Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ōkami (2006) / Ōkami HD (2012)

Genre: Action / Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Clover Studio (PS2) / HexaDrive (PS3 Conversion) / Ready at Dawn (Wii Conversion)

Ōkami is a strong contender for the finest Legend of Zelda game that Nintendo never made. I don’t use the comparison lightly. LoZ is one of my most treasured game franchises, so for anything to come even remotely close to it is an accolade in itself. It’ll draw comparisons with Twilight Princess mostly, principally because of the use of a wolf as protagonist, but TP didn't hit the shelves until over half a year afterwards; that they both involve a wolf is an unlucky coincidence.

Visually it's exquisite. As Ammy runs, flowers shoot up and blossom in her wake, similar to the Forest Spirit's passing in Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke (1997). (In the NA version of the game Ammy was genderless. A wolf god is okay but a female god isn't, eh?) The painterly quality is inspired by traditional Japanese watercolours and Ukiyo-e wood carving art. The beguiling nature of that style is even more magnificent when backlit. No words can do it justice.

When combat is initiated a wall springs up surrounding you and your quarry. Far from being limiting, it’s useful in that it keeps flying enemies enclosed. You can escape if you want (never!), but combat, while being frantic and highly enjoyable, isn't particularly difficult. If you exploit enemy weaknesses effectively you’ll rarely die. You attack with what’s known as Celestial Brush techniques. You can attack repeatedly, as often as you like with as many techniques as you've learned, until your Ink Pot runs dry. If that happens you’re weakened until it replenishes.

The HD release renders everything in 1080p. It makes the lines sharper and the colours more vibrant. It also added Move support (chuckle) and trophies (yawn).

The one thing that I found annoying about the game is the slow-moving text, particularly during the introduction when all you want to do is get on with the action. I adore a game with a lot of story but I dislike that I couldn't hurry its pace to my preferred reading speed. On second viewing you can often do just that but not skip it entirely; that could've been easily remedied in the update but wasn't.

The music is as alluring as the visuals. It’s inspired by traditional Japanese instrumentation and captures perfectly the majesty and beauty of nature. It got a release on CD. There were five discs; that’s how much of it there is.

5 leaps before thinking out of 5

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