"Transcendental work"5.0 starson by Scott Gardener
Pros: One of those rare, great pieces of work
Cons: Some nits to pick, see below; not meant for casual gaming
Summary: Okami is for video games what The Cure's "Disintegration" or Led Zeppelin's officially untitled fourth album is to music, one of those works that's so brilliantly artistic that you don't even think about the imperfections, because you are drawn in to the beauty and accomplishment of the work itself. This game is already a cult phenomenon, spawning considerable amounts of fan art on sites like DeviantArt and the winner of the hall Cosplay contest at A-Kon 18 in Dallas. It takes the medium of video gaming and transforms it into art. For me, it is the specific reason why I expressly did not want the 40 Gig Playstation 3, which lacked backwards compatability. I made sure the 80 Gig model could play it.
But, Okami is not for causal gaming. The opening sequence that sets the story in motion before even getting to game play is perhaps 20 minutes long. The next hour and a half is then spent introducing both story elements and game play elements.
Visually it is quite stunning. (More so when played on the PS3, which smoothens out the picture with 1080p upscaling.) It looks and feels as if one is living in a traditional Japanese painting. The characters speak in murmurs with subtitles written in brushstroke-like text, but its surprisingly not distracting. It is a rather kitchy quirk, but it adds to the dreamlike feel of the images, which involve surreal symbolism (painting stars in the sky, for instance) and emotional use of color versus black-and-white.
It's a very intellectual piece that is very deeply layered. And yet, it (minus, perhaps, a few brief hints at sexuality) could also be played by children. (Granted, it might go over the head of a six-year-old.)
I have learned that a version of it appears to be forthcoming for the Wii. I am eager to see how it is implemented, as the Wii's motion controller should flow quite beautifully with the painting aspect of the game. (I do wish PS3 SIXAXIS support existed, but it seems doubtful, with a PS2 version already out, that a PS3 version will be forthcoming. Note also that I considered importing a Dual Shock 3 controller expressly for restoring the rumble feature I'm presently missing, though it's not essential for game play, and its absense hasn't really been felt in my experience of the game.) I do hope the Wii version treats it to 16:9 widescreen, even if that console lacks HDMI, or for that matter, high definition altogether.
Okami is one of the driving forces that got me back into gaming after a long absence. It is so completely different from anything I've seen before. It's brilliant and beautiful, more an interactive storytelling experience than the familiar rehash of sword-fighting quests and first person shooters. This surreal and elegant treatment of Japanese tradition elevates video gaming to art unlike anything else I've seen so far.