Praise the Sun

Praise the Sun

With the rarity of an eclipse does a game capture my heart, mind and attention to the point that it is all that I play.

One such game is Ōkami, an action-adventure/puzzle/platformer game, developed by Clover Studios (PlayStation 2), Ready at Dawn (Wii) and HexaDrive (HD PlayStation 3 remake). The game is about the clichéd idea of saving the world from evil forces, but, as well as the main goal, you have to restore people’s faith in the gods so you can restore your own power in order to defeat the Ruler of Darkness, Yami. All of this you do as a wolf incarnation of the Shinto sun goddess, Amaterasu.

The creators’ inspiration for making the game came from an assortment of Japanese legend, myth and folklore, with a mish-mash of randomness that isn’t culture or time-sensitive, such as the character Waka using French words and phrases such as ma chérie and bonjour.

The graphic style of Ōkami is one of a kind in the fact that it is based on sumi-e, or ink wash painting, style, which uses black ink in varying concentrations. They also use cel-shaded graphics, a type of rendering used to make 3D objects appear flat. The combination of both creates a beautiful graphic style unmatched by any other games I’ve ever played.

Encountering enemies throughout the game isn’t random, as you encounter them by touching Demon Scrolls, which send you to the demon’s own realm. The exception to this is the times when encountering a new enemy is vital to progressing in the story.

The combat style is just as noteworthy as the graphic style. There are three weapon types to choose from, based off the Imperial Regalia of Japan: Reflectors (mirrors), Rosaries (bead necklaces worn by monks) and Glaives (sword-like weapons). Each weapon has its pros and cons, and each weapon can be used to make quick work of enemies, depending on your play style. You can also equip weapons as sub-weapons, which can have its advantages. This makes the combat in Ōkami the most distinctive and my favorite of any game.

Another combat instrument that adds to the individualistic perfection is the Celestial Brush, a brush that Amaterasu, and her child in the sequel, Ōkamiden, wields that controls “the very fabric of existence.” There are 13 different brush gods, each based off of a symbol of the Chinese zodiac. The techniques range from being able to control water and fire to controlling time itself.

Another addition to the game is the accessories, called Holy Artifacts. Each Holy Artifact has a different ability, ranging from the Holy Bell, which keeps Demon Scrolls away at night, to the String of Beads, which makes you invincible, gives you infinite ink and makes your attacks 10 times more powerful.

With a compelling story driven by faith in the gods, friendships and sacrifices, Ōkami brings a unique feel to the gaming world, and is one of my all-time favorite games.