First released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2006, Okami has become one of Capcom’s most highly regarded game releases, mainly due to its ancient art style and magnificently original gameplay.  Not only do you engage in routine combat situations, but you actually get to interact with the environment using a unique painting interface, as if your drawing actually had an effect on the world.  The game has since gone on to critical success, leading to a re-release on the Wii two years later and a sequel, Okamiden, on the Nintendo DS.

Even though developer Clover Studio has closed up shop and moved on (they’re now known as Platinum Games and are working on Anarchy Reigns for Sega and Metal Gear Rising Revengeance for Konami), the game continues to have a moderately high following these days.   When rumors swirled that a high-definition version was in the works for PlayStation 3, gamers became abuzz with fever.  Days later, Capcom confirmed that Okami HD was real and on the way for fall 2012.  Not only that, but the similar control style for the Wii version would be available with HD, supporting the system’s supplementary PlayStation Move peripheral.

In the game, you control a spiritual wolf god by the name of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun.  The story sticks very closely to its classic Japanese roots, telling a tale that starts a hundred years beforehand.  It explains how a pure white wolf named Shiranui, with the assistance of a swordsman named Nagi, are able to seal away an eight-headed demon named Orochi before it can destroy their home of Kamiki Village, as well as Nagi’s beloved Nami.  

Years later, Orochi is mistakenly freed and proceeds to wreak havoc upon the land, leading Sakuya, guardian of the Village, to awaken Amaterasu to defeat him once and for all.  The sun goddess can’t do it by herself, nor does she need to.  Along with the assistance of a celestial brush that can be called on command, she also has Issun, a pint-sized artist, to help out when it comes to bringing the land to what it once was.

As we stated above, Okami HD is a game that combines the excitement of a routine action game with the unbelievable beauty of a Japanese work of art.  The gorgeous color tones are a sight to behold, whether you’re running through a village for the first time or looking out upon the water-colored ocean, as if you’re curious to see what lies beyond.  The PS3 version is the most beautiful version yet, casting a stark difference between the PS2 and PS3 engines.  As you can see, the difference is like night and day, without so many filters getting in the way.

Visual prowess is just part of the magic of Okami.  The battle sequences are handled with a great deal of imagination, as you use Amaterasu’s wolf-like techniques to bring down enemies, and even deliver finishing blows with the help of the celestial brush.

Then there’s the brush itself.  Not only can you use it to deliver punishing strikes to enemies, but you can also draw items in the environment, making them appear.  When you’re first introduced to it, for instance, you’ll connect together stars to form constellations.  As you proceed, you see more of its practical uses, such as drawing a sun to bring a shining light upon the land, or drawing a bridge so Amaterasu can safely get across.  Issun will also be on hand to provide tips when to use the brush, even if he can get a little annoying at times.  Hey, if you were a pint-sized, underappreciated artist, you’d probably get a little snippy, too.

Okami HD supports regular Dual Shock 3 controller actions, so you can play in the traditional analog sense if you prefer.  However, the game also lets you use the PlayStation Move to draw your images, as well as control Amaterasu through fighting and exploration.  Though it’s hardly an option that we’d consider necessary, it’s nice to see Capcom provide it anyway, giving owners of the peripheral a little something else to play with.

When it comes out later this year, Okami HD will be priced around $19.99.  While that may be a bit steep compared to what most downloadable games go for these days, remember what you’re getting for your money.  Tranquil visuals that will light up your TV screen (in HD, no less), a vivid soundtrack that still retains every bit of its impact, great gameplay that continues to innovate nearly six years later, and, of course, Issun’s rants, which are worth a chuckle or two.  For those who remember this game, this is the definitive version to down.  For those discovering it for the first time, you’ll be in for a treat.

Look for Okami HD later this year!