Okami is a Zelda-ish game, which is a statement that became much more true with the release of the latest Zelda: in Okami you run around as a wolf, the sun goddess Amaterasu; in Twilight Princess you can also run around as a wolf. In both games you explore an ever-expanding world utilizing your latest tools and tricks to solve puzzles along the way, occasionally take in a side quest of fishing, and pace yourself through big boss encounters. I point out the similarities mostly to say that if you don't like the Zelda format, you won't like Okami. Okami has plenty to offer in the way of new gameplay and story that makes the game uniquely enjoyable.
Okami's major innovation in gameplay is the brush system -- you draw brush strokes across your screen to trigger special effects, like slashes, fire, slowdown, and repair. Much like Ocarina of Time's ocarina, the brush offers a new blend of puzzles and encounters. To draw a brush storke, you hold down the R1 button, which turns the screen into a brown parchment, and then draw the appropriate stroke using the analog control stick. I have a feeling this would be easier with a Wiimote, but it worked well enough as is. My only complaint is that the brown parchment effect makes it difficult sometimes to tell what you are drawing up top of. Otherwise, it was a fun way to feel like you are the sun goddess exercising some divine intervention.
Okami is a very beautiful game. In fact, it is the most beautiful game I have ever played. I don't consider myself an expert in such matters, but I find the statement notable for the fact that Okami is a Playstation 2 game and I have yet to see an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 game that is as visually interesting. Clover, the studio that made the game, used their Viewtifl Joe experience to its fullest. The game is rendered with watercolor-like strokes, flowers flow over your screen in waves, and old-style Japanese prints narrate the story.
For a beautiful game, though, it has some dirty elements. It's dirty as in poop: it is the first game I played in which urination is an attack option (and quite profitable, as it helps you collect dragon fangs faster). It's also dirty as in mildly lewd: at least one of the female characters is quite busty and has her own busty physics.
I was indifferent to the 'dirtier' aspects of Okami, but there were aspects I really didn't like. One is that it is a very, very easy game. The first several hours are maddenly easy -- you'll guess the solution to the easy puzzle, then before you can solve it, the game will show you another obvious hint. The game eases up a bit on the overly overt hints, but it never gets difficult. For one thing, I never died once in the game and I rarely came close. Another aspect of the game's easiness that I didn't like is Issun, who is like Tingle in Wind Waker, except that he never leaves. Issun is always there to shout childish things at other characters and provide puzzle hints. At least he is woven into the story quite well, but I have a visceral dislike of goofy assistance characters.
One other complaint is that I felt the game designers artificially lengthened the game. At least two of the level designs used the exact same maps with different textures and a lot of the side quests were simply variations on previous side quests. There are other ways the game repeats itself, but I'll omit them for spoiler reasons.
Any complaints I have, though, are far outweighed by what this game has to offer. This is an award-worthy game offering new twists in a familar genre. And did I mention it's beautiful?
* It's beautiful
* The brush system is a fun new way to play
* It's really easy
* It's longer than it needs to be
* Only play this if you like Zelda