Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Okami Retrodotal

Okami’s unusual visuals are still beautiful years after its release

"It’s like someone read my mind for what would make a perfect video game, and then made it." So said a younger, longer-haired Jeffrey Matulef in the autumn of 2006. That’s how I felt when I first played Okami. Though I don’t know if the word "played" does it justice; more like when I absorbed, consumed, and experienced Okami.

The Legend of Zelda has always been my favorite long-running game franchise, so the idea of a Zelda clone by Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe) that looked as good as Okami did was enough to launch it straight to the top of my most anticipated games ever list. I knew it would look great, and I knew it would play great, but I wasn’t exactly holding my breath on it having an interesting story or well-written script. Much to my surprise, and eternal delight it did. The story was still your basic tale of good versus evil, albeit with a Princess Mononoke-esque environmental message about replenishing nature. But the characters were complex and interesting, with developer Clover side-stepping the disconnect I usually get with silent protagonists by making Ameterasu a wolf goddess. It was a fantastic way of explaining why she’s smarter than most, yet cannot communicate with people. There’s even glimpses of how she looks from other people’s perspectives where her ethereal decorative wounds are invisible.

So enamored was I with Okami that while I wanted nothing more than to continue playing it non-stop, I also didn’t want it to end. At the same time, I had less than two weeks to beat the game prior to the start of the Fall term, knowing once that happened, I’d have practically no time to game. As a result, I’d made a concerted effort to time it right so I’d beat it just as summer vacation would come to a close.

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