, this again?" instead of being excited as with … well, the rest of the game.

Okami was probably the single most beautiful game on the PS2, and the HD version only amplifies that. The beautiful cel-shaded graphics have aged remarkably well. You could throw Okami alongside a lot of modern games, and it would look almost as good. A huge portion of that is due to art direction. It's just an amazingly vivid and charming-looking game and shows the importance of good character design and world design. With that said, the Switch version of Okami HD lacks the 4K visual options of the console versions. It's up to players to determine if the better controls and portability make up for that, but it won't look as good in docked mode as the PS4 version does. The music is also beautiful and has a lovely Japanese flair that helps it stand out. The only potential downside is that the game uses a "sound effect" style of voice acting, which is either charming or annoying, depending on your preferences. I trend toward the former, but it's a potential prickly point for people.

All in all, Okami HD on the Switch is a fantastic version of a fantastic game. Considering the incredible pedigree behind the game, perhaps it's not shocking that it's as good as it is. One of the golden classics of the PS2 era is now one of the most enjoyable games on the Switch. If you're a fan of Zelda-style games at all, give Okami HD a try. Add in almost all the improvements of the other HD releases plus a wider variety of control schemes and Switch portability to boot, and you have what's easily the ideal version of the game.

Score: 9.0/10

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