Real Talk By: Zombie Zac
It’s remarkable how well Clover Studio’s Okami still looks and feels for a game that came out originally on the PS2 way back in 2006. At the time, Capcom was publishing some industry defining games, coming off the heels of Resident Evil 4 on Gamecube. Clover Studio, the team that developed titles exclusively for Capcom (which has since sort of morphed into Platinum Games) was following up their incredible work on Viewtiful Joe 1 & 2. In a bit of an underdog story, many publications held Okami in even higher regard than that year’s hugely anticipated Zelda entry, Twilight Princess.
It’s no secret that Okami borrowed most of it’s ideas from the Zelda series, even the art style while gorgeous and innovative on its own still resembling the cell shaded turn that Wind Waker had taken years before. The joy of Okami, though, was the paintbrush mechanic, allowing the player to draw things like bombs, slash marks to cut down trees, or even shapes to resemble the sun or the moon to change the time of day. While there are many similarities between Zelda and Okami, from the light-hearted vibe, to the hidden secrets and clever boss battles, Okami took the Celestial Brush mechanic far enough to carve out a unique identity. The only hangup was that drawing never felt perfect on a controller.
When Okami was reissued on the Nintendo Wii, they attempted to address this with adding motion controls. This added level of immersion to the mechanic but still never felt like a ‘better’ option than using the controller. Unfortunately, the Wii version had some odd graphical changes, and didn’t quite retain the same watercolor filters and color palette as the original title. Since then Okami has been essentially been re-released on every generation of systems now finally making its way to Nintendo Switch. Obviously the big deal here is that Okami includes touch screen support for drawing and because of this we finally have the definitive experience that was hinted at all those years ago.
On the Nintendo eShop Okami is $20 which is perfect for a double dip. If you’ve bought a few versions along the way, you may not have the same motivation to play again as this is a long game and the core game remains unchanged. But for those who missed Okami, were too young to play, or never finished the journey, this is a must-own game for Nintendo Switch. Not only is this the best version of the game to date, it is also an excellent game to show off the unique qualities of the Switch with both motion controls and touch controls and HD rumble support. For many Switch owners that have finished Breath of the Wild and have been looking for another gorgeous world to explore, Okami fills that void quite nicely. While Okami looks great in 1080p on the TV, 720p on the tablet looks even more beautiful with a near flawless presentation. Pop-up does occur, but this is more or less a limitation of the original design, and quite honestly doesn’t distract from gameplay. There is some compression on some of the sounds, also presumably a hold over from the PS2 roots, but even that remains charming and nostalgic. The music, though, remains as majestic as it ever was with a variety of Japanese instruments and a playful yet melancholy tone.
There is one thing to note here that I found to be completely out of place that does put a blemish on the experience: There is a female character you meet later in the game who becomes a vehicle for many sexist jokes and it’s unnecessary and completely relentless. The artists decided to give this character large breasts and focuses you on them and animates them in an exaggerated manner that comes off as rude and completely out-of-touch. While the gaming industry has made strides in the last decade or so to present many strong, non-sexualized women characters in games, Okami feels like a relic in a bad way. I’m torn if I would recommend to have that dialogue redone, or if keeping it as it was has some value. Either way, it’s a unfortunate situation. Japanese culture and sensibilities may differ from America’s but tonally this just makes no sense, adds nothing to the story, and for comparison’s sake no Zelda game has any content like this that sticks out in retrospect.
Okami is still one of my favorite action adventure games and playing on the Switch really breathes new life into it. The graphics look sharp, and retain the feel of the original release unlike the Wii Version. The touch screen makes drawing effortless and intuitive. The ability to take the journey with you on the go means revisiting this adventure for the second or third time is easier to set aside time for. Even the copious amounts of dialogue and cutscenes can generally be sped up and skipped unlike some previous versions. But mostly it’s the memorable world, the larger than life Celestial Brush, the Japanese folklore, and the way it all ties together that justifies the re-release after re-rerelease. While some of the dialogue is out of place and cringe-worthy, it doesn’t prevent this from still being a classic. Who knows, maybe we will get a sequel one day from Platinum if enough people are still interested?
Okami HD [Switch] Gets
4.5 out of 5
Art style is still beautiful
Touch screen controls
Charming world and epic scope
Best version of the game available
Mild pop-in present from the original
Sound compression shows the game’s age
Out of place and sexist treatment of a female character