Today we’d like to pour a scolding hot pile of lovely letters and words onto a fantabulous video game which has, seemingly, been forgotten. Ōkami! Or just Ōkami – you don’t need the exclamation mark. It’s a game about wolves, sprites, and fighting with divine powers and paint brushes.
It’s a work of art and a joyous little package; a true indication of what video games can achieve artistically and culturally. Sadly, gamers were more interested in the latest violent first person shooters. The game bombed commercially and the company who created it is no more. Damn.
For an industry struggling with an image problem (i.e. pretty much all games released are violent shoot ‘em ups), sad tales such as this don’t help. However, as it nears its 10th anniversary it’s excellent to look back and remember Ōkami as the stunning video game which deserves your adoration.
It’s pronounced “oh-cah-me” if you’re wondering. Good, now we’ve got that out of the way let’s examine the narrative and gameplay structure. Ahem! One plays as the wolf incarnation of the Japanese sun god – Amaterasu. From the wolf you’re able to use divine powers to summon a “celestial paintbrush” with which one can paint attacks and defeat enemies. Ingenious? Yes. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to restore colour to a world stricken with bleak evil.
The combat system (where one draws attack symbols on screen – particularly effective with Nintendo’s Wii console) is what helps this game stand out, along with the gorgeous traditional Japanese art and animation. It’s essentially a traditional action and adventure game, but the sweeping narrative and compelling action take it a step above your average title.
It’s unique and it knows it. It was first released in April 2006 after being developed by Clover Studio – gaming icon Capcom published it. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly sell well despite the critical acclaim. It arrived on the PS2 first before hitting the Wii, but it just didn’t find an audience. A real bloody shame, too, and since a few HD updates five years ago it’s fallen into obscurity. This doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be appreciated!
Art & Soundtrack
The visual splendour with which presents itself is astonishing. With its traditional Japanese style, the game looks breathtaking. However, this isn’t a case of meeting a well fit bloke (or dead fit bird, if you’re this way inclined) only to find the object of your lust loves One Direction, wears skinny jeans, like, every day, says “like”, like, all the time, and is stupid. Ōkami isn’t like this. It is smart. It can add 2+2 together and it knows the difference between your and you’re.
The game resembles Studio Ghibli’s films in many respects, particularly Princess Mononoke. Indeed, with the latter there are possibly intertextual references in there. When Amaterasu runs, plants appear under her feet. In Princess Mononoke, this is what happens when the forest spirit walks. So it’s inspiration from one wonderful piece of work to another.
Despite its looks, graphics are somewhat secondary to the gaming experience. A fantastic soundtrack is what generates the right atmosphere and a genuine emotional connection, and Ōkami delivers big time. Capcom released the soundtrack on five (!) CDs in 2006 and it won Best Soundtrack at the video game BAFTAs. You can have a listen to part of a mighty fine soundtrack below, which is genuinely hours of traditional Japanese music at its finest. Enjoy!
We’ve kind of rounded up the Ōkami experience above without delving too much into the game. We have a general sense of malaise we have to report such a fine video game failed miserably. Still, if you’ve got a Wii of PS3 you can still hunt this down, but it’s largely fading into history due its poor sales and a video game market which is primarily geared towards extreme violence, swearing, and gore.
Ōkami won a batch of awards, which is just super, but the lack of success didn’t warrant a sequel. Now, with the passage of time, Ōkami has drifted into cult status. No matter how many people shout and scream and roar about its brilliance, the sad fact is most gamers are more interested in shooting prostitutes in GTA. Bloody philistines.