A Spiritual Journey

User Rating: 9.5 | Okami WII
I want to premise this reader review by saying, the score is really irrelevant. Think of that aspect of this review as simply a gauge of the game's playability and overall value, because the actual experience greatly transcends such trivial considerations.

Okami has been, for me -- as I'm sure it has been for many people -- a game I've meant to get to for what seems like such a long time already. Well, after zipping through tons of games where I do lots of killing -- often mindless -- I was ready for something different. I went to the Gamefly website and began sifting through their selection to see if anything would pique my interest. Sure enough, Okami popped up, and I remembered it was something I always wanted to try. After having just finished GTA: Chinatown Wars (DS), I was ready for a change.

Sure, it might sound crazy that I could make such a drastic jump in themes, but such is life. There is a time for letting off steam or acting silly, and then there's a time for Okami. If you're reading this review, you likely already know at least a little something about the game, so I won't go into great detail about the actual gameplay. What I really want to relay is what I've taken away from the experience and continue to enjoy about the game.

But there are some things to remark about in terms of gameplay, so let me begin with that. On Wii, the controls for Amateratsu (the main character you play as) work really well. You have analog control over her movement with the stick on the Nunchuk, hit the A button to jump, and thrust foward on the Wii Remote to headbutt. Attacking is mapped to waggle, and though it isn't necessarily great, it works fine.

The only issues I have, really, with the game are the inconsistencies with input recognition when using the Celestial Brush (if you're not familiar with what that is or what it does, please look it up, as it would take far too long to describe the role it plays in this game). I lost count of how many times I had to redraw symbols to execute the action I intended.

That said, I've learned to work around it, and it never caused me any great frustration. It was disappointing mostly because the rest of the game was so close to perfection.

And that is the essence of Okami. The story. The artwork. The beauty. All of the love and fluid expression that was poured into this...thing. It is almost another chapter in one of the great books of spiritual teaching. Regardless of your beliefs (Christian here), the Shinto mythology used here is precious. Simple but powerful themes and ideas are weaved throughout the game, and they're never thrust upon the player, but rather offered as leaves on the breeze.

The artwork, too, cannot be understated, not just for its technical beauty, but because it is the right hand in telling this story. Its power is delicate yet unbreakable.

I feel like I have told you almost nothing about this game, although I've tried to tell you so much about what it means to me. I really have yet to play another game quite like it. I've played many great games. Half Life 2 -- one of my favorites. Metroid Prime 3 -- another top-tier game for me. But Okami was a true spiritual experience and a work of art I want to always have on hand when life gets me down. If you're looking for such a game, now you know one exists. Check it out.