Okami is one of the greatest videogames ever made. Yes, it's that good. Of course, that's in general game terms rather than a comment specifically aimed at the Wii version. Okami jumped to the top of 'Best Games Ever' lists when it was on the PS2, right around the same time when everyone else ignored it. That Capcom is promoting this Wii-adapted remake as "the best game you've never played" then is a rather bold admission, because it's rare that you'll see a publisher admitting its failings this openly. But then, this is Okami we're talking about and it's wonderful to see Capcom realising that if there was ever a game that deserved a second chance at success, it's this one.
So what is it about Okami that makes it so great? Most likely, it's the Zelda factor. While there are multitudes of 3D action adventure games out there cluttering up the shelves today, virtually none of them capture the magical spark that makes Nintendo's classic franchise so special. None of them bar Okami, that is. Still, actually pinning down what that spark relates to is somewhat difficult. After all, if it wasn't then countless other developers would have managed to copy it by now, right?
The Myth Element
It's not impossible to hazard a guess though. Is it the exquisite visual style, mimicking traditional Japanese art by using brushstrokes and watercolours to depict the world? The absolutely massive game world that has so much for our wolf/god/heroine Amaterasu to discover, you'll still be playing long after the 30-plus hours it takes to complete the main quest have passed? The wonderful story packed with interesting characters, Japanese mythology and plenty of sly humour? In truth, it's all of these things and more besides. Clearly, Okami is a great deal more than just the sum of its accomplished parts.
But isn't all that old news? It certainly seems like it considering the rave reviews garnered by the PS2 game many moons ago, so it might be better to concentrate on how developer Ready At Dawn has handled the Wii version instead. Obviously, the conversion - because it's not really a port, since Ready At Dawn had to build it from the ground up - changes very little of the core game. Indeed, bar the luscious watercolour visuals looking a tad more vibrant, it's very much business as usual for Okami (with that business lying in the realms of epic fantasy adventure gaming). Not surprisingly then, the only real differences lie with the controls and while these take a tiny bit of practice to get used to, they actually work really well.
Use of the Wii's motion controls is split between performing several moves with Amaterasu and wielding the Celestial Brush, with both being used throughout the game in equal measure. The former relies on quick flicks of the Remote or Nunchuk to make Amaterasu dash forwards (smashing anything breakable in her way) or dodge in the direction of the flick (once you've learned the Fleetfoot move, that is).
Move into a combat situation and Remote flicks make you strike at enemies instead, but these swipes need to be timed perfectly to make them work. You have to flick the Remote just as the first attack ends to initiate the next one. Some US reviewers have criticised this but, to be honest, it's actually something of a blessing as it adds a much needed layer of skill to the previously too-easy battles of the PS2 game. Needless to say, waggle merchants with only the ability to furiously wave the Remote around like a maniac need not apply. You'll actually need some gaming ability if you want to do well here.