jaqen_hghar's Ōkami (Wii) review

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One of the most beautiful games out there

Finally. Okami for the Wii. I had seen a bit of this game back when it arrived at the PS2, but being a person that more or less dislike Playstation, I did not want to know too much about the game. If I did, I would most likely needed a PS2 just for this game.
But now it is here, and I knew I had to have it. I knew precious little about the game. I knew you played a wolf, which also happened to be the sun god. I also knew you could use the "Celestial Brush" to paint, and I knew it had interesting graphics. So I buy it, I put it on, and boy was I in for a ride.

From the very start, with the traditional Japanese art in the intro, I was hooked. In the beginning of the game, I did think it would be a slow game, with a lot of dialogue and cutscenes, 'cause it did take I while before you could really... well, move. But I soon learned that the game was not slow in any way.

You play Amaterasu, the Sun God (goddess, but in the game she is genderless), which has taken the form of a white wolf. Right away you meet up with a strange little fellow called Issun. Which is small in the basic sense of the word, as he is mistaken for a bug several times. Your quest is to vanquish the eight-headed serpent demon called Orochi. which has covered the land in darkness. To do this you will have to rejuvenate the guardian saplings spread about. Sounds easy? Well, it isn't that hard. But it sure is fun.

You see, you have a powerful tool at your disposal. The Celestial Brush. With this, you pause the game, and use the very game world as your canvas. As you progress through the game, you learn new techniques you can use. It doesn't take long before you can slice things in half, make bombs out of thin air, make the sun appear in the sky and make living things grow. All of the techniques have specific uses important for your quest, but some can also be used more for fun. Like the rejuvenation technique, which you need for those saplings, can also simply be used to make plants appear. Or grow threes which lasts for a few seconds. It is really fun. And while some things are a bit hard to get right in the beginning, or even at the end (circles can be a pain), the motion controls usually work well. They are worse in combat actually.

Which is pretty easy. Shake the wii-mote, and you attack. If you wear a deflector, you hit once. To use combos, you need to time the next shake. This is where I have had some problems, since my frantic shaking often doesn't register. But using rosary beads is another story. You just need to shake once, latch the beads onto an enemy, then shake shake shake! Yes, it might seem too easy, but throw in a lot of moves you can do, plenty of weird enemies and lots of brush techniques... believe me, combat is fun.

And for the graphics... beautiful. Simply beautiful. The colorful waterpaint-look is gorgeous, and I really love it. There are some few graphical problems here and there, but they are so few it doesn't matter. Some of the graphics will leave you just sitting there. Like the first time you rejuvenate an area. You see, before you do that, the area will be mostly a Cursed Zone. A bleak desert of red, black and grey. But when you liven up the guardian sapling... true beauty in a video game. Seriously. I am playing through the game a second time now, skipping every dialogue and video, except those. It is great to watch.

Even though this is a traditional adventure game ala Legend of Zelda, you can level up a few things, giving it a bit of an RPG touch. Your healthbar, number of inkpots, extra life slots and purse can all be upgraded as long as you have enough praise. Which you receive by doing good deeds. Feed animals, dig up four-leaf clovers and rejuvenating them etc all give you praise.

Storywise this game is far above most games these days. Rooted deeply in japanese folklore, you get a lot of story for your money. There are always new twists, always new things to take in. And when you think you have beaten the game, you learn that you are really not even halfway there. In addition to that, you have a lot of optional things to do, sidequests, things to search for, and just places to explore. I spent 34 hours beating the game the first time. About 2 of those are pure exploring. And I still have heaps of things to find and do.

So it is a good thing the game comes with something most adventure games should have. A "game+ mode". That is, once you have beaten it, you can start over. Just with your character as she was at the end of the game. You still need to get all the quest related items, and some of the more powerful items, as most of your moves. So you cannot doublejump, use the best weapon in the game, or use any of your celestial brush-techniques right away. But everything else is intact.

Even the music is great. The first time I hear the Shinsu Field song, I knew I would love this game more and more.

You have to look long for a game like this. And I am pretty sure there won't be one for many years. Everything from the graphics to the story is superb, making this one of the best experiences I have had on my Wii, and it even is one of my best gaming experiences ever. So if you haven't already done so, buy this game. It is the least you can do.

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