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TMCNet:  HD version of great 2006 game 'Okami' makes it even better

[January 31, 2013]

HD version of great 2006 game 'Okami' makes it even better

Jan 31, 2013 (Lexington Herald-Leader - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- I was only vaguely aware of Okami when it launched on the PlayStation 2 in 2006. Reviewers loved it, but I was too busy playing with a newer toy to pay much attention.

See, I had bought an Xbox 360 several months earlier and had no intention of dusting off a last-generation console to play a new game, no matter how much acclaim it received.

In retrospect, that was a mistake because the Xbox 360 launch lineup of games wasn't particularly good. While I was playing shiny but uninspired games like Perfect Dark Zero, hundreds of thousands of people were playing one of the best adventure games to grace the PlayStation 2.

Six years later, I got my chance to make amends. Capcom recently released Okami HD as a downloadable title for Sony's PlayStation 3. The game has been refitted with optional motion controls and remastered for high- definition TVs, but otherwise it's essentially unchanged.

That's a good thing in this case because it maintains its fabled charm while still feeling new. If I didn't know it was an enhanced port, I would have no idea Okami wasn't designed from the ground up for PS3's powerful hardware.

Much of the praised heaped on the original game centered on its unique, cel-shaded graphics. The game looks gorgeous in native 1080p, which should be enough of a reason for any HDTV owner who played Okami on an older system to have another go.

However, the real winners are the people who never played Okami before, who now get to experience it in high-def glory at a fraction of its original price.

Okami is a Legend of Zelda-like adventure set in a mythical, medieval Japan. You play as Amaterasu, the wolf incarnation of a sun goddess who hasn't walked the world for 100 years.

While Amaterasu has been dormant, the evil demon Orochi has drained all color and life in existence. Amaterasu's job upon reincarnation is to relearn powerful, forgotten techniques to defeat enemies and restore color and life to the world.

Unlike The Legend of Zelda, you won't be doing that with a sword and shield. Sure, you can attack traditionally, biting and swinging a magical weapon with the tap of a button, but Amaterasu's true power is the Celestial Brush, an ethereal tool that lets you slay bad guys and solve puzzles.

When you activate the Celestial Brush, the game comes to a pause and the world is overlaid with a paper canvas. Using the left analog stick (or the PlayStation Move motion controller, if you have one), you draw shapes that have a variety of effects.

For example, drawing a straight line across your target serves as a powerful chop, useful for finishing off weakened enemies or clearing obstacles by cutting them in half. You can change night into day by drawing a circle in the nighttime sky, which becomes the sun, or create a powerful wind by drawing a loop.

It's a unique mechanism that might not seem appealing to fans of the more visceral combat and straightforward objectives that dominate most modern games. But much of the satisfaction Okami bestows on the player comes from solving a difficult puzzle, or beating a tough boss, by figuring out just which of the 13 celestial brush techniques will clear the way.

By way of complaints, my biggest problem with the game is the overly zany music that plays sometimes. Seriously, some incredibly irritating honks and beeps are supposed to highlight some of the game's funny moments. Most of the game's soundtrack is as brilliant and beautiful as the graphics, so the wacky tunes are a grating and unwelcome distraction.

But if that's the worst thing I can say about the game, I think that speaks for itself. Okami deserves every inch of the praise it was given in the past, and Okami HD is more of a great thing in a prettier package.

VIDEO GAME REVIEW 'Okami HD' About: The winner of multiple game-of-the-year awards in 2006 is now available for the first time in high-definition.

Players: Single player Pros: It's a joyous experience. The game's striking art style, memorable characters and vibrant world are intact but with prettier graphics than ever before.

Cons: The soundtrack is annoying sometimes, and the game can get boring when you get stuck on obtuse puzzles.

Availability and price: $19.99. Available as a digital download from PlayStation Network.

ESRB rating: T Manifesto's rating: 9/10 Metacritic rating: 9/10 Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

___ (c)2013 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) Visit the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) at www.kentucky.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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