Another day, another review. I'm trying to get through the fairly large number I originally posted on that wonderous forum of legend. This one's quite short, mostly because it feels extremely similar to a Zelda game and when you've played something so often, you tend to forget about the most obvious things. I should probably go back and rewrite this, beefing it up a little, but eh, whatever.
When I went into Okami, I wasn't all that sure what I was going to get. I hadn't done a lot of research beforehand, and even if I had, I doubt it really would have prepared me for what I was to encounter. Simply saying it's pretty steeped in Japanese culture, for example, really doesn't get across just how different it is from most games.
Okami is very Japanese. It doesn't so much embrace the culture as take a photograph and wear it as a mask, claiming that this is it's real face. The character designs, the levels, the dialogue, the menus, the gameplay, everything is as Japanese as you can get without going over there and ordering a round of sake. And this, I feel, is it's biggest flaw, because as you're starting the game, it's just overwhelming. There's no respite, save for a wacky 'sidekick' of the American persuasion, and even he seems to be a Japanese version of a spunky partner. There's so much to take in all at once, you can't simply ignore it - you have to embrace it. Once you do so though, there's a brilliant game lurking underneath.
Rather then play as the standard action hero #4,562, you actually play the reincarnation of a god, taking the form of a White Wolf. As such, you don't use weapons in the standard fare. Your basic attack is a simple headbutt, while your major assaults will be made by using a paintbrush to 'paint' the attack you wish to use. Again, it's a lot to take in at first, and it will confuse you to begin with, but once you get the hang of it, you'll start to really enjoy the different style of gameplay.
The most important aspect of any game like this is the combat, and it works fairly well, though there's a few minor niggles. Holding B to ready your brush and then moving the remote while pressing A to actually paint your move works great once you get the hang of it, though making the B button a toggle rather then a holding option would have made things a bit easier on the hand. Also, sometimes the game has trouble recognising some of the moves you make, and the close combat, which requires you to shake your remote to do the headbutt move, is a very finicky tactic I have yet to master, despite playing the game for hours.
Graphically, the cell shading looks good at first, but after a while the odd character designs and interesting application of the art style will cause people to rethink their stance. Unlike other games using similar techniques (Zelda: Wind Waker is the obvious example), this game does actually seem to age, and it hasn't done so as well as it could have done. The low resolution, presumably carried over from the original PS2 version of the game, certainly doesn't help the cause, and the odd cases of pop-up, where plants and animals suddenly appear about a meter in front of you while on the move, are more jarring then anything else.
The plot, while having a very Japanese twist, is little more then 'the bad guys were sealed up in the past, seal has been broken, go beat them back again' fare that many games have, but there's enough charm and personality behind it to keep you going, even if it is just to see where the supposed village hero pops up next, and he's a cliché himself. The people who inhabit the villages and fields you visit all have a personality, and you never mind helping them, out with the problems they have, but after a while it'll dawn on you that these are little more than the fetch quests of old. It's never enough to make you stop playing, but there's a distinct feeling of deja vu through a fair bit of the game.
Oddly, the game seem custom made for the Wii, even though the console wasn't out when the game was first released. There may be a few problems, and the actual gameplay itself may not be as revolutionary as it claims to be, but in the end there's a great game buried here. It's just a shame there's so much Japanese smothering it.