Is there anything better than being a god? Like, a literal, controlling the world, above-human-beings-type entity?
It's doubtful, to say the least.
Okami - by Capcom
In a game where you get all the awesomeness of being a god, there are certain standards to measure up to. You have to feel like a god. You have to fight like a god. Your mere existence must be godly. Somehow, Okami not only lives up to, but exceeds those expectations. It's an amazing game where you play a really cool figure from Japanese folklore: Amaterasu, the mother of all things. AKA a beautiful, powerful wolf-like goddess.
Here are six Okami features that keep it godly.
#6 The Language
Voice acting in video games has become super-common. Almost every game on the shelves has voiced characters (and most of them are voiced by Nolan North). We tend to get a full listenable experience, with subtitles if we want to read along.
This isn't the case with Okami, though. Instead of a dialogue you can listen to and understand, Okami features… gibberish. The game begins with a soft voice speaking what almost, almost sounds Japanese, telling us the story of our protagonist.
But it's not Japanese we're hearing. It's just a made-up language. And it's pretty cool. The fact that Okami isn't voiced in a certain language means that the experience we get from it is universal. The way Issun sounds when he says something in the Japanese version is the exact same as how he says it in the English version. And the French version. And the Swedish version. We are all experiencing the same thing, which is pretty cool, when you think about the themes of overcoming evil and making the world beautiful that Okami dictates.
It also means that we're all separate from the story. Okami takes place in fictional ancient Japan, and with a made-up language in tow, even if you're Japanese, you don't feel like Nippon is something you've ever actually experienced. There is a language barrier blocking you from feeling like you're at home, which will forever make Nippon a fantasy realm, a story you're listening to, and not a world you're a part of, which is a very unique choice to make for a video game. Games, after all, usually try to make players part of their worlds. They want full immersion and realism, not to make sure the player is their own entity. It's a weird choice that works super-well.
#5 The Lore
Okami is just dripping in Japanese folklore.
Most of the named characters and creatures are from actual stories, they aren't just made up for Okami. There's a lot of history to Nippon, even if it's the history of made-up stories and tall tales.
It's really fun to just learn about the characters in Okami, and if you find yourself interested in a certain foe you faced or god you met, you can probably look it up in the menu. Awesome illustrations will accompany some info about them, and you can dive deeper and deeper into this beautiful world.
#4 The Characters
As I said, the characters from this game are generally not unique to its world. They live in Japanese legends and stories. Issun is the Japanese equivalent of Tom Thumb. Susano, properly written "Susanoo", is the Shinto god of the sea and storms, and is married to Kushinadahime. If you've played Okami, you can TOTALLY see what they did there. And of course, Amaterasu is a goddess in the Shinto myth cycle.
That's swell, but what's awesome is the personalities that Clover Studio gave these characters.
They changed the characters, transformed them, and added to them. These aren't legends anymore, and they aren't just a retelling. Okami brings these characters to life and makes them real. It adds layers to the characters and gives them story arcs that go beyond simply being gods and goddesses. Gods and goddesses have simple problems. Their stories are told so that we can learn simple truths in life. But Okami goes deeper than telling easy life lessons. Susano actually had to face his shortcomings to get the girl. Amaterasu had to meet a whole cast of characters and learn what good and evil are on earth. Issun became his own hero, had his own role to play in saving Nippon, and faced heavy, heavy losses -- especially for a sidekick.
Put simply, these ain't your grandpa's folktale characters.
#3 The Length
The first time I played through Okami, I read online that you get cool bonus stuff if it took you X-amount of time to finish the game. I believe it was "over 70 hours". I was already nearing what seemed like the climax, so I just left my PS2 on that night after I saved and kept playing. The next day I skipped playing it, and by the time I finally started playing again, I figured I would earn those bonus goodies.
Little did I know that they were basically guaranteeing you'd get those goodies, because facing Orochi was just one small step in a massive journey. I still had an entire world to explore, enemies to face, celestial brush techniques to gather, friends to meet, mini-games to finish, gods to help, villages to explore … there is A LOT to this game.
Plot-wise, it's an epic, going over a large portion of the Shinto myth cycle, even. It's not a conventional J-RPG in most ways, but at its heart it definitely is one. it ended up taking me well over 100 hours to beat Okami after using my little strategy to lengthen the experience. I'm pretty sure it would have taken me close to 100 hours anyway, though. Lesson learnt.
#2 The Overall Feel
This game certainly makes you feel like a god.
Lots of Wii games give you the full experience as far as feeling like you're actually a part of the game goes. You're actually Link swinging a sword! You're actually Travis Touchdown charging your beam katana! And yeah, it felt pretty cool using the wiimote to paint with your celestial brush.
But I first fell for this game playing the PS2, and it still felt awesome. The impact when you hit enemies, the cutting motion, the shooting of beads. It all just feels so cool. Even just running and gaining momentum is awesome. You feel like an actual wolf, and you feel like a goddess.
Plus, in the heat of battle, when it all comes down to the last celestial brush drawing, you feel so cool when you manage to drop that bomb or make that sun or cause that wind.
Okami just feels so damn cool.
#1 Okami Feature: The World
Okami is a beautiful game, using Japanese art as a theme and giving you a broken land to rebuild.
Everything really comes down to the setting, though. You're a god cast into the world -- well, a fantasy version of the world. And as you add flowers and fix streams and feed cute little animals, you bring Nippon back to everything it once was, and then some.
Shinto gods generally represent parts of life and parts of the world. Amaterasu represents the sun and the whole universe. She's the mother of all things, and her one job while she's in Nippon is to restore it. Okami is a game about restoring peace and tranquility to a world that's been overrun with fear, hatred and demons. You'll visit beautiful, quaint villages, explore dangerous caves, travel through beautiful forests and cross an arctic to do that.
Okami features a vast, open world that's worth exploring, and worth saving.