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Your constant companion – Okami’s equivalent of Zelda’s Navi or Midna - is a jumped-up bug by the name of Issan, with a smart mouth, artistic pretensions and a rather curious leering attitude to nubile female nature spirits. During your quest you’ll also encounter a drunken Samurai torn between his obvious cowardice and his pitiful need for admiration and a weird, style-conscious warrior with a yen for introducing poncy French phrases into his speech, not to mention would-be street mole and sparrow gangsters and a dog that’s ashamed of his weak-spirited young master. The original team at Clover Studios must take credit for assembling this wonderful cast, but kudos too goes to the team that worked on the translation. I wouldn’t say that Okami has had me rolling in the aisles, but it’s certainly the sort of tale that keeps you well amused.
Stranger still, as the game goes on something really peculiar happens: the tone seems to shift more and more away from the earnest adventure side of things and towards the oddball antics that should really be going on in the background. I’m not sure how much this was a conscious decision, but while the game does lose some momentum halfway through, Okami soon recovers to tread a perfect balance between these two aspects. If you want an epic story of good against evil, then you’ve got it – and Okami even goes big on the combat mechanics and weapon upgrades that Capcom’s fanbase takes for granted. But if you take time to chill out, complete side-quests and just enjoy the vibe you’ll have an even better time.
Is it as good as Twilight Princess? Very nearly, but not quite. It’s never quite as stirring, there are times when your tame bug’s hints leave too little to the imagination, and the camera goes horribly amiss at the worst possible moments. What’s more a few of the boss battles are annoying, and it isn’t quite as long a game (though it’s significantly longer than The Wind Waker). Finally, while the dungeons and puzzles are imaginative and engaging, it must be said that nobody does them quite like Nintendo, and Okami only occasionally hits the same sort of heights. However, the fact that this game can be mentioned in the same breath as Zelda says it all. Beautiful, inspiring and unique, Okami is the sort of game that any serious gamer ought to try, then badger friends and family until they experience it too. Just get it – you won’t regret it.
An outstanding spin on the Zelda style, and proof that the PS2 can still surprise in the age of the PS3 and 360. Highly recommended.