Okami: Not all Powerful Females are Warriors

Okami is a video game that I was exposed to back in college. (My friends were computer game majors.) And I was introduced to it by my roommate who had been following the development of the game for a long time. She adored the game since it featured a wolf as the lead. (For once, a reason for the silent lead to actually be silent! Woof!) We were both lovers of all things Japan and the game’s art style was in Japanese ink painting. Which, if you know anything about gaming, 3D realistic was the way to go even back then. Clover studios tried it and didn’t like the results. (To put this friend into perspective, she also loved SMT: Digital Devil Saga, the RPG where you play part demons that can eat enemies. Yes. EAT. But that was also based on Bhuddism and Hindu Mythology sooo..)

Okami was about Okami Amaterasu and her fight against the minions of Yame in order to cleanse and defend Nippon. The story line too many of the stories and legends of ancient Nippon (and before) and wove them into a cohesive story about Amaterasu and the people she was helping. The goal of the story was to earn praise of the locals by helping them, cleanse the land of cursed zone and solve logic puzzles, oh and fight monsters. Lots, and lots, and lots of monsters. As Amaterasu progressed through the game and overcame challenges or inspired the people of Nippon, she would regain her 13 powers of the brush.

With the brush, you could ‘draw’ on the screen using your controller to do magic spells. These magic spells ranged from restoring/mending objects, growing plants, moving water/fire/lightning/ice, walking on walls and slowing down time. This was a really innovative style of game play at that time and inspired other games.

I always felt that Okami was a game that not only would appeal to boys (most game studio’s target demo) because of the fights and the bosses, and also to girls because of well, the pretty graphics, the style of game play (at least the first half of it) and the multiple female characters. Though it’s not for children. (Sake, bouncing boobs, and so on and so forth.)

Amaterasu, the silent wolf lead, is well, a female, based on the Japanese Goddess of the Sun, Amaterasu with her divine mirror and beads. (The third divine weapon was the sword, which also had significance to Amaterasu in Japanese Mythology.) There were also several major female characters throughout the game that were important, even if they weren’t all warriors. Female characters don’t have to be warriors to be strong characters and strong women. 

Kushi’s bravery to face Orochi and her sake brewing helped Amaterasu and Susano (a male warrior) defeat the 8 headed dragon. Himiko and Otohime were two Queens whose bravery, abilities and willingness to sacrifice themselves for a cause they believed in, helped find Oni Island and allowed Amaterasu to actually get there. (Otohime did this while pregnant too. Multiple props to her badassery.) There was a female villainess and despite the fact the game has been out for 10 years or so now, I don’t want to spoil it for you! Just to say, that she is there and man does the game keep you guessing. Then Kai and Lika in the last arc are important in helping Amaterasu navigate the forest of confusion and keeping Nippon from turning into a frozen wasteland. Plus, there were other female characters that Amaterasu helped too, Princess Fuse, Moon Maiden Kaguya, the Sasa Sanctuary daughter and so on and so forth.

Yes, they were all supporting players. Without their help, and prayers, and belief, Amaterasu wouldn’t have been able to succeed in her quest.

The end of the game in the fight against Yame (who was a big ball, sigh, what is it with the Japanese…) there was a large emotional pay out because of the structure of the game and all the work and help Amaterasu had provided to the people. (In order to level Ammy up, you had to get praise to increase health, ink pots for magic, lives and increase the money pouch.)

I was really sad and upset when Capcom closed Clover Studios in favor of making another Resident Evil rather than Okami 2 that they’d clearly set up in the end of the first game! Because, I wanted more cleansing, helping people and earning praise shenanigans.

That’s the upside of Okami.

But there is a downside to the game. It’s long. I mean, it’s long. Don’t start unless you’ve got 40 to 60 hours to put into it. There are a lot of side quests and a whole bunch of collectibles to find. And yeah, you need a lot of money in order to get some of the higher level magic spells and divine instruments and fighting techniques, so you will be doing a large amount of fishing and minion fighting.

And because it’s long and because they spaced out getting the brush techniques. It’s A) easy to forget the earlier techniques and when you need to use them. And B) the later techniques and even some of the middle techniques aren’t explored to their full potential. Ice in particular and even Wind falls into this category.

The second half of the game also becomes less about restoring the land and more about dungeons and monster fighting which makes it less innovative and more like every other platformer game out there ever. In fact, the last third of the game, the Northern arc after Ninetails and before going into the Ark of Yamato, is mostly exposition. I mean lots of boring, repetitive, exposition, where they tell you the same things at least three times. The first 2/3 of the game, they spend that time having you “relive” the story and hand holding your way on what to do next in Sei-an City. (Kusa Village is also unmemorable despite being between Kamiki and Sei-an.) The last 1/3 of the game, forget hand holding (trying to figure out what to do next can be a bit of a chore and it’s a bit jarring) and the tale of the Ark of Yamato gets told, over, and over, and over. ENOUGH ALREADY. I GET IT.

I mean, sure the stump city of the Poncles was great and going back in time was sort of fun? (Except this means you defeat Orochi 3 times in the game. And let me tell you, he’s not that interesting of a boss.)

Thus, I tend to forget the second half of the game. It’s annoying. It’s boring. I dislike dungeons and racing clocks. I spend too much time facing bosses that I’ve already defeated. Can I please go back to clearing cursed zones and making cherry trees BLOOM?

Despite this, I do love the game. I think it had a lot of potential and really did break some boundaries of the way games were made and stories were told. It was also beautiful. Don’t let the video fool you. The PS2 version wasn’t that fuzzy. If it had been that fuzzy, it would have been unplayable.

They did make a digital HD download of Okami for PS3, which is too bad because I prefer hard copies of my games. (Just a quirk.) Otherwise, in order to play it again, I will have to open and set up my PS2. Fortunately, the let’s play on Youtube reminded me why I won’t be bothering anytime soon. (Even if I did yell at the screen a lot at the player.)

If you have the time for it, love Japanese legends and lore and enjoy platformers. I do recommend Okami.

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