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Game Title: Okami HD
Company: Capcom
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital (Retail available in Japan)
Battery Life: 3.5 – 4.5 hours
Download: 9.1 GB

There are a few games I’ve played that I would consider to be visual masterpieces in the way they are designed and presented. One of those games is Child of Light, the mystical RPG made by Ubisoft. The other is the Okami series, an old Japanese Folklore-style adventure game published by Capcom.

As far as handhelds go, Okami has been limited. It’s sequel, Okamiden, is available on the Nintendo DS, but until recently, the original game wasn’t available to play on the go. With the Switch, though, it now is.

So, here is my review of the spectacle that is Okami HD for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

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The story of Okami takes place in the land of Nippon, once-cursed by an evil entity known as Orochi. Long ago, Orochi was slain and sealed away by a legendary hero and white wolf. 100 years later, the sword that sealed him was removed and the White Wolf Goddess, Amaterasu is summoned back to Nippon to restore the now-cursed land and rid the world of Orochi for good.

The plot of Okami is interesting in its style. It looks like a tale taken straight out of Japanese folklore and is even presented like the retelling of a fairy tale. As you play out this fairy tale, you see a lot of interesting themes of old, particularly being the Goddess assisting mortals in the feats they attempt while restoring the land from evil.

Gameplay

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Okami HD is an action-adventure game like the Legend of Zelda franchise. As you play through the game, you’ll be exploring lots of areas and dungeons, getting new abilities to solve puzzles, and fighting off tons of enemies and bosses in your quest to restore Nippon to its peaceful glory.

Okami HD is an HD Remaster of Okami, which originally released on the PS2 and was later remastered and released on the Wii, PS3, PS4, and Xbox One. This isn’t a “new features added” remaster, but rather just an upscale and smoothing, outside of the original game not being able to display in widescreen. The Switch release is based on the HD Remaster, bringing the enhanced experience to handheld gamers.

Okami is like a Zelda title in that you start in a small hub town with most areas locked away from you and, as you play and progress, you gain new abilities that help you open up those new areas and slowly get to the rest of the huge world that is Nippon.

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Those abilities are what makes playing Okami such a unique experience. In this game, you use a “Celestial Brush”, a painting tool that lets you paint the world around you and affect it in various ways. At first, it’s just to attack enemies and activate constellations, but soon expands into bringing dead trees back into bloom, creating lily pads to cross water, and more. It’s similar to Zelda tools helping you reach new areas.

The uniqueness is that you draw the shapes and patterns, yourself. The game stops time and lets you manually draw over the screen. This is one of the only games that lets you do this, and is enhanced further with touchscreen and motion/gyro support on the Switch.

This is used not only for puzzles but also for combat. When you fight enemies, you spawn in an arena and fight in real-time hack n slash fights. However, all enemies can be stunned and finished off with Brush Techniques, like using a Slash to slice them in half, or a Bomb to do a small AoE attack. These fights are very reminiscent of RPG fights, especially during the “Results” screen, which also gives a bit of a unique feel as this game isn’t an RPG.

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There are RPG elements, though. As you do story progress, win battles, and finish quests, you gain Praise, which lets you upgrade your stats, such as how much Ink is available for Brush Techniques or how many health units you have at any given time. There’s also customization in different weapons you can find throughout the game, giving unique effects depending on whether they’re set as Main or Sub weapons.

Using Brush Techniques is a big part of the charm of this game. Solving puzzles is one thing, but seeing brush techniques restore the Earth around you or allowing you to grapple around huge bosses is very unique and very fun to view as you do it. It’s the thing that really sets Okami apart from other Adventure games of this type.

The amount of time you’ll be spending makes this adventure even more fun. For Capcom only charging $19.99 for the game, you’ll be spending at least 30-35 hours on this journey. It’s an incredible deal of Time vs Money Spent.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t too hard, but it’s worth noting that this version has 2 unique ways of control. The Joy-Con controllers can be detached and used to paint with the Brush with Motion Controls. You can also use the touchscreen for brushing.

Though the latter is a bit of an awkward experience. To enable brushing, you have to hold down the L or R trigger, which works fine when brushing with the Analog Stick or motion, but holding a trigger down with one hand and removing your hand from the handheld to use touch controls is a bit of an awkward experience.

Now, the controls. The Left Analog is used for moving and the Right Analog is used for moving the camera. The L and R triggers are used for resetting the camera and enabling brush control. ZR is used for dodging and the – and + buttons are used for opening up Settings and the Customization Menus.

The face buttons: Y is used for physical attacks and X for your sub-weapon. B is used for jumping and A for talking with NPCs or interacting with certain puzzles and locations.

Presentation

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Graphically, Okami HD looks just as beautiful on the Switch as it does on the other HD platforms. All of the cel-shaded environments and characters are smoothed and pristine that vastly improved upon the original PS2 game.

The only downer about presentation is Motion Blur. Since this game is meant to be told as a story, they added various artistic effects to the style. The biggest part is adding a noticeable blur effect to Amaterasu as you control her. This is there while she is moving, but still there when she is still. This isn’t a bad effect, but the way it’s shown is hard on the eyes. When I started playing the game again, I had a fair amount of adjustment to seeing it that agitated my eyes for the first couple hours of play.

Performance is great, for the most part. It runs at a solid 30 fps and never has any drops. It works wonders both docked and handheld.  However, I should mention that the game tends to crash when it is transitioning from the Save/Load screen to gameplay.  I had the game crash several times on me when saving or loading games.  Thankfully, this was always after the saving/loading process was done so I never lost any progress, but it happened often and always when saving or loading data.

Battery Life

I was pleasantly surprised with Battery Life. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 30 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 45 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 19 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 31 minutes

I was really surprised, as I expected Okami to be another 2-3 hour game, but we get much more than that.

In conclusion, Okami HD is a beautiful adventure and is now available on the go for the first time. Although the motion blur takes some eye adjustment and save-crashing is a bit annoying, it’s still a wonderful and must-have adventure for any fan of Japanese folklore and adventure games.

Final Score: 8.5/10