Amaterasu

 

If someone asks me what my favorite video game of all time is, there is a good chance my answer will be Okami. This game is unforgettable of it’s creativity, characters, and story. The atmosphere is all about Japan, it’s culture, and mythology. Let’s dive in shall we?

 

The land of Nippon (otherwise known as the English butchery word for Japan in Japanese) is in grave danger by an ancient evil(s). In the chaos of darkness taking over the land, a cherry blossom spirit brings back to life the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. This isn’t the Goddesses true form though, nope, she in the form of a wolf because I guess that’s just how she decided to appear in the world of mortals.Your goal is basically to save Nippon from the ancient evil (that you have a past with) plaguing the land.

Cherry Blossom Spirit Sakuya

So what’s it like being a Goddess in the form of a wolf? I say it’s perfect in originality and sets part of the atmosphere that I love in this game. Being a Goddess in the form of a wolf brings in this feeling that things are always greater than they seem.

 

Being a wolf effects the way people interact with you, and how you interact with them. Back in the historical period of Japan this game is set in, wolves (especially white wolves) are seen as sacred. Because of that, most villages and characters treat you with kindness and respect. And of course you can’t talk to them, you’re a wolf! Instead the character talk to you. Since they don’t know of your name or that you’re a Goddess, they often give you nicknames like Whitey, Snowy, Pooch, or Mutt. They pet you, you can bite them, there is this whole playful appearance mixed with sacred nature aspect about the whole interaction with people in this game that I love.

 

Screenshot of Kushi petting Amaterasu

 

Of course you’re not a lone wolf, you do have a partner. The rather annoying, perverted, bug-sized sprite named Issun. When I first met the character I gave a long sigh and didn’t want him to accompany me through the game. But actually, the character kinda grew on me. He wasn’t a boring character. He had feelings, flaws, and developed. His perverted nature actually did make me laugh now and then. He was needed to communicate between Amaterasu and the other characters since Amaterasu can’t talk being a wolf and all. But he didn’t do it so often that it took away the interactions I love.

 

Amaterasu with Issun

 

Okay, I’ll cut straight into what makes the game what it is…and that is the graphics and design. The entire game looks like a Japanese painting! The lines, colors, and characters are all look like they’ve been creations of paintbrush and ink! Everything is just simply that! You look at the trees and they look like something out of a storybook. The background has swirls for wind and drawn mountains. The faces of the character’s aren’t detailed, they are kept simple and yet show so much character just by looking at them. Like Mr. and Mrs. Orange have oranges sitting on their heads, Himiko wears a crown of flames, Waka wears a ridiculous hat with wings and stilt-like shoes, and that kid with a dragonfly on a leash! There is just so much creativity in this game!

Mr. and Mrs. Orange

 

Along with the painting-like world, guess how you fight beasts and save Nippon? You paint! Amaterasu’s tail doesn’t have a odd black tip for no reason, nope, her tail is literally a paint brush. Paint a circle in the sky and you can make sun rise, paint a swirl and you make wind, paint a slash and you can chop a tree down, draw from water to a person and you can get them wet! Amaterasu’s God powers are done by painting. At the push of a button, time stands still, and you can paint. This puts the creativity of the game to a whole other level. But it’s not so easy, you have to find and learn all the paintbrush techniques as you go through the game. You don’t know them from the start.

Painting a circle around a tree to make it bloom

Some of Amaterasu's weapons

Painting isn’t the only thing you use though. Amaterasu also carries weapons of sorts from swords, to rosemary beads, to shields. Unlike painting though, there are few possibilities with them. Like any ordinary fighting game you can slash and block.

Ninetails

The monsters in this game are unforgettable. I’ll never forget orochi, the dragon with eight heads and a mountain for a body. The spider who is half woman.  Blight, the disease taking over the Emperors body. The nine-tailed fox that tricks you. Those are just examples of the boss fights though. The creatures you commonly battle are just as creative. There are imps who play musical instruments and use them to fight you, elemental wheels with a nose, ear, eye, or whatever at their center.  There are crows that have combined with the souls of dead swordsmen. There are huts on legs you fight!

Another thing in combat I find amusing is that when entering a battle, a wall of Kanji traps you. Kanji! I was studying kanji in school while playing this game and kanji are really difficult to memorize.

Most people aren’t too familiar with Japanese mythology. Me being on of the lucky ones, was blown away by how much Japanese mythos and culture was put into this game. It is just as based on Japanese myth as God of War is based on Greek myth. Amaterasu is a Shinto Goddess for one, that everyone basically understands. But did you know that the character Susano is based off the storm God of Shinto myth? Did you know that Waka is based off of a historical swordsman named Minamoto no Yoshitsune who was called Ushiwakamaru in his childhood. In the Japanese version he is known as Ushiwaka and in the American version he is known as just Waka. Bet you didn’t know that did you?

Waka

What else of Japanese history, culture, and myth is to be found in this game? The bosses Nechku and Necku are based off twin owl demons in Ainu lore and there is a legend of them kidnapping Amaterasu but she is saved by an Ainu warrior, who appears as Oki in the game. Mr. and Ms. Cutter are based off a legend about a jealous wife cutting out the tongue of a crow her husband was nursing back to health. The nine-tailed fox is based off a legend of a young woman who was beautiful and good at everything and turned out to be a kitsune (also known as a fox demon) who was making the Emperor sick as a plot to steal his throne.

 

Well, there is a lot. I could write about the myths forever. Now I want to write about my one problem about the game, IT’S TOO EASY.

 

Yep, the game is too easy. Only once on my first play through did I die, and you know what? When I died I came straight back to life in the middle of the fight because I had four filled astral pouches. In this game you start out with one pouch that you fill with food. Once filled with like 200 scraps of easy-to-come-by food (I could just headbutt people, chop down trees, break things and I’d get so much food!) then that pouch is automatically used to bring you back to life IF you die is with practically IMPOSSIBLE.

Okay, impossible is over the top. You can die, but I never did. When I don’t die once in a game, I feel like there is a problem. I’m the type of person who wants to feel like the game as some difficulty so that when I beat certain parts, I feel a little warm inside. In the middle of a fight if I’m low on healthy, I could actually just cut some grass and get health from that if not use the items I NEVER USE BECAUSE THE GAME IS TOO EASY.

The game does make up for this however. In this game there are one hundred beads scattered throughout Nippon. Some you find, some people give you after you accomplish a task, and finding these beads will give you the power of immortality, AS THOUGH I DIDN’T FEEL IMMORTAL ALREADY.

 

Getting these hundred beads were difficult. This is when I discovered that difficulty in this game has nothing to do with combat except once when I had to get a certain bead by going through a demon gate which I think showed me a glimpse of hell but that’s not the point. The difficulty is in knowing what to do and using your brain on certain tasks.

 

Now I’ll tell you the most difficult thing in this game that got a crown. THOSE BLOCKHEADS. These creatures are truly from the deepest corners of Hell. They block your way as you hit them and suddenly you see a bunch of weak spots glitter on their bodies for a matter of seconds. You’re supposed to take your paintbrush and put some ink on all those weak points in the correct order. Think of it as a memory game. They were not hard till I got to the last one.

BLOCKHEADS!!!

The last one was optional but he guarded one of those sacred beads I wanted so…I ENDURED THIS TRAGIC BATTLE THAT WASN’T EVEN A BATTLE. Over and over I hit him, he showed his weak points, and I painted on those spots. I went as far as to get my friend to mark the TV screen where each weak spot was. WHEN THAT DOESN’T WORK YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG. I VIDEO TAPED IT AND THAT DIDN’T WORK.

 

Yes…I got it eventually. But that part left a scar on my brain.

Orochi

The replay value of this game is incredibly high. After beating the game you get rewards that you keep and can have in your next playthrough. Not just that but is game is LONG. It can be about sixty hours of your time. And I say it’s time worth spent.

Okami is an amazing game. You’ll never play anything like it…unless you play Okamiden but that’s basically Okami with a pacifier. If you own a playstation 2 or WII then PLAY OKAMI. If you need some amazing storytelling, atmosphere,   and have an artistic passion…then you need to play this game!

 

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