Updated Preview: The pen is mightier than the sword, provided that the sword isn't drawn of course...
In perhaps one of the most original games to land on the PlayStation 2, Okami takes its players into a world where your most dangerous weapon is a brush. Yes, a paint brush. Or a wolf's tail to be exact.
Developed by Clover Studio, Okami presents players with some of the most gorgeous cel-shaded graphics to ever grace the PS2. From its lush landscapes to Amaterasu, the game's silent protagonist, the graphics are stylistically similar to those of Japanese wallscroll paintings. From the screenshots, one could easily get lost in the beauty of the game as everything looks as though it's being drawn in real-time. Everything from the Asian-inspired architecture to the trail of flowers that follows Okami has been painstakingly detailed by the game artists to create a world unlike any other the player has ever seen before. One concern though is the prominence of Kanji in the game. How will Capcom address this during the domestic release? Loaning itself to the game's overall ambience, the use of Kanji is everywhere. If American players aren't able to understand it, will they still be able to embrace the full beauty of the game? This is one issue that Capcom will and should address prior to domestic release in September. For the player's sake however, I hope that Capcom decides to keep them in.
Aside from the graphics though, the gameplay is just as up-to-par. In one of the most innovative uses of the PlayStation 2 controller, players are able to draw on-screen using the ?celestial brush.' Want to slash an enemy? Draw a straight line across them on-screen. Need a bomb? Draw one carefully and just be sure to complete the circle. Players will be given the chance to acquire new brush strokes during the course of the game through missions and quests, adding to Amaterasu's arsenal of weapons. Thankfully, it's easy to switch between camera mode and stroke mode, as you'll be doing it quiet often during the game. One minute you'll need to jump to avoid an attack and the next you'll be countering with a stroke of your own.
The brush strokes aren't only for attacking though; Amaterasu is able to control the game's night/day cycle through painting either a sun or a moon in the sky. This feature is critical to the game's progression as quest-specific characters only appear during specific times of the day. Some people will only talk to you at night and some during the day, so until you acquire the ability to manipulate time, you'll be forced to spend time waiting around.
Control-wise, the game is very fluid; with the occasional lag, notwithstanding. Though much of the game's physics are unrealistic, it helps add to the ?fantastical' nature of the game. Amaterasu is able to jump higher and farther than would expect while the wolf will also begin to run faster after she gains momentum. Along with the brush strokes, rich soundtrack, and amazing graphics Okami marks one of the most ambitious projects to ever be taken upon for the old-aged PS2.