There are many games that blur the line between the action/adventure and role-playing game genres, such as Nintendo's fabled Legend of Zelda franchise. Among these titles is one of the final games released for the PlayStation 2, Ōkami (a Japanese word that can mean either "great god" or "wolf"), developed by Clover Studios, responsible for other products such as the Viewtiful Joe series and God Hand. Upon its release, Okami received universal praise despite low sales in Japan, and would receive a port to the Nintendo Wii as well as a Nintendo DS sequel, Okamiden. Does it live up to the hype?

Ōkami stars the titular goddess in lupine form, Amaterasu (Ammy for short), tasked with reviving the environs of Nippon with a little help from the Celestial Brush, which the player summons by holding the R1 button, in which case the screen turns gray and the player can paint by holding the square button. At first, Ammy's powers are limited, although as the game progresses, she obtains more, and can perform tasks with the Brush such as making bridges appear across gaps, causing trees to go into bloom, summoning wind gusts, and so forth. As Ammy revives nature (and feeds stray animals with the proper food that the player can buy at shops), she obtains Praise Orbs the player can use in the game menus to enhance her health, ink level, number of astral pouches (which, when full, restore her if she runs out of health), or money pouch to hold more money.

Ammy also acquires various types of weapons she can use to hack away at enemies in battle, which the player typically triggers by running into ominous floating scrolls or running through possessed archways. In the battlefield, Ammy squares off with a number of enemies, and can hack away at them with her main weapon (with a subweapon adding a secondary effect, for instance, the ability to block with the triangle button). Brush techniques are sometimes necessary to take down certain enemies, although in some instances the game is picky about brush strokes, and unfortunately players can't use the directional pad for more precise lines (with the D-pad oddly only used in the game menus).

Luckily, the action of battle pauses when the player summons the Celestial Brush, with the player simultaneously able to adjust the camera, as well, although in some boss fights, the camera can be a pain, as seems to be the case with most three-dimensional action/adventure games. Adding insult to injury is that the player needs to fight some of the more annoying bosses more than once throughout the game. That aside, defeating normal enemies causes them to drop ink recovery vials, health recovering units, and money the player can use to purchase various items from shops (such as health-recovering bones, of which the player may want to keep plenty), or learn new battle moves at a dojo.

Ōkami is not a terribly difficult game, what particularly with the ability to hold ninety-nine of each item, including those that can recover health, although some bosses, particularly a giant spider where the player must latch vines upon the hooks on its back, can be somewhat annoying. As mentioned before, moreover, some of the Celestial Brush moves require precision with the analog stick, which can be difficult at times. Even so, the battle system still works nicely, with a good flow to combat and battles not dragging on too needlessly, and plenty of strategy, to boot. It certainly isn't the gold standard of action/adventure gameplay, but Ōkami's combat engine works nicely overall.

Though battles flow smoothly, the game nonetheless has a few interface issues that prevent it from reaching its full potential, among them the dated use of save points, whose spacing can be somewhat poor at times, in lieu of a far more preferable save-anywhere feature, which consequentially makes Ōkami somewhat inaccessible to those with tight schedules. Moreover, while there are some points where the game circles the next plot point on the player's maps, sometimes the game leaves players with vague direction on how to advance. There are also some puzzles that can be daunting without use of a guide, and some that actually require a camera or eidetic memory, namely the encounters with Blockhead the animate wall, when the player must memorize the locations of dots before they vanish, the player afterward needing to paint where they appeared with the Celestial Brush. The game also makes the grave mistake of not allowing the players to skip through text during many cutscenes, although some are mercifully skippable. In the end, Ōkami is hardly the gold standard when it comes to interaction in action/adventure titles, and video games in general.

The story isn't a gold standard, either, although it definitely has its strong points, chiefly its backstory and deep roots in Japanese mythology. However, several things burden the plot such as the aforementioned lack of direction at times on how to advance, a typical silent protagonist, an annoying companion for Ammy, and the general shoddy way in which the game tells its story. Instead of using voice acting, // Ōkami// instead uses computer-generated voices for characters of different pitches, which can actually be somewhat annoying and make most characters generally unlikeable. Ultimately, the story isn't terrible, although the game could have definitely told it better.

The aforementioned computer-generated voices are the main burden of Ōkami's aurals, although full marks definitely go to the computer for a variety of Eastern-style pieces that are never out of place, in spite of nothing but ambient noise during nighttime. The sound effects are nice, and while the player can mute their volume to silence the grating "voices," it makes the nighttime ambience more noticeable. Overall, the music and sound are nice, although the voices are an odd design choice.

Ōkami was originally to have a generic realistic visual style, although the developers ultimately changed it to resemble Japanese sumi-e (ink and wash paintings), consequentially making the game look gorgeous, in spite of some bland textures and jaggies at times and the lack of mouths for characters, not to mention the "squishing" of heads while characters talk. Even so, the game is a true visual treat.

Finally, playing time is longer than average for an action/adventure game, somewhere from thirty-five to forty-five hours in this player's experience, with some sidequests and a New Game+ potentially stretching out playtime. In conclusion, Ōkami is undoubtedly one of the most overhyped games of all time, although said hype is understandable, given many positive aspects such as the variety in the combat and puzzles, and gorgeous music and art style. There are, however, some major flaws such as the repetition and annoyance of some boss fights and puzzles, not to mention the irritating "voice acting." Even so, Ōkami is still a good game, but nonetheless falls short of greatness.

The Good:
+Nice variety in combat and puzzles.
+Gorgeous music and art style.
+Decent replay value.

The Bad:
-Some repeated boss fights.
-Some annoying puzzles.
-"Voices" are irritating.

The Bottom Line:
A little overrated, but good nonetheless.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Difficulty: Relatively Easy
Playing Time: 35-45+ Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

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