Okami is a very special game to me. It’s my favorite game of all time and one of the most impactful I’ve ever played. The experience not only changed the way I viewed video games and media as a child, but it also planted seeds to things that are just now coming to fruition in my adult life.
Recently, Okami‘s HD version was released on PS4, Xbox One and PC, and it rekindled my love affair with the game.
Rewind back to 2005. I was in Walmart looking at gaming magazines (as I was prone to do back then) when I saw a preview in OPM of a game called Okami. I was immediately drawn to it and
I became obsessed. I couldn’t stop thinking about this game for months on end. A few trips to Walmart later, I found myself reading the latest OPM when I noticed a demo disc for the game inside. I begged my mom to buy it, and of course she didn’t say “no.” I played the demo for Okami so many times that I realistically cannot tell you an estimation — all I know is that I played the crap out of that demo.
The year 2006 rolls along and Twilight Princess is gearing to be released in December, so little Zach decides to sign up on the IGN message boards to keep track of details, rumors, theories, etc of the new Zelda game. When prompted to enter what username I want I
type in “XxOkamiAmaterasuxX”. (Don’t try and look it up now, I went in and deleted the account a long time ago.) But this shows that even before Okami was even released I was obsessed.
In my young 12 year old brain I couldn’t figure out why I was so drawn to the unreleased game, so I started telling myself, “in Okami you play as a wolf, and in the new Zelda game you play as a wolf, so Okami is just training for the REAL game.” I couldn’t possibly justify being more excited for a game over Zelda of all things. I mean, it was Zelda, and it was my life growing up.
On September 19th, 2006 Okami was released for the PlayStation 2. The night before I could barely sleep from excitement. After school I went with my grandma to Gamestop and picked up the game, then
I it was right at home to play Okami for the first time. As a young child my mom gave me free reign of the living room. It was only the two of us in the home, so nobody was ever fighting over space or the TV. That entire week I remember coming home from school and just playing Okami until bed time, and then when the weekend rolled around I would play it all day. I remember the feeling of beating the game for the first time: it was something special to me. I wanted more, to learn more about this world and about these gods. So I started a new game and began replaying immediately, something I still haven’t done again to this day. Eventually Twilight Princess came out and I could barely make myself sit down and play it, but when I did it felt like the most disappointing experience to me. “Why couldn’t it be more like Okami ?” was all I thought.
Fast forward to now. I’ve played and beaten Okami probably a dozen times, and I’m itching to get back into it again as I’m writing this. There are many reasons why it still appeals to me. Aesthetically it’s arguably the best looking game ever made. The consistent visual flair that it’s able to pull off is astounding. The humor is on point. The combat is quick and snappy, and it’s bad ass to see a wolf with a big sword on her back, shooting lasers out of her mouth. The main mechanic of drawing on the screen with a paint brush works amazingly well; there’s not a time where what you want to draw and what ends up on screen are misaligned
What makes Okami really stick out to me now is its voice. As a child I never caught on to the themes and the true underlying story of what the game is about — I just played for the fun experience. But when I began playing as an adult, I was in awe at its positive outlook on God and life and nature, cementing the game as being my favorite of all time.
Okami is about a God named Amaterasu who has come back after 100 years to a world that is in ruin. Emotionally and physically this world is drained of everything that made it joyous and fun. On her journey, Amaterasu brings joy and cheer back to Nippon (Japan) and to all the animals and humans alike. She creates flowers, blooms trees, destroys demons and makes everyone generally better. The idea of a God that directly interacts with people and puts themself in danger to save her children is beautiful and inspiring.
As a 23 year old I would describe myself as non-religious. Although I was raised by and around some very amazing Christians, it was never for me. I live in a small city in Texas that has a church on every street corner. I have always been surrounded by God but I have never felt more closer to
an idea of Him than I have when I play Okami. The way God is portrayed in the game manages to make me feel happy and positive about life in a light that I normally am not in during my day-to-day life. It feels like every tree we bloom, every side quest we do, every demon we slay and animal we feed that we’re truly bringing a god’s blessing back to the people.
Through Okami I became very interested in Japanese history and culture. I have collected stacks of Japanese history books that I have read and enjoyed because of the game’s setting. And, through my personal journey of Japan I was able to learn about Shinto. Shinto is the practice of dutifully engaging in worship to bring one’s self closer to Japan and nature. It’s all about being one with yourself and the space you occupy, whilst respecting the trees and animals that live around you. This led me to I learn that there is a goddess in Shinto named Amaterasu, and immediately many small puzzle pieces came together. Not only is Okami about a God blessing her children and saving Japan but it’s also a game that is inherently rooted in Japanese culture. Forget anime and other Japanese media, Okami is the one true God.
There are very few things in my life that I can look upon and think, “what would my life be like without X?” Okami is one of those exceptions. Without it I honestly don’t know if I’d be where I am right now, whether mentally or career-wise with so many things in my life. It cemented my love for games and games media; here I am. It gave me my love for Japan and all of its cultures and art. It gave me a different way to look at life outside of the small bubble I preside in. Okami is special, it opened my mind to ideas and concepts that I would normally not have been interested in or even known about. The deeper meaning an experience that Okami can give to someone is something I pride myself in knowing and its purely something that I have only been able to get out of a video game, not from church or from real life.