Okami: Disapointments

This is my (very) subjective review of Okami. To summarize it: I can’t play the game. It’s unbelievably unplayable for me, due to shockingly bad details.

Ever since it was released on PS2 and got rave reviews about its style and concept I wanted to play, even own it. Then Yu-Chung reviewed it and even mentioned that a Wii version would be released. Over one year ago I purchased the Wii version but haven’t played it until now, due to the lack of time and my backlog. Last evening I could play it at last.

Okami Wii Boxart

Great box design, i really love it.

But boy, was I shocked about how bad some simple aspects of the game turned out. They made me end my playing session after approximately 30 minutes of (play)time.

As a last disclaimer, I want to mention that will only list negative points. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t found many details and the overall concepts and intentions good. But the overall result is, that the details I will list prevented me from playing the game in the future and that is what ultimately counts.

When starting the game, the introduction “video” started. I was pleased with the story.

Sadly the intro text characters appear very slow and I was annoyed how many text boxes I had to read (and wait trough). I must admit that I am a quick reader, but the main problem here is probably that the original Japanese version had many characters inside the text box that would finish complete sentences. In German, a rather verbose language, every sentence took about 3 to 4 boxes. At least they programmed it correct, so that the “scene animation” paused until the appropriate text was delivered, but this took awfully long.

If I had to fix this, my solution would have been simply to make the text box bigger. I would make the box wider at least. I would also consider making it higher. This might obscure some of the animation, but both is equally important – at least in a game without voiceover. I would also avoid the auto-appearing text. I’d make the appear-effect way quicker (not in speech speed) and allow the player to press/hold a button to speed it up, skip the appearing effect and jump to the next text box.

After the intro I started a new game. Sadly this replays the story, and not in (already long enough) brief-intro-mode but in a verbose variation. After about 5 minutes of “wait until the text box finished” I used the skip button (at least this is available!) just to find out that there are 3 introductory parts of the storyline you need to skip until you truly get to control the character (play the game). How many centuries need to go on until every game designer realizes that gameplay at the beginning of a game is crucial to success? Show at least the first 5 minutes for gameplay, before you present your gigantic cinematics etc.

Another ugly detail is the text box design itself. It’s got an “brush stroke” frame, that has some wiggly twists. This would basically look quite okay and suite their style, but they animated it to jump between a few (3,4?) variants. So while you are reading rather large amounts of text on a (low rez) TV, the image is constantly jerking, jiggling, wiggling and wobbling. You do not need to have Photosensitive Epilepsy to become quite sick from this. If you can’t find a good-looking frame design for text boxes, make them more neutral, more flat. Never animate them besides fading in, fading out and maybe a special “urgent” variation. Aquanox 2 had a huge amount of text-based story. We simply used an interface that looked like a futuristic chat window.

Aquanox 2 Conversation

This may look a little bit boring, but story is best digestible in a reduced styling.

OT: Somebody made a mod for Fallout3 to use Aquanox 2 gui textures, I think it fits perfectly!

But I have more gripes about the text presentation of the story: the text-to-speech sound effect. Instead of having a voiceover (which I personally most often personally dislike and thus have no problem when it’s missing), they have a sophisticated sound effect that imitates speech. At first, this sounds interesting and quite well. But after many, many minutes (remember the long introduction? exactly!), it eventually starts getting on your nerves. But it’s not even the worst in the introduction, as the sound effect is low pitched, like a male storyteller. When you actually start playing the game, you have a friendly fairy giving you all sorts of tips, being your buddy and making fun about you and each and every situation. This may be cute, but the chosen sound effect is very high-pitched and after the first three text boxes annoying as hell. Solution: go with the way Nintendo does voice-over-less sound effects. Have a rather neutral text appear sound effect and play Aaahs, Ooohs, Sighs, etc. to transport the necessary emotion of texts.

At least you can skip the faerie’s text boxes appear-animation, by pressing A (which you also need to press to continue after a text box page has been completely filled). But enough of text presentation for now, the game has many more problems.

For example, the resolution is quite poor. I’ve played it in PAL (576 pixel height) on my Wii on a Full-HD LCD screen. I can tell it worked, because the rather tiny numbers in the GUI were clearly using the full resolution. But the game’s 3D world is rendered in a lower resolution, unidentifiable due to post processing effects. It appears like the game is rendered in approximately 500×400 or even lower, which is very blurry. It may be due to motion blur or bloom or their sumi-e style rendering, but it is clearly visible on every screenshot on the web:

Okami Blurry Screenshot

So blurry I get a big headache.

Okami Blurry Screenshot 2

Sharp visuals were already possible early 90s with 16 bit technology.

After the technical issues, let’s move on to the gameplay, which is unquestionable the stylish idea of 2D painting into 3D scenes to issue special actions. The first time I encountered it, I was asked to finish a star constellation in order to make a dragon appear. The task was quite simple – just paint one single dot that then becomes a star. But the game fails to present this simple task properly. The translated text says “press B button”, which is only a minor mistake but still incorrect. If you follow the instructions, you do not draw but instead your fairy repeats a previous a text, which sounds like it wasn’t your turn to draw.

But the real issue is, that you have to “hold B button” in order to enable the drawing mode, then “hold A button” to actually start painting. If you want to draw a dot, you only need to “press A button” while still “holding B button”. This is, of course, only a minor mistake, but it took me 5 (five!) times to get it right. Every time, I have been punished by the fairy repeating “Oh, I can’t do it”. Lesson: Make sure that failing to do a task is clearly communicated. Make sure that when a player fails a task repeatedly, a permanent hint message appears (for example “B – OPEN DRAW MODE”) in order for them to experiment with what they’re doing wrong. If its clear that B is the correct button, the second thing to try after pressing it would be holding it.

Nevertheless, I solved this unintended “puzzle” and continued my journey. Sadly I didn’t get far. I came to the river made of star dust. The fairy hints that she does not believe that it’s possible to “repair” the “broken” river by doing the “repair paint” trick. It’s rather clear, that this is supposed to be a hint to actually try it out nevertheless.

So I stood on my side of the river, held the B button and painted the easy repair pattern – a zig zag motion – wherever the river seemed to be broken. A sparkling particle effects appeared and gave me the good feeling that I was successful. Now I could swim through the river to to other side.

Or so I thought. This wasn’t actually possible because the river just ended midway trough and I couldn’t swim further. Of course I thought I didn’t do the painting correctly or needed to do it multiple times. Thus I swam back and tried again. No use. Here the spoiler: you do not have to repair the water, but just paint it where necessary. So if you swim halfway and then hold B button and paint more, you can reach the other side. If you try to paint this from the start point, the perspective will not allow you to do this as easily and you won’t be able to finish the river all the way to the other side. It is clearly a pitfall of 2D painting in 3D perspective. It could have been solved easily trough level design by making the river narrower.

Well, of course this annoyed me further, I didn’t stop to play the game, as the visual style and advancement of story held my attention. But I did not made much further. Approximately 5 minutes further into the game, the fairy asked me to use a sword stroke to split a huge rock into two pieces. She even asked me to do this horizontally and showed me an animated reference line in un-ignorable red color.

But after trying for about 50 times to do the cut, with all variations of slowly, quickly, precise (no jagged edges), zig-zag and whatnot, I still didn’t manage to cut the rock. How much could I possibly do a mistake that no beta-tester at Capcom or Clover wasn’t able to spot? As you can probably guess, I’m still clueless about this stupid situation. I gave up to the play the game and decided to write this “review” instead.

Hopefully you can understand that I initially did not intent to bash the game. However, with so many details that went wrong, I clearly can see why despite 90% average score the game neither sold well nor saved the developer studio from closing.

Daniel Renkel

Daniel 'sirleto' Renkel is a true indie game developer (at heart ;) and a part time simulation engineer (space- & aircrafts). He's studied computer science at the university of Darmstadt, Germany and has a background of 8 years as game developer (assistant projectmanager, game designer, associate producer and technical artist). He worked on a whole number of PC and console games including the Aquanox series. Visit ludocrazy.com for more information about this current android mobile phone games.

24 responses to “Okami: Disapointments”

  1. Finn Haverkamp

    I can sympathize with most all of your criticisms. The jerky text box is annoying, and it takes obscenely long to get into the game. However, my argument for the cut-scene/narrative pacing is that they’re trying to set a mood for the game. The game is epically long by my standards, and in a way the opening tells players that they’re in for a long ride. Regardless, I remember being pretty annoyed that it took me so long to finally play the game. Personally, I enjoyed the talking sound effect, however. The Press and Hold difference is huge, and I feel one is mistaken for the other all too often in games. I played through the game on PS2, and the controls were actually quite excellent; the analog drawing was never an issue. Unfortunately, I think the finicky drawing controls are due to the nature of the remote; the drawing controls are vital to success and enjoyment of the game, so for them to work poorly would really be detrimental to the experience. the game certainly has many stumbling blocks to start off with, but if you can make it past them, so much of the later game is amazing, and the entire adventure as a whole is what truly makes for an amazing experience and accomplishment.

  2. Valentin Galea

    Daniel do you enjoy something in life:)?

    Clearly Okami is targeted at a more hardcore crowd, and Finn is right on the money with his comments. Btw I feel that if the original developers would have ported it to the Wii, it would have had better gesture recognition…

  3. sirleto

    okay – i see, you want me to stick with the game. that’s fine … i’ll keep that in mind ;-)


    a) yes, there are a few things. some rare things. like weather (yes, generally) and nature and silence. and yes, i also like motorstorm :D

    b) i thought it was ported by the original authors, whom else?

  4. Finn Haverkamp

    It was ported by Ready at Dawn. They made God of War: Chains of Olympus and Daxter for PSP.

  5. Krystian Majewski

    You are ahead of me, Daniel. I haven’t played Okami yet, it’s still in my Backlog. Now I have even more reasons. It might be the first game to be reviewed by each one of the original GDR Team!

    Your comments seem valid to me. I also prefer jumping right into action. If there is story that can’t be told in-game, something must have gone wrong. But Finn’s comment on the game being very long is an intriguing counter-point.

    I must admit I don’t have any clue what you are talking about when you criticize the blurriness of the screenshots. They look fine to me. They certainly don’t cause any headaches to me. But then again, I’m a visual klutz, I can’t even really see the big difference between 30FPS and 60FPS ;-) *duckandcover*

    I was wondering: you wrote about the way Nintendo is doing “fake Voiceover” Effects? Do you have any specific game in mind? Because I only remember Animal Crossing and it sounded pretty much as you describe Okami.

  6. sirleto


    source of your information?

    according to mobygames it is from clover themselves:

  7. sirleto

    okay – forget it … i already found it: ready at dawn team two did it (under didier malenfant and brian hawkins).

  8. sirleto


    voiceover -> out of my head. i thought zelda games (n64? afair. gc? wii? idk – probably check all three ;)

    blur -> well, of course it is more apparent when animated than on the screens, but take a look at the “So blurry I get a big headache” screenshot and do tell me that you can clearly see the “dog” (god ;) , also the fire, also the snake-y parts of the boss, the black lines of the ground (everything is pretty unsharp actually). it looks like this is a “mobile phone camera shot taken from tv” but it is an actually digital 1:1 screenshot!

    1. Krystian Majewski

      Voiceover – Zelda is well-know for some very annoing fairy sounds. And somehow they make that mistake again and again. So I believe this is not the solution you are looking for. ;-)

      Blurry – Sorry, I REALLY don’t know what you are talking about. Sure it may be not super-HD-crisp but I would expect that from a game made for SDTV. In fact, having too crisp graphics would cause headaches because it would start to flicker due to interlacing.

      It doesn’t look specifically blurry to me. Blurry is not the first thing that pops into my mind when I see it. Busy – yes. Chaotic – yes. Colorful – yes. Blurry – meh. But again, it may be just me. *shrug*

  9. Reed

    Reading your review, I’m thinking that playing longer won’t do you any favors. For starters, it takes a few hours to break free of what feels like an extended tutorial. Even then, there’s LOTS of fairy talking, and the game overstays its welcome by about 1/3rd of it’s length.

    Personally, I loved the game for several reasons (for instance, particularly intense fights really seem to embody the vicious snapping of a wolf fight) and forgave it’s flaws, but I’m making a best guess that it’s just not your style.

  10. Daniel Renkel

    blurry -> okay, after i made the point of “16bit was sharp” and looking at old 3d-mode super nes games (256×224) and also looking at old n64 screens (zelda ocarina) and finally coming to the gamecube … i was shocked.

    you’re absolutely right, all those games do look blurry – a lot. which means, watching such games in a “normal distance” on a “normal sized” sd-tv looked great. watching them now at a “normal distance” on a “normal sized” hd-tv looks awful.

    i tried to find REALLY sharp wii screenshots (original res) and the best i got looks still WAY blurry … not as bloomed (glow effect) as okami, but still you’re right. one can’t hold it against okami …

    take a look at those wii screenshots:


    mario galaxy


  11. Daniel Renkel

    @reed: the main problem is here: looking at the idea and visual style the game is TOTAL my style. but then having it seen in action i’m just totaly picky about so many details that i couldn’t enjoy any broader concept of it…

  12. Yu-Chung Chen

    Hey Daniel, great to hear from you again! Also to have another perspective on this game is refreshing. Krystian, it’d be indeed intriguing to have your review as well.

    I don’t want to come across as a fan boy and see valid points for your annoyances. Actually I almost forgot your show stopper, I had the exact same problem with slashing those rocks, got annoyed as hell but still powered through. Interestingly, gesture recognition was never that problematic later on in the game (though still occasionally failing, as I mentioned). The oversensitivity (or whatever that is) of the Wiimote is something I’ve read about already (so you’re not alone!) but not experienced myself, though I can imagine that the wrist angle you need to hold for painting might be rather uncomfortable. If 3D movements could be accurately tracked without having to point at the screen (not sure if MotionPlus offers that), the ability to paint in broad strokes (think conductor-style movements) might be the solution. But unrealistic for a port of a poor-selling game.

    Not properly communicating the quasi-mode (the “you have to hold it!”) is definitely a design failure, even if I wasn’t annoyed by that.

    Re: the fake voices, I think Banjo Kazooie did that definitely. Zelda 64, apart from the annoying fairy, worked with short sounds which only start each sentence if I remember correctly. Anyway, the Okami-rendition of it didn’t bother me that much, though I’d prefer a more toned-down sound (e.g. A Link To The Past) as well. I do think it’s appropriate for that extremely cartoony look, more so than for the Zelda series.

    The long introductory sequences must have been acceptable to me as well, as they didn’t leave any “gamotional” scars on me – at least in the first run. I remember that I attempted a “New Game +” but the tutorial section actually put me off (not the only reason though). Oh and skipping was only possible on the second run back on the PS2 version.

    It’s great to see constructive comments on the text boxes, though I wouldn’t increase the width of them as that actually hurts readability.

    I can relate to the blurriness. The problem is twofold: 1. the game incorporates a bit of that low-tech motion blur by reusing the frame buffer. 2. the paper texture overlay essentially adds full-screen noise. Add to that the wild color-palette and the odd clamped dynamic range, you get an awkward kind of reduced readability (that I missed to put my finger on in my original review).

    Having said that all, I replied off my memory (and some Internet screens), so I might be wrong as hell. Which is why I’ll pop in the game now. Haven’t seen it on my current TV setup anyway.

    Looking forward to read more comments!

  13. Yu-Chung Chen

    minor update after a brief “warm up” session yesterday.

    At the beginning I had problems at the wooden fence which came AFTER the rock.

    You mentioned that the camera angle is hindering the painting. Are you saying that painting the remaining gap while already in the river is a problem? If so, why? In general I’d agree that the level design should suggest better perspectives in the first place. The fact that you can adjust the camera during the paint mode will be communicated only later IIRC. How’s the control on the Wii btw? Since PS2 uses the right A-stick for the camera.

    Checking out the game again reminds me of that unfortunate save game of mine that has me trapped in the final boss level. Still annoys the hell out of me.

  14. Daniel Renkel

    >Checking out the game again reminds me of that unfortunate save game of mine that has me trapped in the final boss level.

    that reminds _me_ of nearly every final fantasy that i own. i never played it through, but i have an anoying savegame at the last / next-to-last boss fight. ;)

  15. Reed

    Incidentally (and here’s a SPOILER) Okami something that you *never* get to experience in other games: you get to immerse yourself in a glorious post-finale celebration (mainly because the finale isn’t really the finale – not by a long shot).

    So it’s a hell of a boss fight in the first place, then you get to run around this village, liberated from the generations-long dread that this legendary nemesis will return and destroy the place. They’re celebrating, drunk, dancing, the music is ebullient, and the villagers are SO HAPPY. It’s really one of the best game narrative moments I can recall.

  16. zbeeblebrox

    The voices were one of the things that stopped me from playing as well. They never bothered my roommate, but the sound seemed to infuriate me every time it played. I still have no idea what the story is about, simply because every time someone began a dialogue box my immediate reaction was to hit A! A! A! A! A! until it stopped talking.

    The issue with the cutting of the rock, though – that was also a big frustration for me. I eventually figured it out through GameFAQs, which is a lame way to get through a tutorial. Here’s the trick: it IS a bug. But not how you think. In the Wii version of the game, cutting things requires that you make a stroke IN THE EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION FROM THE ONE THEY TELL YOU TO USE. It seems so simple once someone tells you, like “why didn’t I think of that?” but the truth is, never in your right mind would you think the game might deliberately fool you like that. So you don’t try it. End of story.

    And to top it all off, it IS the only time the slashing technique is super sensitive. So that’s a double whammy.

    You should definitely go back and play a couple more hours of it, just to get a feel for how beautiful the visuals are capable of being. But the game suffers from a great number of design flaws beyond what the tutorial has to offer, so I doubt you’ll get much beyond a few hours in – which is where I stopped. I think I was by a waterfall or something. I don’t know. Tree were attacking me for some reason. Skipping the dialogue meant I had no incentive to keep going, so it doesn’t bother me that I ended the game in an incomplete state.

  17. sirleto

    oh – thank you for that enlightening comment!

    that makes 100% sense, because i tried many different ways but ‘m pretty sure that i did not directly invert the stroke (”hit from left to right” and i’m doing it right to left). from a technical point of view this can even make some (quirky) sense. but still, i was so annoyed on that evening, i just didn’t think “technical” about it.

    so, thank you – now i HAVE the chance to continue play … whenever i want. and that’s probably more the problem here :-)

  18. Josiah Koehn

    I’m currently playing the PS2 version and I think it’s phenomenal. Yeah, if the first time you played this game was on the Wii version, I can see why you didn’t like it. The motion stuff for the Wii doesn’t always work right and the Wii actually takes a while to load stuff. On the PS2, you can zip right through the dialogue and it all works smoothly. Yeah, if you take a PS2 game and make it a Wii game, there isn’t a chance it will turn out that great.

  19. Mary

    It’s a shame you didn’t like it enough to play further. I was very put off by it at first (the SLOOOOWWWW openings which I DID sit through), and the way their heads move when they talk, etc. But being an artist, I was determined to play it till I won. It definitely gets better!
    The bounty lists, the treasure collecting, the dojo/teachnique learning (I was ridiculously amused by golden and brown fury, I’m embarrassed to say), stray beads, and sidequests give you a lot to do if you are tired of the main goal of defeating evil. And heck, you gotta meet the half-baked prophet Waka! “The tango, mon cherie!” (Or maybe you already have, if you’ve fought Orochi…)
    It’s worth another try.

    I’m on my third round, since you unlock bonus things when you beat it, like art galleries (my favorite!), level design, music tracks, and so on. I love the game very much, and I hope you end up liking it a little :)

  20. Jenna

    Brush strokes: Easy cheat: press and hold B, then press and hold Z on your Wii nunchuck. Press and hold A button and drag the brush across the boulder.. It helps to keep your stroke nice and straight. After drawing a line across(not up-down, from the left to right) the boulder will cut in half.. Then you have to do it again to the wall of wood that blocks your way out.

    Also, the green “fairy” is a boy.. Issun is a boy name.. Plus I don’t think girls hide in wood sprites’ robes lol

  21. sirleto

    thanks for the hint jenna.
    next time i will try out the game again, i will know that there is a clear hint from you sitting here :-)

  22. Akira

    You can hold the z button to do straight strokes. the power slash is hard to do without it, I about got so flustered with the game I wanted to return it, till I found that out. Now I’m probably a bit more than halfway done and the only thing that bothers me is the stupid kimono side quest. Oh yes, and how dark it is when you are in a dark area, I have to constantly go to the drawing screen to see where I’m going.

  23. Name

    Well… you should really try the PS2 version before the Wii one. My PS2 version of the game was scratched beyond repair. So I bought the Wii version since I like Okami so much. The paint brush does NOT work on the Wii at all! Even using the Z button did not help much. I gave up the WIi version after the first two gane areas. It’s just too frustrating.
    Now, things like text boxes (although the brush stroke frame didn’t bother me) and long dialogue, that’s still in the PS2 version. But having a paintbrush that actually works makes it so much better. It helps with the river painting and slashing, and other brush strokes you’ll use later in the game.


Game Design Reviews is a Blog used by a group of game designers from Germany to publish and discuss their thoughts on various games. The blog consists entirely of reviews of games. Each review focuses on the important game design ideas and concepts of that particular game. We also run a second, more informal Blog called Game Design Scrapbook.


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