Thursday, November 25, 2010

Okami: BitNick's Game To Be Thankful For - 2010

Each year at Thanksgiving, I can't help but ruminate on what I was thankful for over the time that has elapsed since last I gorged myself on the meat of the bird.

Sometimes I'm thankful for family, for a warm place to sleep, or for great friends and fun. Sometimes I'm glad I have the help I do, and others, I'm glad I was able to help someone else.

Although I am thankful for a great many of those things this year, I want to talk today about a game I am thankful for: Okami.

Parts of this article contain spoilers from here on out, so consider yourself warned!

Jo, my fellow poster and non-photoshop butcher, played Okami for the PS2 when it was first released, and she was one of the (few) people who supported it when it came out.

Figure 1: Okami Coming Out
Note the Photoshop Butchery
Jo recommended it with vigor at the time, saying that it was "Awesome," that I needed to "see it," and that I should stop "quoting her on the internet," but I was too busy to investigate her claims.

Some time later, it was revealed on the webz that there would be a Wii edition and that we should all buy it. Being as susceptible to peer-pressure as I am, I did exactly what the glowing box told me to do. I went out and bought that game as fast as my legs would carry me.

As I found out, there was no reason to rush. There were other games being released that week that were getting more attention.

...And, HOT-DANG, They Deserved It!
I started into the game, and found myself immediately hooked. I played it during every spare moment, eventually getting sick, then used my sickness as an excuse to play it all the time. Upon completing it, I found that this simple, but beautiful game had found its way into my heart, and brushed its name into my list of the best games I had ever played.

You play as the titular Okami, a wolf guardian statue who has been possessed by the spirit of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess of Shintoism. Upon arriving back on earth, Okami-Amaterasu finds that the entire world has been overrun with evil, and that only by exploring this beautiful world, and exorcising its demons can goodness return to the world.

The graphical style, reminiscent of a Japanese painting full of bold brush strokes and soft colors, was truly something to behold. I think that a phrase uttered by my wife, a non-gamer, sums up the visual style best: "You could pause the game at any time, take a picture, and hang it on your wall!"

Each character, although highly stylized, was so full of personality that you couldn't help but smile as they mused about their lives, problems, and why they were talking to a wolf. Each exchange, with enemy and ally alike, is delightful, and only gives further motivation to keep playing.

To aid you in your quest, Amaterasu has multiple tools at her disposal:

First, the divine instruments which function as equippable weapons in Okami. See that flaming disc on her back? That's one of 15 equippable divine instruments in the game, and the one you start with.

Second, being a goddess, the world that Amaterasu inhabits is hers to create, a power that is taken literally in The Celestial Brush. With the godly powers of The Celestial Brush, Amaterasu can change the world into a canvas at will, and unleash any of 13 godly powers, each utilized with a unique brushstroke, upon her friends and foes. All the powers are cool, but it's the hidden ones that you get later in the game that really make you feel like a god (or goddess, as the case my be).

Last, but not least, Amaterasu is accompanied on her journey by a feisty little bug-person named Issun. A wandering artist by trade, Issun tags along with Amaterasu (or 'Ammy' as Issun calls her) in order to learn the 13 Celestial Brush techniques, but becomes invested in the quest as time goes on.

All that said, it's some of the little moments that carry the greatest emotional strength in Okami. One that stands out immediately is what happens to a fairly minor character named Tobi. Tobi is a possessed slip of paper whose single duty it is to keep any intruders out of the lair of Ninetails, a powerful and evil enemy. After a series of progressively intense races, Tobi challenges you to one final run. When you succeed, Tobi congratulates you, thanks you for finally offering him a challenge, and then informs you that he will now die for failing to bar your way. In answer to Issun's confusion, Tobi states that he was honored to have met you, and will die with no regrets.
RIP Tobi: Never Forget
 If the emotional impact is lost on you, having never played this game before, then stop reading now and go play it. I'll wait..... And if you have any doubts that this character was loved spend some time here. That, my friends, is a 26 page long thread of Tobi discussion, and that's just one thread of many! I think that illustrates two things perfectly: 1)That Tobi was an amazing character to have been so loved in as little time as he was given, and 2)That given an infinite amount of space, video gamers would strive to fill it with discussion of the most minute and inane details of every game. YouTube is full of Tobi tributes, for crying out loud (which I did... when Tobi died).

I will level with you and say that the first (and second, and third) time that I beat Okami, I got misty-eyed. Seeing Issun choose to embrace the responsibilities he was born to fulfill, and inspire the world to believe in Amaterasu through his art was nothing less than sublime. It was a beautiful, affirming message from a stunningly well scripted and playable game. I felt inspired to be better, and a desire to do good, and if it sounds a little far-fetched to believe that a game could affect someone in that manner, then maybe you haven't played the right one yet. If a movie can do it, if a piece of art can do it, if a song can do it, then a video game can do it, too.

I have the greatest respect for Clover Studios (and to a lesser degree, Ready at Dawn for the Wii-make) and Capcom for taking a risk on a game that had more heart and soul than anything else released that year, especially when it was a shaky financial investment. "Artistic Games" that are packed to the brim with difficult to translate cultural references do not an easy localization make, but Capcom must be saluted for bringing The Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, to our shores for a life-changing visit. Today, The 8-Bit Variety Show is thankful for you, Okami!
Once Again: Note the Photoshop Butchery
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and thank you for reading!
Let us know in the comments what games you are thankful for this holiday!



  1. Well done. But seriously, quit quoting me. :)

  2. I've only heard good things about this game, and it looks awesome. I seriously need to pick up a copy and finish it, preferably before the release of OkamiDen for the DS.

  3. One of my favourite games of all time. It was funny, then sad, then shocking (the body in the well) and ultimately touching.

    Great article btw gonintendo brought me here

  4. I totally agree with you Austin. Such a wonderful, touching journey, with gameplay elements to rival the best out there.

    Thanks for commenting, and we hope you'll stick around!



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