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Critical Reception: Capcom's/Clover Studio's Okami

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the Capcom-published, Clover Studio-developed Okami for the PlayStation 2, a unique action/adventure title featuring a wolf as its protagonist.
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to the Capcom-published, Clover Studio-developed Okami for the PlayStation 2, a unique action/adventure title featuring a wolf as its protagonist. In Okami, players assume the role of the sun goddess Amaterasu, newly reincarnated in the form of a white wolf. With the help of a nature-restoring "celestial brush," Amaterasu must revitalize Japan's landscape, which is in a state of ruin following years of demonic influence. Stateside hopes are high for Okami, as the Japanese game review magazine Famitsu awarded the title a near-perfect score of 39 out of 40, following its release in Japan in April of this year. The game's distinct Eastern influence has some concerned that Okami will not have as great an impact in other parts of the world, however. Will American gamers be as impressed with Okami as Japanese players were? Okami's current review score average of 93% at GameRankings.com indicates that this may in fact be the case. GameSpy's Bryn Williams is as impressed by Okami's watercolor-like graphical style as he is by its gameplay. "This is more than likely the best game released for the PS2 this year," says Williams, "and certainly one of the most visually stunning games of all time." Awarding Okami a perfect score of five stars, Williams cites the celestial brush mechanic as being a particularly brilliant innovation, claiming that, "It adds a whole new dimension to the 3D action-adventure genre." Few complaints can be found in Williams' review. "Okami is currently my top pick for best game of 2006," concludes Williams -- a bold statement, considering that Okami's debut comes so late in the year, after nine solid months of video game releases. Chris Roper of IGN is similarly fond of Okami, scoring it at 9.1 out of 10, but warning that the title does have its flaws. "It isn't perfect by any means," admits Roper, "but what it does right it does extremely well." Okami's epic scope and large game world are occasional detriments, according to Roper. He elaborates: "One problem that we do have with the main mission structure is that it can sometimes be difficult to figure out exactly where you need to be or who you need to talk to in order to continue." In the end, however, the claimed simplicity of Okami's combat and the slow pace of its first few hours fail to affect Roper's enjoyment of the title. "Okami is a game we've been waiting on for a long, long time, and for the most part it has lived up to our extremely high expectations," says Roper. "It's beautiful, charismatic, engaging and one of the most original games you'll play anytime soon." Brett Elston of Games Radar agrees with much of Roper's positive assessment in his 9-out-of-10 review. Elston summarizes: "Absolutely everything about this adventure is top of the line, blending the very best puzzle aspects of Zelda with a visual style that no other title can match." Elston also echoes much of the same criticism present in IGN's review, with particular complaints leveled at Okami's limited combat and sometimes confusing objectives. Despite this, however, Elston emphasizes that, "You'll never once discover some glaring flaw that yanks you out of the mood." "If you consider yourself a gamer in any way," Elston concludes, "buy this right now. You will not be disappointed." All three reviewers also make special mention of Okami's localization, which they claim is witty, charming, and full of personality. This, perhaps, could prove to be the most important factor in determining Okami's success in America. Gamers previously feared that Okami could have been an impenetrably Japanese experience, with much of its cultural significance lost on Western audiences. So far, however, Okami's overwhelmingly positive reviews indicate that these fears should be put to rest.

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