I never want to hear about sake again after this…

00 Cover image for blog post

… and not because of a diabolical hangover.

So, I last updated this blog in January, made some vague aim to update once a month, it is now June and there has not been an update. Things have happened during that time, things are still occurring, I’ve also played a few games, took a lot of screenshots, made some notes and well, at least there’s no shortage of stuff to go on this blog… over the course of the next ten years. Figured I’d start with Okami, seeing as I have some history with this game… evidently haven’t got much flow with writing at the minute, but I’ll persevere anyway.

So I first played this game when it was originally released on the PS2, I had mixed feelings then, as a humourless and very angry teenager, but as a much more even-tempered adult, the mixed feelings continue. Just to get the negatives done and out of the road, my main issue is with the writing and yes, that’s wildly hypocritical of me to complain about that when my own writing is completely and utterly farcical, to say the least. But still, that’s beside the point.

Bloody hell, the dialogue. It’s painfully repetitive, to the point of insulting the audience’s intelligence, and I have one mouth-foaming-rage-inducing pet peeve, that’s it right there. I have a prime example here in the eight purification sake, and you know how I was able to remember it was called that? It’s certainly not because I have a stellar memory, it’s because it was aggressively mentioned about 60 times in the course of a single cut-scene. I can fully understand that over the course of a long narrative, it does help to recap important details if they were mentioned at one point, then subsequently buried under a ton of other significant events along the way, but that was just taking the piss. There are also numerous instances of characters repeatedly telling Amaterasu directly about her own history, as if she wasn’t there when it happened. Really? Did nobody think to question that decision there?

Don’t get me wrong, the history and folklore in this game are genuinely compelling; one of its strongest points is the way it captures the feeling of fairy tales and epic sagas from bygone eras. However, I feel that some of the more vitally important and/or harrowing events (such as the SPOILER ALERT history of the Ark of Yamato) are diluted somewhat when they’re mentioned about 17 times over in a relatively short length of time. Of course, with regard to aggravating repetition, we also have fighting Orochi three times with no discernible change in the mechanics of the fight, other than a bit of a stats boost. If you’re going to have a recurring boss, switch it up a bit. Come on. It’s not too much to ask.

Last bitching point: what this game also could’ve done with in the remaster is a special mode wherein Issun never speaks. I’d forgive all of its howlingly terrible dialogue if that was an option.

You and me both sister

You and me both, sister.

Alright, I’m done being a moaning bastard now, so how about some positives. Well, obviously this  game looks bloody gorgeous and the music is stunning; those are the main things that drew me back to Okami after umming and ahrring over it for months. (Being honest, a lack of stuff to actually play on the PS4 greased the wheels a little as well, I’m a picky blighter.) The environments are an absolute joy to explore; the overall proportions of the game world feel just right – it’s not such a sprawl as to be a pain to get about, but it’s not too small either and generally, the setting design has been well thought out enough that you can get about without having your flow interrupted by having to repeatedly consult a map. I absolutely love the fact that not only significant landmarks and buildings but also just the layout of cliffs, beaches and hills are distinctive enough that you can find your way around in a perfectly natural manner. Considering the amount of fun there is to be had just running around full pelt and enjoying the scenery, this is a massive plus… also I just don’t like consulting maps all that much, to be honest.

(And my notes at this point make some barely legible reference to 1:40am so that explains a lot…)

Oooooh

Continuing the theme of mixed feelings, the combat in this game is one thing about which I can’t really make up my mind. It feels too easy overall, considering you can effectively just succeed in a fight by leathering the living daylights out of the square button in many cases, barring the odd trick with the brush. I’ve never been a fan of overly complex combos (despite having played far too much Devil May Cry in college…) but a bit more of a challenge would be appreciated. It’s coming to something when even the bosses are pretty much a piece of piss, perhaps with the exception of Yami, but then the difficulty there mainly stems from Amaterasu being deprived of her entire stock of godly techniques for a bit… and maybe being distracted by those pretty, angular patterns on Yami’s shell. I also take issue, being fussy, with the progression of the weapons – it just doesn’t feel like there’s enough opportunity for weapons to ‘bed in’ and for subsequent upgrades to feel rewarding. Maybe I just spend a bit too much time scrapping and treasure hunting, but it seems to me that you can get the Infinity Judge far too quickly after acquiring the most badass-looking weapon in the game, the Snarling Beast. It makes no sense to use weaker weapons once you’ve got better ones but damn, if I had my way, the Snarling Beast would just be Amaterasu’s main weapon throughout the whole game. Look at that thing! It’s gorgeous!

Snarling beast

Positives of the fights, however, I do thoroughly enjoy the general atmosphere of them. Suddenly being surrounded by a dramatic, colourful arena with sloshing ink effects into infinity is a great touch and the completely bonkers moves (such as aerial drill attacks with the glaive) are delightful; it makes the fights feel lavish and exciting, even if they are – generally – a bit too easy.

Aaand now I think A- I’ve probably written a bit too much, B – ran out of steam and C – taken enough time struggling to get into a flow with converting sloppy fountain pen scrawls from the dead hours into something approximating a blog entry. So, onto the screenshots (well, more of them…) this constitutes a small selection from my first batch. I’ve taken a lot more pictures since then and they don’t appear to be on the laptop yet, so there’ll be more in the future and hopefully I will have discovered something approximating that mysterious mojo that people sometimes talk about…

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