After owning it for two months, I finally started playing Okami in earnest. After six or so hours, I still feel the urge to continue, but I feel as if I already know the game all too well, and if I keep going it will only mean me abandoning the game later down the line. I always wondered why a game billed as a “Zelda clone” would end up being Clover’s most talked about release, but now it makes quite a bit of sense. I’ve got this one’s number.
First, Okami is easy. Now some may argue this point, especially if the game gets harder later on (I have heard that it does). But between dodging, blocking, recovery items and stat upgrades, I have all the tools I need to stay alive in battle, especially considering how small in scope the battles are. At the very least, the combat is easy relative to Clover’s other output, and not any harder than in Zelda. The lax difficulty is a good thing for Okami. If people wanted a challenge, they could have bought God Hand from the very same developer. But they didn’t, and I think there is a reason for that. People don’t always want to play a difficult game, instead preferring a rollicking adventure and a thrilling story. It is why jRPGs were once at the height of popularity, and why Zelda continues to be. Personally, I can only stomach easy combat when it doesn’t crop up very much, but I understand the appeal.
Second, Okami is pretty. This is important beyond the fact that it provided a lot of (unfulfilled) hype and attention. It also keeps players going. The player isn’t going to come for the fights, and the puzzles have yet to prove mind bending. But the graphics are stunning and colorful. Seeing a once cursed area of the land grow bright with vegetation is a reward in its own, as is exploring the area afterward. Seeing what Okami’s glorious graphics engine can produce becomes the driving force behind the player’s progress, and I find that this is one of the few games where this argument is reasonable.
Finally, Okami has lots of stuff to collect. Writers may love to lampoon Collect-A-Thon style games, but they remain popular when executed just right. In the case of Okami, many of its items are directly or indirectly needed to help build your level of Praise. Praise is then used to improve many of your stats, like health and ink levels. People love light RPG style stat building, and when your game’s numerous items and trinkets drive it, you have turned a tedious bit of game design into fuel for addiction.
I may continue a bit longer with Okami, just to see how long it takes for all the above points to wear on me. But I know it will be a matter of when, not if this happens. Of course, I probably wouldn’t care in the first place if I knew the game was only going to be a brisk 20 hours long, instead of the 40+ estimate I often hear being tossed around. At the very least I know that in the end, Okami was an extra large serving of gaming comfort food garnished with some Japanophilia. Nothing wrong with that in the slightest, but to consider it Clover’s best is to do a disservice to the developer.