Let’s talk about Okami

The following is the script from a youtube video titled. “Let’s talk about Okami?” 

Hello my name is Kinglink let’s talk about Okami

I’ll be playing the opening of Okami behind the scenes. This should all be in the first hour and as such not much spoilers, it’ll illustrate what I’m going to say though.

It’s called one of the great games of the PlayStation 2 era I remember going through it back in the day and everything was Zeldaesque about it.

So an improved version of the game was re-released on Steam. Anytime a console game gets released on PC or especially steam I applaud it because I like how easy it is to preserve the games and I don’t have to worry where I could find a copy in the future if my PlayStation 2 breaks down or any other issues come up.

Now, let’s be clear about this, this is not a review I just want to discuss Okami and really one specific part of it but I still am kind of reviewing the game. Okami does have some problems.

Let’s just quickly talk about the big pieces. The graphics in Okami are so beautiful that I really can’t think of anything negative about it, other than it makes other games look bad. In addition, the gameplay is fantastic it’s using a similar style to Zelda coupled with a fresh and new drawing system with its Celestial Brush techniques. The gameplay here is extremely polished. Technically this is Clover Studios, which was Platinum Games before they were called Platinum Games and they are great.

The story of Okami is fantastic as well, the game is based on Japanese mythology. Now I’m probably going to butcher these names so apologies to those who hear it. So Amaterasu and Issun fighting against the great Orochi, an eight-headed dragon. The game also gathers in the Susano myth. And honestly, the story is really interesting. Japanese Lore is great, and Okami does a great job delivering on it.

So we have a game with great graphics, excellent gameplay, and an interesting story, why is this even a discussion. Rate the game and move on?

Well ok, the problem is there’s a rather big issue outside of those three things. I played approximately 10 hours of Okami and it is really rough. I need to list three things, that hinders the entire experience and they are only in the area of how Okami handles the story.

The first big problem I have with Okami is that the game constantly wants to talk to the player. Every hundred yards Okami stops the gameplay and has a character, usually, Issun, have to impart some information to the player or to Amaterasu.

This one part is bad but it does literally happen every hundred yards, I wish I was joking about that. Every time the game starts to pick up in the first five minutes, there’s something someone has to say about something. It kills every bit of momentum every time.

The second issue is that the game doesn’t have any voice acting. Yes this is a PlayStation 2 game and I’m not going to complain about the technology at the time, However, with the vast amount of story to impart to the player it gets overwhelming in text form. Instead of voice acting, we have dialogue being delivered two lines at a time.

It doesn’t help that the game doesn’t have a proper auto-advance function. You can either click the A button to advance one screen at a time or hold the Y button to fast forward which will display the text slowly and then immediately advance at the end of each block. That sounds like it’s good but sometimes that functionality will auto advance and have the entire next section suddenly and skip it. Why does the button operate differently at different times?

Truthfully I don’t know. I can guess that they are trying to make texts that will repeat more than one skip quickly and text that’s is an important display slowly, but from a user standpoint, it just acts inconsistently. The game will sometimes decide to start skipping quickly on a whim. You can also skip the entire dialog section by hitting the Start button twice but then you’re missing the entire dialogue. The story is very important in Okami, both from the entire narrative, and the terms that are placed in the text to drive the player to the next goal.

Finally, this brings us to a third problem. The game never shows you anything interesting without immediately talking about it at the same time. You can visit a beautiful location but before you can start enjoying the wonderment of the new area, Issun pops up and decides to tell you all about it, sometimes flashing views of different locations. There’s no exploration here. The player is told what’s going on at almost every point

This one is particularly bad because almost every puzzle is equally spoiled. Issun will tell you that something is used for the current puzzle ten seconds after you see the object for the first time. The player never has a chance to discover anything because the game quickly rushes to tell you what these pieces are used for, so any personal discovery about the object is unnecessary. What’s worse is this violates “show don’t tell” the game constantly tells you what you should be feeling, what you are going through and everything else rather than letting the moment and emotion of the experience fill you.

Part of these complaints might be because Okami was built on the PlayStation 2. There are definite limitations to the technology but I don’t know if that’s really a valid excuse. The PlayStation 2 had almost every type of game, including Final Fantasy X, and Shadows of the Colossus. To say the game couldn’t expect the player to feel the emotion, or couldn’t have a great story and a way to deliver it that didn’t feel rough is incorrect. The locations in the game do give the player a good feeling, so why interrupt it with dialogue that just blathers on.

This is most of how the first two hours or so of the game plays out. The game is consistently getting in the way of itself and never gives the player the time to really experience the amazing gameplay or world because it constantly feels like it has to be talking to the player. Okami has to tell the player how awesome the journey is and that the stone person, that clearly has an indicator telling you to talk to them, has to be talked to and then you have to find out that the stone person, who is clearly a stone person, is a stone person and then you have to go and find out that the next person is a stone person and how then how everyone in the village is a stone person. Yes, this is getting repetitive but Okami is repetitive.

Now, this is the first two hours of a thirty to sixty-hour game and again let me say I do know Okami is an excellent game. I remembered on the PlayStation 2 that it was extremely good but these first two hours are not up to par in the least. What’s worse is the next 8 hours that I experienced was only slightly better. There was less talking and more gameplay but not enough to make it a good experience. Okami still decided to stop me in almost every single room at every single point to tell me what I already knew.

What’s worse is that there are a number of points in these ten hours where the game doesn’t give any indication of where the players should go next. What’s crazy is the game does exploration in the right way in the first big open area, giving indicators on everything the player should visit. Then in the second open area, there are no indications. So the player has to explore back and forth a couple of times. In fact, it might take a few times, especially when the solution is to talk to the same person multiple times but they tell the player different things. This will eventually unlock the next part of the game but sometimes you have to talk to them three times just to get the right response and if you miss the little green triangle that blends in with the larger picture over their head, it’s not always clear if they had more to say.

This is very frustrating but what’s crazy is this is where more dialogue would have been useful.

Not only should the characters really only have one thing to say or at least make it clear that they have more to say in some clear fashion, but the game could give the player nudges. Unfortunately, the game finally decides not to be verbose and leaves the player to wander.

Now, this sucks. I get the idea of an adventure game that is open to the player to roam, but if the player is lost, you want to help them out. This is the exact opposite of the problem I have with the game normally because here it’s not telling the player enough.

There is a very easy solution to this issue. In fact, it’s in a game that was already out for about 6 years when Okami released. What’s odd is it’s a game in the Zelda Franchise, one that the Developers should have already multiple times. Namely Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the focus is on the Navi character who offers help to Link with a “Hey Listen” but players would have to actually hit a button to talk to Navi. So if players wanted to look at a puzzle themselves or try to figure something out they would be given the opportunity but if a player needed help or wasn’t getting something they could always turn to Navi.

Of course, the Zelda franchise isn’t perfect in this regard. Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword definitely did this wrong as well, when the spirit of the sword In Skyward Sword named Fi just would not shut up and went on long-winded rants. I believe we could also talk about Midna. The point is Zelda also gets this wrong as does Okami and Zelda might get called out a little more by fans for it, but both games seem to get a pass on issues like this.

So we’ve arrived. Let’s talk about the reason why we’re having this discussion I gave up on Okami. I have literally stopped playing it because I was just getting too frustrated with all these problems but that’s not the big issue to me. The big issue is that I then went online to see if anyone else had a similar opinion about the game. The fact is, yes, people do find the opening long, boring and dull. It’s overextended and just frustrating. The problem though is that the response to this is not to commiserate or to try to alleviate the problem, rather the one response I kept hearing over and over again is that the game gets better.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some really special games out there where that advice works. ICEY is pretty terrible for the first 15 to 20 minutes. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain has one of the most deceptive openings to a video game that I think I played in a long time, I even called it out in the review. The opening to the original Drive game was particularly horrible and just too frustratingly hard. And the beginning of Undertale gives a false understanding of what the game is, though technically that is what all of Undertale does.

But in all these cases the problem is kept to under an hour or two, but in Okami’s case, people think that the game gets better after 10 hours the exact time isn’t clear but I can tell you that I had burnt out my Goodwill at around 8 hours and pushed on with the game to about 10 hours before I just gave up trying to replay the game.

The problem is 8 to 10 hours is a long time to play a substandard part of the game. Most games take less time than that to tell their whole story. Some people might say that the game gets better earlier than this point, but my issue is that the game starts poor and that section lasts entirely too long.

The “it gets better” defense doesn’t really work in Okami’s favor. The problem I have is so many people still call this game a masterpiece even after admitting this fact. Of course, there is always going to be a ton of people who will discard anything anyone says negatively for any game but we should be honest, the opening of Okami is consistently considered bad by many sources. I don’t think anyone would really call it a great or strong opening.

I am talking about both fans and reviewers when talking about this issue. The real problem I have is it doesn’t matter if fifty hours of the game is just the most epic and legendary experience even if you have to crawl through ten hours of poor gameplay to get there. Those ten hours are definitely going to be in the player’s way and telling them just trust me it’ll get better isn’t good enough. Admittedly Okami is very good there’s a reason why I remember it as a positive experience and perhaps part of the reason is it came out at a time when extremely long dialogues were acceptable, maybe I was just a different person, or without voice acting in every game we accepted this, but it’s Okami HD that is released in 2017 not 2006 and the fact is the opening is pretty rough especially by the modern standard.

While making this video I’ve read a number of reviews from respectable critics and every single one of them talks about the pacing or something along the lines of the very long cutscenes. Yet every one of those reviews gave Okami a 9 or above or similar high honors. I don’t get it. Okami isn’t a bad game but it also has a lot of issues with it that people seem to ignore because of the great graphics. Well again, the graphics, the gameplay, especially the celestial brush, and the story are well done (I have to keep saying this to avoid someone saying I hate the game) but the experience of the opening, the onboarding process of the first 10 hours are some of the worst I’ve ever seen.

I almost want to finish the game just so I can give it a proper review and give it a score it deserves I believe I’d put it somewhere around a 3.5 or 4 because I’m assuming that it does get much better. But I’m not going to subject myself to a poor experience just to prove a point. Maybe that’s me changing as a reviewer where I’m not going to waste my time but it is what it is.

As fans and reviewers, we need to look at games both for the amazing visuals, but also to call out when games waste our time with subpar experiences and just don’t live up to their legacy. Okami is not a masterpiece to the point where we should ignore bad gameplay and bad experiences. In fact, I don’t think such a game exist. If a game was an unplayable mess for five hours and then enters a VR World which is almost like real life, I’m saying as both fans and critics we cannot ignore those opening hours. Okami is not unplayable but it is definitely a mess and only by ignoring it do we harm Okami’s legacy.

If you want to call Okami the best game ever I can’t stop you, but let me show you the problem. I can tell you coming into this game expecting the best game ever I wouldn’t have gone past the first two hours let alone ten to reach this nirvana because I would believe you were incorrect in those claims. As Okami stands the first ten hours would get a 2.5 out of 5 for me. That’s a harsh score but I think that’s very generous because the fact is those opening hours are terrible in every way they shouldn’t have been. The Graphics save if from being a bad game, and the knowledge that there is a better game here helps, but in no way is Okami’s opening good.

All I’m saying is let’s be honest about these games and hopefully, reviewers will one day figure out how to properly judge a game that has both good and bad portions. Throwing an extremely high score on the game because part of it is excellent isn’t good enough. We should be considering the entire game or at least the entire experience that someone has with the game rather than just the parts you want to talk about. It’s very clear reviewers saw these problems as almost every single one mentioned it directly but somehow it doesn’t factor into the overall score and I just can’t understand that.

That’s really what I had to say about Okami and I promise I’ll try not to make every single one of these discussions about how reviewers misunderstood something. This is just a case where I felt so baffled by what I saw online that I had to call it out because I feel like, as fans, it’s common for us to either ignore issues with something that we like a lot or only focus on the negative parts of games that we really hate and both of them are equally destructive.

I hope I haven’t been a total Downer on this one and remember I do know Okami is a very good game. What I’m calling out is it its imperfections and the fact that so many people seem to want to ignore them. The reason why Okami gets its own special video is because it just seems to be across the board that most people do not want to hear it and thus I feel like I am obligated to call that BS out. I could have made a video about Google Stadia, I could have made a video about Epic Game Stores, their exclusives, or their spying but I think everyone is talking about that already so for me I’m going to talk about what’s actually going on in my gaming life and that was Okami this week.

I’ll be honest too, I wrote this after I played Okami and gave up, maybe I’m too harsh… but really I don’t want to go back and play that. I’m sorry Okami but maybe we accepted this more in the PS2 era, but personally, as great as the gameplay is, I Want to play you, not sit around and watch you.

If you enjoyed this discussion , consider subscribing, If you hate this, let me know down in the comments, and feel free to tell me how perfect Okami is down below, because I think it’s clear I hate the game completely since I’m calling this out and thus must be corrected.

Until next time, I’m Kinglink and Thank you for watching.