"Certain games are easy to eulogise, and Okami is one such lyrical gift. The effect of its visual style is something that can’t easily be understated: Japanese traditional painting, cel-shaded and flowing, filtered through a parchment - as if the whole game were a living canvas torn from Feudal Japan. It’s the kind of vision I imagine Sony were hoping for when they optimistically named the PS2 CPU ‘the Emotion Engine’.
The sheer range that Okami is capable of suggests a palette that other games dream of, and as I play I encountered odd links in tone and scope to the experience of Psychonauts. Like the Double Fine game, Okami refuses to concede on visual wealth: the terrifying organic immensity of the Spider Queen (also an appallingly well designed boss, despite the grumbles of some fumble-handed reviewers) whose incidental special effect attacks are as stunning as they are fleeting; the tidal waves of magically ignited fauna, exploding blossom and absurdly gay communes with forest animals; the sheer grim spookiness of the cursed zones, whose enemies stalk the lands as haunted scrolls or tapestries (bad spirits, banjo-wielding demons waiting to be tripped). Okami is pumped up with ideas that you seem to trigger, like conceptual booby-traps, with each twitch of the pad.
Okami reinterprets traditional Japan, both its wood-print pastoral art and its God and demon-infested polytheistic folklore, as a paintbrush-plus-Zelda-mixed-with-wolfgod game. The charm of this peculiar recipe isn’t simply in its rich presentation, it’s also in the ease and flow, the slow but steady pace that keeps its ideas arriving. There’s always another sword-wielding mouse (appearing as a mouse-wielding sword) descending from the heavens, and there’s always another battle inside a storm of calligraphic ideograms.
Gillen wondered whether other games might be able to appropriate their own historical styles, perhaps a game could be set entirely inside gothic script. Or, I wondered, could games take their visual language from Lowry or the ageing Goya?" Jim Rossignol