Okami Wii Review
It's been over a year and a half since the under-appreciated Okami was released on PS2. This action-adventure title from Capcom-owned developer Clover wound up spurring the publisher to close the studio, which was a real shame since their last game was excellent. It took fantasy elements from Japanese mythology and put them together into a very original title where you control a wolf with, well, a paintbrush.
I know - that sounds ridiculous. But somehow, it works. As the goddess Amateresu in her avatar of a powerful wolf, you will remove the taint on the land of Nippon by exorcising demons and fixing what's broken. To do this, you'll use the divine powers of over a dozen paintbrush powers. With them, you can slash at enemies, draw a sun in the sky to bring about early morning, create bombs, call forth wind, and quite a bit more. These are done with the Wii Remote by simply holding down the B button, which pauses the game, and you paint what you want onto the screen.
And that brings me to the Wii-specific controls which really are a bit of a letdown. Ready at Dawn Studios ported Okami to the Wii, and it seems like they don't quite have a grasp on making them work just right. The most obvious Wii control is the need to waggle the Wiimote to attack and swing the Nunchuk in various directions to dodge, but neither of these seems to work right half the time. Part of it is that the original game on PS2 tried to get the player to use rhythm in doing attacks rather than button-mashing. But with Wiimote waggling, it just doesn't work right, and the dodging is, well, dodgy.
The other major Wii control is the ability to actually paint on the screen, and you do that by pointing the Wiimote at the screen. Putting "paint" on the screen works just fine, but sometimes the game doesn't register when you pull the brush past an enemy. Other times, puzzles will require a slash of paint and those won't always register, either. It's a shame, because this otherwise wonderful and visually unique game really deserves to have spot-on controls on the Wii. At the very least, because you can much more quickly paint out the celestial brush's abilities, you'll use it far more than you would with the PS2 version's clunky brush controls.
If you can get over those, though, this is a fantastic action-adventure with a beautiful style to it. Everything looks like a Japanese watercolor with a little bit of cel shading thrown in. The PS2 version was a little more stylistic, though - the filter that makes it look like an art canvas is still here on the Wii version, but it seems to have been toned down. The iffy frame rates of the PS2 version haven't been addressed here on the Wii, either, which is a disappointment. At the very least, the widescreen 480p support that the Wii includes does give Okami sharper visuals overall.
Once you get into Okami, you might just forget about the differences in the Wii version, as the game's style, charm, and gameplay shine through anything technical. As you traverse the land of Nippon, you'll deal with strange individuals in varying ways, doing side quests, and fighting demons and other enemies. When you free an area from the grasp of demons it will reform the way it originally was, changing the landscape in front of your eyes. It's an experience that you simply won't get in any other game, and the sound and music during these sequences is simply amazing. One of my favorite parts of this game is that your mission is focused mostly on fixing a broken world rather than just killing enemies until there aren't any more. Sure, there are boss fights and a good amount of combat, but you can avoid many fights, too, if you want.
The system for improving Amaterasu's abilities and moves is very nice, too. From temporary powerups to permanent and incredible new attacks that you'll need on the huge bosses, they really make a difference. And the adventure will last you a while too, with pretty much a minimum of 25 hours. The world is huge and looks great with the style that Clover Studios created, with the only disappointment on the Wii version being that no new game content has been added. If you played through the game on the PS2, then make the Wii controls, and specifically the celestial brush, your main reason for picking this one up if you do.
Much like Super Mario Galaxy last November, Okami will have you doing a huge variety of things beyond just fighting. But the things you will do are much different, too, and nothing like other games. The biggest similarity I could draw is to the Zelda games, but with the style and controls, I actually prefer Okami in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, the controls just aren't tight enough, and since the original 2006 release of Okami the bar has been raised by Nintendo for action-adventure games. This is still an excellent title, but to me it just doesn't hold up on the Wii quite like I expected it to.