Review: Okami HD

Posted 4 years ago by Dan Roemer

A picture paints a thousand words

Hideki Kamiya is a strange and interesting man. When he’s not busy being the vice president of Platinum Games or randomly blocking people on Twitter, he’s at the helm of some of the best action-adventure games in the industry. Prior to his time at Platinum, he worked at Capcom on the Resident Evil games, before being made director of a planned spin-off series now known as Devil May Cry.

This is important, because in 2004 when Clover Studio was founded and the staff started on Viewtiful Joe 2, they also began work on Okami — with Kamiya directing it. Originally, Okami was conceived as a simple minute-long tech demo of a wolf running while leaving a trail of flowers behind it. Capcom showed interest in making this a full-fledged game, with the premise built around “depicting nature.”

Once development began though, the premise of simply “depicting nature” was too boring for Kamiya and they instead focused on making Okami an action-adventure game in the same vein as Zelda. The actual task however of replicating the Zelda formula is a huge endeavor in and of itself. But, not only did Kamiya and Clover Studio completely nail that formula, in my opinion, they created a game that rivals — if not exceeds — any Zelda game prior to it and one that would forever cement Kamiya’s status in the industry like no other before it.

Okami HD (PS4, Xbox One, PC [Reviewed], PS3)
Developer: Clover Studio, HexaDrive
Publisher: Capcom
Release: December 12, 2017
MSRP: $19.99

Set in the land of Nippon, with a heavy emphasis on Japanese folklore, Okami tells the tale of a white wolf deity named Amaterasu and her little bug artist companion Issun. To keep things brief, an eight-headed demon has been awoken after 100 years and (of course) has spread darkness and bad vibes across the land. So, it’s up to Amaterasu to gather all the celestial brush techniques to become powerful enough to stop it and save the land.

If you can get past the painfully long 20-minute introduction, you’re gonna be in for one hell of an adventure spanning a little over 30 hours with the most memorable cast of characters I’ve had the joy of encountering in recent memory. That goes for everyone from Susano, who believes he’s the greatest warrior in the land and constantly attempts to save the day (when in reality Amaterasu does all the work), to even minor characters you might come across, such as a possessed old woman with knives who wants to chop you up and turn you into wolf-stew.

Okami‘s quirky cast of characters alone kept me progressing, simply because I was interested in who I’d meet next. Overall, the story does have some pacing issues, especially with its stop-start momentum, constantly leaving you guessing if the game is actually over or not. But, easily the most redeeming (and obvious) quality of Okami is simply how gorgeous this game looks, thanks to its uniquely cel-shaded ukiyo-e inspired art style.

If you want a more detailed breakdown of the PC-specific release of Okami HD, be sure to check out my review-in-progress. In short though: this release now supports 4K resolutions, but is still capped at 30 FPS due to game-specific things such as collision detection and animation speeds being broken at higher frame rates. It’s disappointing that this version still doesn’t support 60 FPS, however, I never felt like I was hindered in anyway due to the frame rate.

Originally, Okami was intended to be rendered in a photo-realistic 3D style. However, due to the hardware limitations of the PlayStation 2 at the time, this concept was scrapped in favor of the aforementioned ukiyo-e inspired cel-shaded art style. This eye-catching aesthetic only benefited Okami in the long run, as it still easily holds the test of time, even today, thanks to its unique art direction — now only bolstered with HD resolutions.

Ironically, if they went with the photo-realistic route as originally intended, Okami would have immediately looked dated within half a year thanks to the PlayStation 3 set to release that same year.


It’s not only the aesthetic of Okami that holds up so well, but also the gameplay thanks to the unique Celestial Brush mechanics that make up the core experience and backbone of Amaterasu’s abilities.

Throughout your adventure, Amaterasu will unlock various brush techniques that range from restoring objects in the environment for puzzle-solving, to combat abilities, such as cutting away at opponents or creating bombs to use on enemies or uncover new areas. The Celestial Brush also helps with traversal, allowing you to create lily pads to get across water or even change the time of day.

As you progress, you’ll unlock most of these techniques in various dungeons that you’ll then use on accompanying bosses, which is obviously where a lot of the Zelda comparisons come in. But, where Zelda has Link utilize various tools he finds on his journey, Okami has you instead remembering different brush strokes with the Celestial Brush — which feels all the more satisfying and unique with the PlayStation Move controls on PS4 and even more so with the mouse on PC.


It’s a brilliant mechanic that literally draws the line on where it differentiates itself from Zelda and other action-adventure games in general. Throw all this in with a gorgeous art style, a classically intertwined Japanese soundtrack, and memorable characters and writing, and you have one of the best games from the PlayStation 2 still going strong over a decade and two console generations later.

Aside from a few minor gripes and this re-release of the game not offering much else from the 2012 PlayStation 3 re-release (other than higher resolutions and the return of loading screen mini-games), Okami HD is still a near-perfect game. If you haven’t already beaten or played it yet, then now is a better time than ever before…

…Unless you’re waiting for a Nintendo Switch port.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

9.5

Superb

A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.

Dan Roemer
Local video person. I've been enjoying and dabbling in Destructoid since 2014, became staff in 2017, co-hosted Podtoid, and my spirit animal is that of wild garbage. Disclosure: I backed Shenmue 3 on Kickstarter and I'm a current Patreon supporter of Nextlander, NoClip, and Mega64.

Review: Okami HD

Posted 9 years ago by Kyle MacGregor Burleson

Wolf it down

Initially released for the PlayStation 2 in the autumn of 2006, Okami, Clover Studio’s penultimate release, garnered significant critical acclaim but suffered from lackluster sales. Born unto the shadow of the recently launched PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii platforms, the game failed to gain traction outside of a small community of fervent supporters. 

In 2010, Guinness recognized the game for being the “worst-performing winner of a Game of the Year accolade from a major gaming publication.” And while it has gone on to spawn a sequel for the Nintendo DS, two years later, Okami is still a game searching for an audience.

Okami HD (PlayStation Network)
Developer: Clover Studio, HexaDrive 
Publisher: Capcom
Release: October 30, 2012
MSRP: $19.99

A fusion of tales from Japanese mythology, Okami’s story follows the Shinto sun goddess, Amaterasu. When an ancient evil awakens after a century-long slumber, our canine protagonist is summoned by a spirit guardian to deliver the world from darkness. Accompanied by the sprite Issun, Amaterasu sets off on a journey to restore the land of Nippon to its former glory.

Okami may not be avant-garde, but this seemingly timeworn tale is far more colorful than its synopsis lets on. This is a game steeped in tradition; a medley of Japanese legends that have been gathered and woven together. Synthesized with classic action-adventure gameplay and gorgeous cel-shaded visuals, this fabric forms what is both a beautiful and timeless tapestry. 

In contrast to its traditionalist roots, much of what makes Okami such a cohesive and enjoyable experience is actually a feature that is entirely unique to the game. Wielding a tool known as the Celestial Brush, Amaterasu can bring time to a standstill. Using either the PlayStation Move or an analog stick, players can draw symbols directly onscreen to conjure items and manipulate the environment. However, this isn’t just a gimmick. The painterly power is the game’s central thread and is fundamental to the experience. 

Okami‘s world doesn’t just look like an animated Japanese ink illustration. Staring beyond the vibrant colors will reveal subtle papery textures. As a god, its fitting that Amaterasu can add to and shape this living, breathing canvas. All of these elements bleed into one another, creating bridges from the game’s mesmeric aesthetics to the narrative and the gameplay itself. 

There are thirteen brush techniques in total which have an impact on everything from combat to platforming and puzzle-solving. Drawing a circle in the night’s sky can transform dusk into dawn, whereas a crescent moon in broad daylight will have the opposite effect. With a swirling motion, Amaterasu can create wind. And countless dormant trees throughout Nippon can be revived with a quick flick of the Celestial Brush.

Similar to The Legend of Zelda, the series from which Okami draws much of its inspiration, these techniques are most frequently introduced in tandem with corresponding dungeons. Oftentimes, new acquisitions are as much of a key to traversing these stages as they are the silver bullet to defeating the bosses that dwell within. 

They also have uses when it comes to combat. While Amaterasu has quite the armory at her disposal (swords, energy whips, and even a rifle of sorts) that can be paired to create dramatically different styles of play, conjuring a well-placed bomb or landing a well-timed celestial power slash can turn the tide of battle. Other techniques have more indirect applications. For instance, blooming cherry blossom trees allows the player to earn the Praise (experience) necessary to make Amaterasu a more formidable fighter. 

While these light role-playing elements exist, the battles themselves take place in arcadey arenas where the player is graded on the duration and execution of the fight. The game gives monetary incentives to finishing a fight as quickly as possible, but also rewards those that mitigate damage. As one might expect, the additional capital can be put to good use by additional purchasing items and weaponry. There are also dojos scattered throughout Nippon where Amaterasu can learn new combat techniques — for a nominal fee, of course.

As for new content specific to this high-definition re-release, there isn’t a whole lot here that wasn’t present in the game’s previous incarnations. The motion controls seen in the Wii version see a return thanks to the PlayStation Move and there are plenty of Trophies here to supplement the intrinsic joys of the game. 

However, one addition that really matters here is the graphical update. I’m by no means a graphics snob, but just being able to see this game in 1080p makes it well worth the price of admission. Okami HD looks so breathtaking in motion that I’m hard pressed to think of another title that rivals its sheer beauty.

As wonderful as Okami can be though, it is not without its faults. There are reoccurring boss fights that do nothing to alter the experience the second or even third time around. This is already a very long game that suffers from a slow start and a meandering pace. It doesn’t need additional padding. Oh, and another thing — I know Clover Studios drew a great deal of inspiration from the Legend of Zelda series, but did they really feel the need to include a pint-sized sidekick whose soul purpose in life is to annoy you every step of the way?

Those few minor gripes aside, Okami HD is the definitive version of one of the past decade’s premier games and absolutely deserves to be played. Whether you’ve experienced it before or have yet to do so, do yourself a favor and pick this up.

9.5

Superb

A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage.

Kyle MacGregor Burleson