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If there were any justice in the world, Okami would have been one of the biggest hits of 2007. Arriving late in the lifespan of the PlayStation 2, this gorgeous, heavily stylised and brilliant action adventure was one of the few games worthy of comparison to an Ico or a Zelda, making the fact that it sold a fraction of the amount that the Simpsons Game or WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2008 did mildly depressing. Luckily, its release on Wii gives the UK buying public a chance to put things right. After all, isn't it a perfect fit for the Nintendo machine?
Why? Because this is the game where the brush is mightier than the sword, and being quick on the draw has nothing to do with gunplay. Not only is Okami's bold visual style based on the brushwork of classical Japanese scroll paintings, but the main tool you'll be using is what the game calls 'the celestial brush.' You play the sun god, Ameratsu, incarnate in the form of a sleek white wolf, and on the trail of a malevolent uberdemon known as Orochi. While Ameratsu has the sort of powers you might expect from a wolf - a decent running speed, some heroic leaps and a nasty set of jaws - he also has the power to wield the aforementioned art tool. At any time you can effectively pause the action and draw specific lines or shapes upon the still image, and these lines and shapes will have the power to slash enemies in half, repair broken watermills, create bombs, summon lily pads or call handy elastic vines into being. You'll only have a couple of these skills in your repertoire to begin with, but the more the game progresses, the more will be added. In other words, drawing is a huge part of the game.
Considering it's a company best known for taking PS2 properties and making them work on the PSP, Ready at Dawn has done a mostly fantastic job of making Okami work on Wii, sticking tightly to the look and feel of the original, but also fulfilling a wish list of features that most Okami fans would love to see. Clearly, the ability to draw with the remote is a biggie, but Ready at Dawn has gone beyond that. For a start, this is an even more attractive Okami than the original PS2 version. Now running in Widescreen at a full 480p, the lines seem clearer and the colours more vibrant than ever, making the illusion of a moving painting even more breathtaking than ever. Curiously, the paper effect in the background of the original appears to have been toned down, but that's a small price to pay for such dizzying imagery (even if it's a bit weird when, in cut-scene videos clearly ripped wholesale from the PS2 version, the full effect makes a sudden reappearance). It's also worth noting that - finally - you can skip whole sections of cut-scene and dialogue at a press of a button. Anyone who suffered through the drawn-out intro of the original will know what a boon this is.
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