Unfortunately, the reworked Wii controls bring to mind the phrase that begins ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Moving Ameratsu around is not a problem, but the basic dash and bite combat moves have now been moved from a simple button press to a shake of the remote, while the celestial brush controls aren’t quite as sensibly implemented as we might have hoped for. Jerking the remote to get the standard attack isn’t just tiring; you have to keep your jerks to a certain rhythm, and this might take you an hour or so to get used to. Even later on, in the midst of a fraught boss battle, you’ll find yourself wishing for something as simple and direct as just pressing X. The celestrial brush, however, is nearly, very nearly, a game breaker. For the first ninety minutes or so of play I spent a lot of time wondering what I was doing wrong. I froze the action, tried to trace the perfect shape, and nothing happened. I’d try the quick, straight stroke that brings on Ameratsu’s power slash attack, and fail just about every time. In one particular trial this was infuriating, and I could feel the same veins in my temple throbbing that last had a workout in Ninja Gaiden II.
I eventually worked out that a bold, rapid stroke was better than an accurate one, and changed the way I approached the brush. This helped a lot, but the controls are far from intuitive and more than a bit oversensitive. My concern is that this may put off the very people who should really be embracing Okami this time around. After all, there are a lot of Wii owners out there who have grown bored of Wii Fit and finished Mario, and are looking for something else with some meat to pass the time.
This would be a shame, nay, a tragedy, because once you get used to it the brushwork is reasonably manageable, and the rest of the game is as magical as it ever was. Okami takes itself less seriously than Zelda, and while it misses out on some of the epic narrative drive that made The Twilight Princess so enthralling, it makes up for it in quirky laughs, surprisingly ribald humour and sheer, irresistible charm. Your constant companion, an egomaniacal, worryingly randy bug called Issan, gets the lion’s share of the funny lines, but the drunken, cowardly samurai, Susano, and the peculiar metrosexual warrior Waka, are equally fabulous creations. The game’s mix of epic questing and small scale side quests is similar in balance to Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker or Ocarina of Time, and every bit as appealing. The whole thing has a brilliant, good times vibe.