Okami HD is what you would call a unique game. Traditional Japanese culture influences the art-style, the story and just about every inch of the game’s world, Nippon. Nippon itself is a peaceful place to start with, but that peace is suddenly shattered by the forces of evil. It’s up to god of the sun, Amaterasu (in the form of a white wolf), to get things back on track.
Okami’s success largely comes from its illustrative art-style and design. Thick brushstrokes and delicate watercolour washes are used to distinguish people, landscapes and objects in the far distance. Early on in the game we’re taught that to proceed we need to ‘paint’ with our Celestial Brush. Amaterasu will learn thirteen core brush techniques which are crucial to the completion of the game. Paint a circle around a dead tree and watch it blossom into life, draw another circle over a body of water and a waterlily will miraculously appear allowing you to safely jump cross. Perhaps most usefully, though, a simple straight line will slice through either an object or an enemy standing in your way.
Combat is a major part of Amaterasu’s adventure, with several Zelda-style temple areas filled with aggressive enemies and crazy bosses. Most enemies reflect an aspect of Japanese folklore which adds a sense of authenticity and even education to Okami HD. It makes facing off against a new foe thrilling and exciting rather than tedious and repetitive. Some foes need their armour tearing off, some can only be attacked from behind and others require a combination of certain attacks to eradicate them. Most of them are weak to specific brush techniques and Amaterasu can use the reflector on her back as a melee weapon to add to your player arsenal.
Bosses are great fun in this game. Each is completely unique with a large pool of health and a specific weakness to one of the thirteen brush techniques. Character design for these foes has been intricately thought out. Bosses look menacingly large and they deal a great amount of damage if they managed to grab you. There is also a carefully constructed mix of human warriors and mythical beasts making for a good amount of combat variation.
Everything flows beautifully on the 1080p resolution of the PS4. Amaterasu glides effortlessly as she runs over fields and jumps over streams. Colour throughout the game is used to temper our emotions; open areas leave the player feeling relaxed and calm, with darker and more eerie areas of the game instilling fear and hesitation. Okami HD is always dishing out surprises, and, with the game being over forty hours long, it feels well-paced and challenging.
The musical score is also beautiful. The soundtrack is filled with traditional Japanese music and instruments such as wooden wind chimes or flutes. Music rounds out the experience of the game, flowing and ebbing along with the relaxed gameplay and dialogue, and then picking up and transforming into something more sinister and demanding as a fight scene unravels.
The transfer onto current generation consoles has smoothed out certain issues which were bothersome in the Wii port of the game. Most notably, drawing with the Celestial Brush using the Dual Shock 4 is much easier than it was when using the Wii remote. At long last, drawing always produces the effect you intended rather than some unwanted squiggly mess. This was a huge issue on the Wii, with failed attempts at drawing costing you health, time and, frankly, your sanity!
Unfortunately, some flaws do persist. The maps are still poorly labelled which means that you’ll often find yourself lost with no idea of how to unlock the next section of the game. Red circles highlight areas of interest on the map but sometimes you have to do more than stand over them to unlock a cut scene. Speaking of cut scenes they tend to drag in Okami HD. The opening section of the game is over half an hour long and, until you’ve learnt a few brush techniques, you’ll be babied through your travels of Nippon. After a while this does start to get irritating and you’ll wish there was a way to skip the heavy dialogue at the start, so you can move past the introduction and enjoy all that Okami HD has to offer. And this game really does have a lot to offer.
Overall, Okami HD succeeds in its transition to the PS4. Some frustrating issues (but not all) with earlier ports have been removed and the stunning art-style and gameplay has never been better. If you missed Okami HD first time around, or were put off by the exasperating controls, then picking up Okami HD is a no-brainer.