Okami E3 2005 Hands-On

This artistically inspired action adventure title set in a mythical Japan is playable for the first time at E3 2005. Read our hands-on impressions.

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We've been looking forward to getting our hands on Okami pretty much since we first laid eyes on it, so we eagerly took the time to play through the two sequences of the game that are on display on the E3 show floor. In the game, you play as the reawakened Amaterasu, a god that's been reborn as a wolf and whose mission is to restore Japan to glory. The game is clearly inspired by traditional Japanese watercolor painting and calligraphy, so it literally looks like a painting in motion (check out all our direct-feed videos and see for yourself). It also seems to boast some solid play mechanics, though just experiencing the richly imagined world of the game was impressive enough for us.

Okami is apparently only 30 percent complete (it won't be out until next year), but already it looks fantastic and runs quite smoothly. Amaterasu, a white wolf with a spinning, fiery ring floating on her back, can run swiftly, jump quite high, and execute claw and tackle attacks. She can also communicate with the various characters she'll come across, though she'll also gain a variety of much more distinctive abilities as the game progresses. For example, there's the celestial brush: pressing and holding R1 causes the game to pause and turn into a sort of brownscale version, as if the onscreen image were just committed to parchment. Then you can control a calligraphy brush to paint ink onto the screen--symbolizing Amaterasu's focused powers. In the parts of the game we played, this technique was used to complete constellations missing stars, create a bridge over a magical river, smash open a gate, and finish off opponents with what's called a power slash. This is probably the most distinctive play mechanic we experienced.

Combat involved using the calligraphy brush to finish opponents who've been weakened. The fighting itself was pretty solid, and it featured a camera that gave us a good angle on all our foes, as well as tight, responsive controls. It was easy, though, as we could easily jump up and tear into the few weird but wimpy enemies we encountered.

Just running around in Okami is fun. One of the many neat effects in the game is how the world seems to come to life just from coming into contact with Amaterasu. Flowers and greenery bursts forth from her every footstep, and lily pads spring up in the water when she swims.

Okami seems to have a lot of character interaction and dialogue in it, as the demo involved a great deal of one-sided conversations between Amaterasu and her little spirit advisor, Issun. Amaterasu doesn't seem to actually speak, so Issun speaks to and for her instead. The dialogue is all in-text, and already the English localization seems solid. For a game that has sort of a formal air about it, you may be surprised to learn that Okami actually has a quirky sense of humor.

It's difficult for any game to stand out amid the bustle of E3, but we think Okami most certainly does. A lot remains to be seen about how the gameplay itself will pan out, but it was still a pleasure to finally get to see this game up close and get our hands on it. We're looking forward to bringing you more information on Okami, which is scheduled to ship sometime next year.

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