To say that Okami immediately strikes you as, well, Japanese is like stating that Scarlet Johansson is only a little bit hot.
Starring the Japanese sun god Amaterasu in the guise of a gorgeously detailed white wolf, you traverse this ink and watercolour filled world in a quest to purify Japan and bring colour back to the desolate landscape you find yourself in.
To help you along the way, Amaterasu packs a pretty unique helpful tool – a tail that can be used to manipulate the world, attack enemies and do all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff.
But can this unbelievably Oriental title manage to charm the pants off us set in our ways Europeans?
As unique as Okami looks, it’s a style of gaming we’re familiar with. Its closest gaming pal would probably be the good old Zelda series, so not a bad pedigree.
Just like the Zelda titles, Okami’s steeped in masses of Japanese folklore. Luckily for those of us who don’t know much about the history of the Land of the Rising Sun, it all boils down to your typical tale of good versus evil. Again, just like all those Zelda games.
You don’t just go slaughtering the baddies and have done with the consequences though. No, you’ll find yourself helping out villagers in their time of need too. So this wolf isn’t all big and bad.
Up to now you’re thinking this all sounds like your typical adventure fare. Well, that’s before you take into account Amaterasu’s Celestial Brush.
This brush – or tail as we prefer to call it – pretty much makes the game. By using it to paint a few strokes on the screen you’ll make trees blossom, destroy enemies in a colourful explosion of flowers and learn many many more techniques throughout the game’s lengthy story.
Though not quite a Final Fantasy epic, Okami will certainly last you a fair old while. You’re looking at around 30 hours for the main game and an extra 5 to 10 hours for the side missions, so you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.
It’s stunning looking too. You’d be hard pressed to realise you’re looking at a mere PS2 game if you hadn’t stuck the disc in the system yourself. Developers Clover Studios recently closed their doors and that’s a crying shame as Okami pushes the ageing PS2 hardware to infinity and beyond. Resident Evil 4 held the crown until now and, unless anything better comes along which is pretty unlikely, it looks like Okami’s nabbed it for all time.
Every time you rush to a new area, the screen bursts with life and colour and every single character has been designed with absolute perfection. If only more developers would take visual risks instead of trying in vain to make everything look "realistic".
Consider us hooked. The graphics are like nothing you’ll see again and the game packs more than substance to make Okami an all round winner. As the PS2’s time at the top of the console tree comes to an end, a title like this only reminds us of the qualty it’s provided over the years.
You may not think of games as art, but Okami ought to be hanging in the National Gallery.