Can anyone build a better Zelda? The legendary series is hard to top and a few companies have tried, but Okami may be the only game worthy of dethroning the king. It tickled the fancy of many right from the initial screenshots showcasing a unique visual style – a blissful marriage of cel-shading and Japanese brush painting techniques. Thankfully the gameplay seems to be there and reports from those who've already played it describe it as nothing less than amazing.
Okami's protagonist is a bit different from your average hero. In fact, it's a heroine – you play as the mythological lupine Sun Goddess Amaterasu on a quest to restore color and order to the world using your Celestial Brush. The premise is ripe with opportunities to construct a classy and involving narrative and, well, it does. The story is well written with plenty of deadpan/black humor and engaging characters. Whether or not the exquisite wordplay will make its way into the domestic version has yet to be seen. Either way, it's a tale that moves along at a good pace even for a 30 hour + game (it's actually split up into two story arcs, making it almost two games in one).
Amaterasu fights her way through absolutely beautiful dungeons with great puzzle design and over 80 types of enemies. Though her main attacks utilize a combination of the wolf's natural agility and the sun wheel on her back, there are 15 other weapons to find along the way each with the capability to be upgraded. The Celestial Brush system, an element of Amaterasu's Goddess powers, really adds a lot to the game. At certain points, you'll be able to use the analog stick to "draw" things on the screen which affect the reality of Okami's world. Clever use of the brush will elicit rewards from townspeople, open up new paths, or solve puzzles and while the solutions it provides may require some experimentation, they almost always seem like common sense – well, common sense for a deity anyway.
The package is rounded out with a stellar soundtrack, plenty of unlockable items (which seems to be a good trend in recent Capcom titles), as well as some subtle references to the company's other famous series. You really can't go wrong with Okami as it shines in just about every way. But will it be able to stand up against this Fall's Zelda game, also featuring wolf-themed shenanigans? You'll have to wait until September to get your hands on it, so in the meantime, take a gander at these screenshots .