Forget that Okami is nearly two years old. Forget that the ridiculously epic adventure, inspired by the Zelda franchise, was originally developed for PlayStation 2 and meant to be played with an analog stick. And forget anything Capcom ever said about testing the waters with Wii. You need to buy Okami for Nintendo's system. And if you don't, you'll be missing out on one of the most ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable Wii titles to date -- even if you can technically classify it as an enhanced port.
Most gamers don't realize it, but Capcom actually embarked on an adventure of its own when it decided to create a version of Okami for Wii -- yes, more than a year late given that Nintendo fans were begging for a build well before the PS2 original shipped, but better late than never, right? With Okami creator Clover Studios disbanded and its members not exactly on the best of terms with Capcom, the publisher enlisted the aid of American software house Ready at Dawn to handle the port. A search for assets began. Old hard drives were scoured. Code was rewritten. And eventually, after quite a lot of behind-the-scenes work, Capcom's critically acclaimed title was reborn for Nintendo's system. It has arrived, we're happy to announce, mostly intact, with only a couple of minor shortcomings, and with several major improvements. Okami for Wii is, as far as we're concerned, the best version of an outstanding game -- a title that is sure to resonate with system owners already delighted by The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
You play as the sun goddess Amaterasu, a wolf who has been awakened from a 100-year slumber and once more charged with the task to save the ancient Nippon world from a great and dark evil before it consumes the serene landscapes before her. The story is told through cinematic cut-scenes and a visual presentation designed to very effectively mimic the style of traditional Japanese artistry -- specifically woodcut and water color paintings. This unique look is complemented by cel-shaded graphics and the result is nothing short of beautiful. Okami's makeup is stunningly original, gorgeous in every regard and amazingly varied. The word picturesque accurately describes the setting as Amaterasu runs through the spectacular, giant-sized locales, all seemingly out of a painting. It is simply one of Wii's best looking games, a truth solidified by the fact that the adventure arrives on the console with some visual enhancements, including all-new 480p (progressive scan) and 16:9 widescreen modes.
Yet, it's not without its graphic imperfections. The original version of Okami featured a very pronounced filter, which gave the impression that the Nippon world Amaterasu explored was rendered onto paper. The Wii iteration also includes the paper filter, but it is not nearly as obvious or noticeable -- it's much subtler and thus far less convincing, a disappointment since the filter actually added to the authentic presentation of the game. Okami's framerate, meanwhile, often slowed down on PlayStation 2 and Ready at Dawn has made no attempt to improve the fluidity for the Wii build despite the fact that Nintendo's system is more powerful. The admittedly still-stunning adventure therefore remains hampered by regular fluidity dips in wide-open areas.
We have to note that the game features a wonderful soundtrack that's both exceptionally moody and altogether catchy at the same time. The music is perfectly matched to the environments Amaterasu explores and your major accomplishments are rewarded with amazing compositions that trace cinematic sequences which show off nature's splendor. You will get caught up in the moment. Of course, the aural presentation runs in Dolby Pro Logic II on Nintendo's console.
Okami really does feel like Capcom's stab at a Zelda-like adventure and, to be sure, the game shares so much in common with Twilight Princess that it's eerie. Take, for example, that both offer gargantuan overworlds and epic quests, sport similar control schemes, include similar character-building mechanics, and even star heroes who are (at least temporarily, in Zelda's case) wolves. Of course, if Capcom really is tipping its hat to Nintendo's beloved series -- Okami's director has said on more than one occasion that he's a huge fan of the Zelda franchise -- more power to it. It is,after all, one of the best around and if nothing else, its template is worthy of copying. The thing is, despite what you may think at first glance, the developer has really created a unique and wholeheartedly engaging experience that stands and succeeds outside of Nintendo's own. And whereas many critics complained that Twilight Princess felt like the same old Zelda, Okami by comparison feels fresh, in large part because of its original visual style and unique gameplay hooks.
Capcom's game is charming from the very beginning, its characters highly interesting and funny, and the storyline less predictable and therefore much more compelling than the one powering Twilight Princess, if we're to continue with the comparison. Amaterasu is tightly controlled through the gargantuan world with the nunchuk's analog stick and the Wii remote is used for waggle-based attacks and dives. Do these gestures make for a more interactive or enjoyable experience? No, not really. Are they broken? Also, no. But if you hated the waggle motions in Twilight Princess, you won't like these either. If, on the other hand, you were fine with the controls in Nintendo's adventure, you will again be fine with Okami's selection. We will note, though, that attacking enemies with Okami's waggle requires more precise timing than swiping with Link's sword. If you get the timing down, you'll be deadly. If not, Amaterasu will be left open to attacks.
There's a definite deficiency to the new Wii controls, but thankfully it relates to an unnecessary maneuver which can be purchased as you advance through the game. Truly, honesty, you don't need the move, which is why this shortcoming is a little easier to forgive. Shortly into the adventure, Amaterasu is able to acquire a dodge function, which is very clumsily controlled by gesturing with the nunchuk -- it doesn't really work. As you motion forward, backward, left and right with the nunchuk Amaterasu is supposed to dodge into the appropriate directions, but alas, she doesn't. Rather, she dodges very consistently into the wrong direction. We have rarely seen the nunchuk's accelerometer utilized well and Okami is no exception.
But on the other hand, Wii owners do receive Okami with a fantastic control improvement that does directly relate to integral maneuvers in the game. We're referring, of course, to the celestial brush. A little background for readers who haven't followed the history -- and we'll make this brief. The very reason so many system owners initially hoped and prayed for a Wii iteration of Okami was because the title's primary mechanic, an on-screen brush used to paint and interact with the game world, seemed ideally suited to the Wii remote. Controlling the brush with PS2's analog stick worked just fine, mind you, but it was also a slow and meticulous process. On Wii, that's no longer the case. Not only can you very quickly use the Wii remote's IR-based pointer to whip out illustrations, which in turn translate to attacks and special moves, but you will rarely, if ever, sacrifice accuracy. Draw a strike through trees and you'll cut right through them. Draw a circle around dead trees and they'll bloom. Draw a circle with a fuse and you'll summon an on-screen bomb. Wind gusts. Zip lines. Fire and water. They're all effortlessly manipulated with Nintendo's remote. Frankly, the Wii controls are so good that they change the whole pace of the game -- a process that was previously slow and meticulous is suddenly very quick; so speedy, in fact, that you will find yourself using the brush whenever possible, at any opportunity, and so much more than you ever would have with an analog stick.
Okami's celestial brush is a superb tool and it's used generously throughout the adventure to solve puzzles and attack enemies. Very early on, the challenges will be all-too simple -- for instance, drawing the sun in the sky to bring daylight or slicing through a wooden gate to proceed beyond. However, the deeper into the adventure you progress, the more celestial brush moves are unlocked and you will eventually be called upon to solve some fun, engaging puzzles. Drawing bombs to explode walls to hidden pathways. Drawing wind to kick up tapestries which can then be used as platforms. Or perhaps devising the best method to battle enemies -- a common occurrence throughout Amaterasu's quest. (Usually you can see the foes before attacking them, but the title does occasionally thrust you into an unforeseen battle, which is a minor gripe.) Some enemies are susceptible to bombs, others fire, and so on. Sooner or later, you will become more creative with your attacks, too. For example, drawing a bomb followed by a gust of wind which sends the bomb scurrying at enemies. If there's to be any complaint regarding the different brushes themselves, it's that the techniques are very similar -- they usually revolve around drawing either a circle, a line, or a combination of the two.
Capcom's adventure is big and robust. Not only does it boast a comprehensive character-building component -- you can upgrade Amaterasu's health, ink wells, pouch, and more as you go, but you can also collect dozens of different power-ups and items, some of which offer temporary boosts and others which completely alter the wolf's main motion-based attacks. In addition, the game spans a gi-normous world that stretches in every direction, leads through mountains, forests, beaches, caves, waters and villages, and is complemented by dungeons. Unlike Twilight Princess, whose overworld very clearly separates villages and dungeons, the distinction in Okami is not quite so black and white and therefore the overall flow is a little better. The difficulty of the dungeons in Capcom's title ramps up as the story progresses, but overall Nintendo's series keeps the edge where challenge is concerned. That being true, some of the boss fights in Okami are magnificent and awe-inspiring -- the creatures Amaterasu faces off against are huge and menacing. And if you're concerned about gameplay length --- don't be. The title delivers a whopping quest that will run players upward of 30 hours, bare minimum.
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