My dear friend Angie of backlogcrusader.com tossed out this challenge to the WordPress Gaming Community.
The mission: It’s the year 2050. You are an educator in a high school teaching Video Game Literary Classics 101. You are teaching some of the greatest video game classics of all time to your students. We needed to choose a game (or multiple) that we deem as a classic that we would want to teach in our class.
I have chosen Okami.
For the fun of this challenge and collaboration project. I am going to bring it back to the days when Angie and I would roleplay on Neopets and treat this submission as my actual class where I will be teaching you, my genius, beautiful, pubescent students. I will do my best to outline my curriculum for you all to follow along.
Warning: Some spoilers.
Setting: We are in a classroom high in the skyline, with warm natural light coming in from the large windows. The clouds pass by in haste but never falter the sun’s orange light. The students are sitting, somewhat rowdily at their tables of two, three columns deep. About 20 students are attending the class. They are all facing the front of the classroom, at a black touch screen board covering a large portion of the wall. The room is painted in neutral soft tones. The eclectic, stained corkboard in the back of the room is covered with old drawings of that classroom teacher’s favorite video game characters, themes, and scenes.
The teacher enters, holding her notes and a very old Nalgene orange reusable water bottle with faded stickers all over it. One of them is what looks to be a picture of the Great Lakes.
She sets her things down at her desk located in the farthest corner of the classroom, looking diagonally towards the entrance door and the students. She starts to speak while walking to the center of the class with a small device in hand.
Good Afternoon Everyone!
How was everyone’s lunch break?
Jimmy, this is not nap time. I don’t care if your turkey lunch made you sleepy, you better stay awake today.
Alright, so the last few days we discussed Kingdom Hearts as a part of our Japanese Adventure Games week. It was a beautiful, fun, child-like adventure with an extensive backstory. I hope you all enjoyed the simulations and will consider playing through the whole saga some time.
The teacher presses her fingers to the blackboard and selects her lesson on ‘Okami’. A beautiful picture of a painted wolf jumps up covering the wall. The image looks slightly 3D and captivates the students immediately
History of Okami
Everyone go ahead and open their GoogleHand 460s to today’s lesson to follow along and collect notes.
Today we are going to touch on one of my personal favorite classics Okami. Okami was developed by Clover Studio and published by Capcom. It was released for the Sony Playstation 2 in 2006, first in Japan and North America. It was released a year later in Europe and Australia.
Okami ended up being one of the few games chosen to be released on the PS2 before the debut of the Playstation 3 console. Due to differences in employees’ views with their Big Brother company Capcom, after the release of Okami, Clover Studios closed.
Does anyone have any questions at this point?
No one had any questions. Their vague, filled belly expressions were a mixture of exhaustion and fascination. The teacher moves to the side of the blackboard pulling up a new picture, ready to continue on.
The Main Story
Okami is an action, puzzle, adventure video game based on Japanese mythologies and historical culture. Many of the characters and villains you encounter in this game have a tie to some kind of Japanese folklore or legend.
Okami in Japanese means ‘wolf’ or ‘god’, depending on the Kanji, ideogram, used. The character you play as is Amaterasu, or Ammy. Amaterasu is the Shinto Sun Goddess taking on the form of a white wolf. The whole game is centered around Ammy lifting the darkness from the world.
You start out with little power and no memory of who you are. You are awakened in the midst of a deep darkening that has spread throughout the land. When you are summoned back into the realm of man, you start off by investigating the small village where your statue had been placed.
The teacher then proceeds to touch the small device in her hand. An image of a tiny man, with a red nose, a leaf cap, purple tunic, with a beetle on his head comes on the board. He fancies a paintbrush on his hip. He looks almost “bug-like”. The students start to giggle at the image. The teacher continues with a smile.
Along the way, you encounter a tiny man named Issun. Many characters mistake this little pistol for a bug and he angrily corrects them. He is a joker, sassy, know-it-all womanizer. Over time, he becomes your confidant and dear friend. He teaches you how to use your Celestial Brush techniques and helps you reach your full potential.
As you fight your way through the levels of darkness, you come to find out who dispatched the widespread evil. The dreaded Orochi, an eight-headed dragon who wants to cover the world in complete darkness. Your mission becomes to beat Orochi and rid the darkness he has released. Later you are told there is a higher power at work and Orochi was just a small puppet on a tantrum. In the end, Yami is the mastermind that has put the Celestial Plains at risk and you need to save the Celestial World so the Gods can live on.
Jimmy, you’re drooling on your desk.
Let’s dig into some of the legends that are portrayed in Okami.
The teacher brings up a slideshow of Japanese folklore images. Some students are fighting to keep interested as they know this must be the longest part of their lecture. A few girls perk up in their seats showing enthusiasm, which the teacher was pleasantly happy to witness.
Okami is considered a classic for its deep-rooted Japanese mythologies that are strung throughout the game. Everywhere you see, every story you encounter is influenced by Japanese myths. Now I’ve taken the liberty to bullet point the mythical stories with the corresponding Okami characters. There are tons of small easter eggs scattered throughout Okami that play into these legends. Each of these Japanese stories is told in an extraordinary way that you get to experience as the player.
- Nagi and Nami (Japanese myth: Izanagi and Izanami)
- Izanagi and Izanami were the first two godly beings brought into the world from the Gods. Izanagi is “the male who invites” and Izanami is “the female who invites”. It was their duty to create land in the new world. They also created a love relationship and produced many celestial beings. Izanami ended up dying while giving birth to one of these deities. Izanagi went to Yomi, the land of the dead, to find Izanami. Izanagi was successful in finding her and asked if she would return with him, however, she could not leave. Izanagi noticed Izanami’s true decaying form and was terrified, so he escaped Yomi.
- Izanagi returned and began the first cleaning rituals and purified himself. He washed his left eye and created Amaterasu. When he washed his right eye, Tsuki-yomi, God of the Moon, was born. When washing his nose, Susanoo, God of the Sea and Storms, was created and came forth.
- Amaterasu (Japanese myth: Amaterasu-o-mi-kami)
- Amaterasu is the Sun goddess in Japanese culture. The common story told is when Amaterasu hides away in a cave when her brother Susanoo overran the world. All the Gods were trying to persuade her to come out and let her light shine once again to rid the darkness. No one was successful. Finally, Ama-no-uzme was able to lure her out when she placed a mirror and magatama beads next to the cave, then proceeded to dance erotically. When Amaterasu’s curiosity took hold, she came out of the cave to look into the mirror, but the other Gods grabbed her and pulled her back out into the world. She and her divine light went back into the sky and the darkness faded.
- The god that symbols flowers as well as representing prosperity. In Okami, she is the god that helps Ammy return all the darkened land back to its blooming beauty.
- Issun (Japanese myth: Issun Boshi)
- Issun was a one-inch boy that was given to an old couple who prayed for a child. Issun left home when he got older and eventually became a princess’s escort. They ended up being attacked by Ogres. Issun was able to defend himself and the princess, enabling them to escape. The princess used a Lucky Mallet to turn Issun into a full-sized man and then they were married.
- Kushi (Japanese myth: Kushinada or Kushinadahime)
- The rice paddy princess and eighth daughter of an elderly couple. All of Kushi’s sisters were sacrificed and eaten by Orochi. Kushi was to be sacrificed to Orochi next, but Susanoo fell in love with her. Susanoo asked her parents for her hand in marriage if he was able to save her. She was turned into a comb for protection. Susanoo beat the dreadful Orochi then were married.
- Susano (Japanese myth: Susanoo)
- The God of the Sea and the Storms. He had a very harsh temper and rage. He got into a fight with Amaterasu and was banished from heaven due to his anger. When he met Kushinada and promised to kill Orochi, he turned her into a comb. He put the comb into his hair. He gave Orochi a powerful sake in order to get him drunk. When Orochi passed out and Susanoo began to cut off each of Orochi’s heads. When he cut open the heads of Orochi, the sword Kusanagi came out and Susanoo gave it to Amaterasu to reconcile.
- Mr. and Mrs. Cutter (Japanese myth: Oldman and Oldwoman Tongue-Cutter)
- An Old Man found an injured sparrow and brought it into his home to bring back to health. The Old Woman was a cranky, mean woman who cut the tongue out of the sparrow’s mouth when she found it ate her starch paste, then she released it outside. The Old Man was horribly sad and went out to look for the sparrow. When he found it, the sparrow invited him back to his home of the Sparrow Sanctuary. The Old Man was taken care of while he visited the sparrows, and was given the choice to take a light or heavy basket home. He chose the light basket. When he returned home and looked in the basket, there was gold and silver in it. The Old Woman greedily wanted the same and went to see the sparrows. When they gave her the choice of baskets, she chose the heavy one. This basket held goblins and elves who tormented her. The Old Man lived happily ever after.
These are just a few stories told during your journey. There are many cities and villages, tools, and weapons that are linked to Japanese legends included in the game, such as the Lucky Mallet that Issun uses. We will cover those another day.
Let’s move onto Gameplay and talk more about the specs of the game itself.
Laughter from the students held in the air following the previous story. The teacher excitedly swipes and touches her hand device. Multiple pictures appear on the blackboard. The vibrant images popping out towards the students. Jimmy started putting his head back down on his table until he noticed one of the pictures displayed. The students look in awe of the beauty of the artwork. They look fully engaged now, whispering to each other their opinions of the images.
Alright now. These are just a few images from actual gameplay and artists’ concepts of a few characters. Look at the type of graphics and composition the game is set in.
The design is a Japanese paintbrush style, also known as ink washing. It also has a watercolor infusion and cel-shading throughout. As you move through the game, there is a paper-like, or 2D effect that creates beautiful layering. The light that is captured and highlighted in different scenes makes the environments look heavenly.
The game is also drawn in a wood-carving Ukiyo-e style. This style became popular in the 17th century in Japan. It encompassed pictures of scenery, beautiful women, sumo wrestlers, folktales, landscapes, and flora and fauna. Ukiyo came to describe the hedonistic lifestyle of that time.
Everything in this game has movement. The wind is something you can see interacting with its environment. The water flows and shimmers with both the sun and moonlight. Ammy’s painted fur textures move with her. Her weapons dance in their own way connected to her body.
The characters are god-like, fun, simply drawn with astounding features, as I’m sure you all can see. Not all the characters are drawn with such perfection but these two shown are ones you interact with personally. One is the Dragon Queen and the other Rao, a demon portrayed in a woman’s body.
One reason this game sets apart from others is the type of character Amaterasu is. You don’t play a normal human, sci-fi humanoid, alien, or fantasy elf. You play a simple wolf. At the point in time when Okami was released, a lot of the gaming community was focused on human characters. Some games released at this time included Gears of War, Call of Duty 3, Dead Rising, and Oblivion. Since we didn’t see many games with an animal as the main character, it was a fun, exciting, and refreshing perspective.
Games that did sport animals as their protagonist were a cutesy take off with a child-like demeanor. Clover Studios took that and enhanced the character to have a mature, wild, and raw form. Taking on the persona of a wolf was a great roleplaying performance that kept you intrigued throughout the game.
Many of the students cooed in their agreement of the images. Jimmy was drooling for another reason now and seemed entirely awake. The teacher changed the images to a few old GIFs showing portions of gameplay. Many of the students took this time to jot down quick notes.
Now, as you can see from these GIFs there are many layers to your surroundings. The mountains, clouds, water around the trees. The scenery is a painted masterpiece that feels like you’ve jumped into the canvas. How you interact with your environment and how the environment reacts to you gives a feeling of running around in a painting. A connection between you and the setting is personal. It’s immersive. In 2006, this was becoming very popular and widespread to have more of the environment included in the gameplay. The atmosphere or ambiance was just as important as the characters and the plot.
The teacher switches to new GIFs. The students exclaimed in excitement. Jimmy expressed his sadness in the images changing from the women previously, so he replaced his head back on his table.
Battle & Interaction Style
Let’s discuss battles in Okami. This was a very unique style of fighting in video games. As a God from the Celestial Plains, you are given the gift of the Celestial Brush technique to use as one of your weapon choices. You collect brushstroke forms throughout the game to increase your power levels. The Celestial Brush Gods give you these many techniques as you save them from the overwhelming darkness.
When you encounter an enemy or puzzle, you can switch to your canvas with your paintbrush and draw a shape or picture to damage your opponent or complete the puzzle. You also have to collect ink in order to paint. There are ink bottle indicators to show how much you have.
Over the course of the game, you also find new weapons that produce higher levels of damage or certain elements that do more damage against specific enemies. There are a variety of swords, shields, and whips.
Suddenly bright pictures shine up in front of the students. Their eyes are mesmerized by the weapons displayed. Some of the students respond with encouraging comments in that eras lingo, explaining their acceptance of them.
Okay, okay! Yes, her weapons are pretty cool to look at and use. Brian, we are not going to cut anyone’s head off.
Now let’s start finishing up here.
These are just a few of the weapons you end up finding. They all have their own abilities. This concept art portrays them very well, in how they are positioned on Ammy and the use of color. The whips swirl around Ammy’s neck like a piece of jewelry, while the shields and swords are mounted on her back. You have to be strategic in choosing your weapons. You are allowed to equip one “main” and “sub” weapon. Knowing all the abilities of each weapon and which ones pair up better is a part of this strategy. This gives you the highest possible chance to beat your enemies quickly and hopefully with little damage.
To sum up, this game is a very unique, special experience that was like no other in its time. The open-world Japanese style canvas setting you navigate is not only extremely entertaining but wonderful to just sit and admire.
Now, your assignment tonight is to play through some of the battle scenarios to experience the brush stroke fighting technique. I would like you to write a short essay expressing your understanding of the technique and how you think it works in a game setting. Could there be a better fighting style? Do you like what Clover Studios created with this battle type? You can find your assignment in your GoogleHand 460 in our class essay folder. The scenarios will pop up at the start of the battle with a short tutorial explaining how to fight. You will be given 3 tries to experience the battle scenes.
And can someone please wake Jimmy up and tell him about the assignment.
Thank you! Have a good day everyone. That’s it for today!