Pin It


I destroyed the land of Nippon five years ago. Time to clean up.

click to enlarge Like Zelda, in art class.
  • Like Zelda, in art class.

The land of Nippon is sick. Patches of dying grass creep across fields and meadows. The skeletons of trees poke up into a murky, eggplant-colored sky. Stagnant ponds choke with decaying plants.

Acrid wisps of black cloud smother the sun.

It seems like I just cleaned this place up. But my notes tell me that I played the beautiful, memorable Okami back in 2006 when it was originally released for the PlayStation 2. Since then, Okami has gone on to become a cult classic, finally spawning this sequel for the Nintendo DS. Set nine months after the end of the original game, Okamiden puts me in charge of cleaning up the world I cleaned up half a decade ago.

As the child of the heroine of Okami, I am once again a dog — a white dog marked with orange and black calligraphy — who has the power of a god. Like my mother, I am able to alter reality with the sweep of a brush. The sun needs to shine? I just draw a circle in the sky — music plays, ink swirls around the heavens and a bright, spinning sun appears. Those spindly trees? A quick sketch fills their branches with bright cherry blossoms. And the dying plants? A horizontal line chops them down.

Like the first game, Okamiden adds an element of artistic creativity to a Zelda-like adventure. During most of my journey, I control the action with the traditional combination of directional pad and buttons. But when I encounter an aesthetic tragedy — a leafless tree, a broken vat of sake — I pull out the DS’s stylus and start to draw. During the game’s marvelous boss battles, I’m forced to use both control styles, sometimes simultaneously, making for challenging action sequences that recall the innovative gameplay of The World Ends With You.

The reward for all my effort is the restoration of Nippon. As I return the sunshine and drive the demons from the land, I watch a green tide sweep the countryside. Flowers spring from the ground, flinging their petals into the air. Waves leap from streams like dolphins. And the gnarled trunks of trees unfurl, scattering pink cherry blossoms across a robin’segg sky.

THE GOOD: Okamiden is almost as beautiful as Okami. Even on the DS’s small, low-resolution screen, the game offers more sophisticated visuals than many of today’s cutting-edge titles. The designers have taken the entire span of Japanese art, from the classical prints of Hokusai to the abstract modernism of Uchima, and brought it to life in the context of a videogame. More than just a backdrop, this artistic wonderland becomes the ideal setting for me to wield my stylus with style.

THE BAD: The various calligraphic powers quickly become overused — there are only so many puzzles that can be solved by drawing suns in the sky and tracing paths for my companions to follow. There is no true evolutionary combination of powers, merely the repeated application of one power after another. Only during the boss battles do the various brush techniques combine to become something more than just beautiful actions.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The pen is as mighty as the sword in the beautiful Okamiden.

Tags: ,

  • Pin It

Speaking of Games

Latest in Film

  • Swing and a Miss
  • Swing and a Miss

    Hands of Stone can't carve out a distinctive space among boxing biopics
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Texas Heat
  • Texas Heat

    Hell or High Water is the crime drama you've been waiting all summer for
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Gun Show
  • Gun Show

    Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are armed and dangerous in the true story War Dogs
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Minus the Bear, This Will Destroy You

Minus the Bear, This Will Destroy You @ Knitting Factory

Sun., Aug. 28, 8 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks


More by Marty Demarest

  • The Cowboy's Cowboy
  • The Cowboy's Cowboy

    A Canadian sings about the life —  not just the lifestyle — of the new West
    • May 15, 2013
  • Completing the Trilogy
  • Completing the Trilogy

    Mass Effect has finally arrived
    • May 23, 2012
  • Minecraft
  • Minecraft

    Adventure and survival too often give way to mindless crafts in this building-block simulator.
    • Feb 8, 2012
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Still Celebrating

    Boy George and Culture Club paved the way for genre- and gender-bending rock stars
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Seashell Secrets
  • Seashell Secrets

    Song of the Sea is a beautiful story of siblings struggling to cope and understand each other
    • Feb 25, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation