Ōkami – the Most Beautiful Video Game Ever
In recent years the video game industry has been dominated by franchise releases that major developers push because they know that strong sales are all but guaranteed. These include Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo and FIFA, all worth billions and considered as valuable as blockbuster movies. Unfortunately this focus on profits has meant that original, left-field games have become harder to develop with resources focused on the big sports and first-person shooters. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, with the phenomenal success of Minecraft being a prime example. This independently made sandbox game with basic block graphics has been critically acclaimed and sold over eleven million copies across various platforms since its release.
Capcom, the Japanese developer, is considered one of the world’s major publishers of video games with multi-million selling franchises such as Resident Evil and Street Fighter that have both grown into wider entertainment brands. Despite this, the company is still able to release games that may not directly appeal to mainstream audiences. Ōkami was first released in 2006 in both Japan and North America. It was created by Clover Studio which was funded by Capcom and had many of its own R&D employees working within. One of the final titles for the Sony PlayStation 2 console, the game would receive universally positive reviews for both its gameplay and graphics. It would go on to win the I.G.N. and Associated Press ‘Game of the Year’ awards. Despite this it has sold less than one million copies worldwide in the six years since it was launched.
Based on Japanese myths and folklore, Ōkami is based in ancient Japan with the story revolving around how Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess, saved the country by removing a curse of darkness while taking the form of a wolf. The name literally translates as ‘great god’ but when written in Japanese kanji it means ‘wolf’. Visually the game is inspired by oriental-style ink wash painting and calligraphy. Cel shading was used by the developers to enable the computer graphics to appear hand-drawn. Commands and actions can be carried out using brush strokes which only adds to the game’s classical style.
Originally the game’s concept came from the idea of promoting nature, with a sixty second demonstration scene showing a wolf running through a forest, with flowers blossoming as it went past. Eventually the Clover Studio team would agree on a theme for the story and started to work on the visual element of the game. At first, Ōkami was going to have a more realistic style until the developers realised that a more artistic approach would help to convey the story. A high definition remaster was released on the PlayStation 3 in October 2012. Players can now utilise the Move peripheral to make the Celestial Brush-strokes more lifelike.
Screenshots come from the new Ōkami H.D. version.