Genre: Third-Person Action
Developer: Clover Studio
Similar to one of Hideki Kamiya's previous works, Viewtiful Joe, Okami looks like a water-colored painting set to motion, with a black ink-like outline around all of the characters. This style, complimented by stunningly beautiful scenic backdrops and truly memorable character designs, is a perfect match for the traditional Japanese themes that permeate every layer of the title.
Structurally and stylistically, Okami's soundtrack was evidently influenced in a strong way by Koji Kondo's work with the "Zelda" series. What sets it apart from Kondo's works though is its strong use of traditional Japenese themes and instrumentation, married to modern melodic structures and motifs. Okami also stands apart in that it is one of the few video games where the sound effects play a pivotal but not obnoxiously forthright role in eliciting emotional reactions from the player.
As is with the audio, the "Zelda" influence on Okami is obvious; game flows from towns and areas of dialog, to a field map, to puzzle-like, room-based dungeons. The "Celestial Brush" idea is cleverly intertwined with every single facet of the gameplay, and the core mechanics of exploration, combat, and systematically rejuvinating the world are refreshingly enjoyable. However, the game far too often strays from these core mechanics and falls into vexatious Lemmings-esque mini games or aggravating obstacle-course races against flying sheets of paper.
When Okami is sticking to its strengths-- and it has many-- it evokes emotional responses almost unlike any other game. The title could easily be transformed into a masterpiece by removing the extraneous, frustrating sequences that deviate from the formula, and by trimming the length of some of the boss fights, which would make for a shorter, more water-tight experience. However, and despite some design mishaps and peculiarities, Okami pulls all the right emotion strings, and the rest of the industry should take note of the importance of thematic ambiance that Okami proves is so integral to what makes video games special.