Okami HD Review – Xbox One

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Growing up it was no small secret that I had a huge love of all things canis lupus. For those not into these furry majestic creatures another name for them is wolf. While many videogames feature these often menacing creatures very few have them center stage as a main character. On that short list is an adventure whose Japanese title can quite literally translate to mean ‘wolf’. Since that clue kicks Link’s sometimes furry butt to the curb, of course I’m talking about the PS2 classic Okami.

While Okami has made its rounds onto other consoles over the last decade it finally finds its way onto a Microsoft console with the release of Okami HD for the Xbox One. I originally played Okami years ago during its PS2 days and instantly fell in love with not only its main character but its signature gameplay. But more importantly Okami featured an art style that has not only inspired other title’s gameplay and art directions but has set itself apart in the gaming industry even to this day.

Okami HD follows the story of Japanese Shinto Sun Goddess and “mother of all” Amaterasu as she inhabits the body of a white wolf as she is called forth to free a Nippon from the return of a terrible evil. Amaterasu’s signature red marked fur resembles that of the wounded white wolf and hero Shiranui bravery against the same evil known as Orochi prior to the game’s opening act. While many of the human NPCs in the game only see her as a reincarnation of the departed Shiranui she fights to save the feudal Nippon with an inch tall companion and wandering artist called Issun. This little guy, who happens to hate having his stature called upon, serves as much of Amaterasu’s guide and the often means of conversation and comic relief throughout this stylish adventure.

While you’re ultimate goal is to cleanse the Nippon from demonic corruption and bring life back to the tainted world it will take more than saving Kamiki Village to do the job. As you progress you’ll need to gather and use several abilities tied to your Celestial Paintbrush. This signature tool allows the player to create lily pad platforms, make trees and flowers bloom again and even bring a little sunlight to the night sky to name a few abilities. Of course the Celestial Paintbrush has its uses both out in the world for solving puzzles and aiding the world and inside combat.

Combat itself largely takes place within small arenas where you have to defeat all the enemies with a combination of melee and brush arts. While you only start off with a single weapon you will gain additional weapons that can be mixed, matched and swapped between your main and sub-weapon slots to create unique attack combinations. When enemies outside of main bosses take enough damage they lose their color and are vulnerable to attacks with your Celestial Brush such and devastating slash attacks. It’s also great for blinding enemies by covering them with ink for a short time opening them up to a barrage of attacks for a short time. The trick is that your ink is not a bottomless well so using it wisely in combat is a must.

Boss fights are another matter as they are often staged in larger arenas not unlike those featuring a pointy eared hero. These often require you to combine an ability learned in the same dungeon to help defeat it along with traditional melee attacks. So say these fights are tougher largely boils down to learning the patterns and dealing with one of my only real grips with Okami’s gameplay. In a lot of platforming adventure titles, the camera is often the source of much anguish and Okami HD does not break from that trend sadly even today. It’s extremely apparent when trying to get the right visual angles when trying to use the learned brush ability in the first major boss fight when the major fight mechanic is often above Amaterasu’s head.

Combat as well as overall gameplay has definitely gotten a boost with its release on the Xbox One and for those with a shiny new Xbox One X you’ll get the benefit of playing this Xbox One X Enhanced title. During my playthrough, combat and character movement was smooth as can be after a little tweaking of the inverted camera settings. But perhaps the biggest feature that Okami HD has to offer on the Xbox One X is the support for 4K resolution. Keeping in mind that Okami is now over a decade old it is nothing but jaw dropping gorgeous on a 4K UHD TV. If I had to show off the capabilities of gaming on 4K TV to friends Okami HD would be right at the top of my list.

While there are plenty of polished titles that look great on the One X, there is just something magical about the vibrancy and art style that makes Okami really pop. Hell if I wasn’t for the fact that I actually needed to finish the game I could sit and watch the animal feeding cutscenes for literally hours. Okami HD far from fails in the graphical department though it its filter effect could cause some discomfort for newcomers and returning fans alike. The filter effect which can be altered in intensity in the setting gives off what I can only describe as a watching a 3D movie without the glasses on. It took a bit for my eyes to finally adjust to the effect but things were smooth sailing afterwards. I would advise adjusting the settings for younger players though as it may come off a bit too distracting.

Okami offers players plenty of things to do much of which aids in garnering Faith that you use to increase things like overall health and ink levels. These little quests are often sparked by interacting with all the inhabitants. Some are simple to solve like fixing broken items or drawing other items into existence. Others will require a bit of leg work to have a required item to aid others. Okami HD is a game where you can easily sink 40+ hours into. Even as a returning fan it took me a bit to remember the steps needed to complete certain quests so newcomers should find themselves with plenty of fun to be had.

Okami is one of those titles that has a special place in this gamer’s heart. I am a big fan of titles that push artistic boundaries and deliver experiences that stand the test of time. Okami HD takes an already amazing game and brings it to a new generation of players a decade later with stunning results with a console that delivers gaming as art on a console that is a work of art. If you’re already a fan or a newcomer looking for something magical then you absolutely need to check out Okami HD for the Xbox One today.