Okami HD

During the transitory time between console generations in 2006, developer Clover Studio made the Capcom-published Ōkami (Japanese for both “great god” and “wolf”) for the PlayStation 2, which received plenty acclaim, but didn’t sell well outside Japan, its maker ultimately shutting down. However, it would receive a port to the Nintendo Wii and a high-definition remaster for the PlayStation 3 entitled Ōkami HD, perhaps the title’s definitive version. Although the game only saw its release in digital form outside Japan, those who import the physical Japanese version yet don’t quite comprehend the language will be happy to know the English version is included in that release.

As in the original, players control the lupine goddess Amaterasu, who can run into evil scrolls floating about the fields between towns to engage in battle against a few enemies, which causes a fog to arise restricting exit from the fight, and Ammy can use an equipped weapon or subweapon, with celestial brushstroke techniques sporadically acquired that add a layer of strategy to some fights, chiefly bosses. Although winning battles doesn’t net her experience for increasing one of her stats (instead acquired through performing godly duties such as reviving dead trees), money obtained is usable to buy additional moves for various weapon types. In spite of a few repeated and rarely annoying boss fights, the battle system serves the remaster well.

One cannot completely say the same of interaction, with the developer’s biggest mistake being not making the text skippable at all times, Clover for some reason assuming that all players have the reading level of a child, and most cutscenes themselves are unskippable, made longer by said sluggish text speed. Even eight-bit titles such as the original Dragon Warrior had adjustable dialogue speed, so for the game to lack this feature is beyond inexcusable. The puzzles are generally decent, although there are a handful that can be tricky and/or perhaps require an eidetic memory. Overall, the game’s control aspect could have been better.

The story, rooted in Japanese mythology, is generally decent, although Issun is an incredibly annoying sidekick that often shows disrespect towards the goddess Amaterasu, sometimes the player. The translation is generally above average, though the localization team must have taken zoology with Elmer Fudd, as hares are erroneously referred to as rodents (instead of lagomorphs). There are some dialogues that don’t work in English, such as Susano reciting each syllable of his name when executing swords attacks. Overall, the narrative and translation are alright, but have aspects that could have been better.

The soundtrack largely has an oriental style, which definitely fits the game and is generally enjoyable, although many places at night are silent, and one decision Clover made, rather than to give the characters actual voices, was to have digitized mumbling, squeaking, and whatnot sometimes resembling the speech of Charlie Brown teachers, and while it’s possible to mute them by turning the sound volume all the way down, doing so also silences the decent sound effects. All in all, sound is good, but the developers could have found a better solution to the issue of the odd digital speech.

The HD port features an upscaled version of the original’s gorgeous watercolor visual style, which for the most part looks appealing, aside from some occasional blurry texturing and the odd choice of having the heads of speaking characters “squish,” which looks asinine, with characters lacking mouths, as well, and always having closed eyes. Even so, the graphical style is one of the main draws to the game.

Finally, the game will last players around twenty-five hours, more if they decide to play the New Game+, with this alongside trophies providing plenty lasting appeal.

Ultimately, Ōkami HD is for the most part a solid high-definition port that hits many of the right notes with regards to its solid combat, nice mythological narrative, enjoyable oriental soundtrack, its unique visual style, and its endless replayability. It does have issues regarding things such as the repeated, sometimes annoying boss battles, the unskippable text and cutscenes at many times, the rare point of no return (although the game isn’t that difficult, so this is somewhat excusable), the irritating digitized voices, and some weird visual choices, but those who missed out on the original version owe it to themselves to play the PS3 port.

The Good:
+Solid battle system.
+Enjoyable mythological narrative.
+Great oriental soundtrack.
+Unique visual style.
+Plenty replay value.

The Bad:
-Some recycled, sometimes annoying boss fights.
-Unskippable text and cutscenes at many points.
-A few points of no return.
-“Voices” can be annoying.
-Odd artistic choices.

The Bottom Line:
A great HD port.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Localization: 8/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: 25+ Hours

Overall: 8/10

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