Amaterasu has risen again. Darkness has spread across in Okami’s Nippon, and this wolf goddess and her envoy, a diminutive artist named Issun, must travel around the country defeating demons and using Celestial Brush techniques to paint a better world. The action-RPG has been taking people on this adventure since 2006, when it made its PlayStation 2 debut, but never before has it felt so perfectly suited to a system. While Okami HD has been around before and brought enjoyment to a lot of people on various platforms. it genuinely feels like the Nintendo Switch is the real place to be.
Okami runs well on the Nintendo Switch. That is probably a given. After all, this is a title that was a major player in the Nintendo Wii game library. It ran pretty much flawlessly for the over 12 hours I played. Both docked and undocked, it just plain works. I did not notice any framerate issues or lag in my time. Things looked beautiful, which is a given since Okami’s art direction means it looks suitable an array of devices of varying power.
The real selling point is Handheld Mode. I feel Okami in Handheld Mode is the way people are supposed to be playing this game. It is just too good that way. It looks great. I did not notice any difference in performance between docked and undocked gameplay. It is possible there are some very minor issues, but I spent the majority of my time playing it away from a TV and enjoying every moment. I was so thrilled with the idea of having a game that I have loved for so many years with me anywhere, that having it in this form and functioning triumphed everything else. Especially since Handheld Mode offers something that makes this version of Okami amazing.
Using the Nintendo Switch touchscreen to paint in Okami is an earth shattering development. I may sound like I am overselling it, but this is the most incredible quality of life change for the game. Handheld Mode could cut the frame rate in half (it does not, don’t worry) and I would still be singing its praises. If you play while docked and need to paint, you have to hold down a button and draw. Whether you go with motion controls or standard controls, it is a thing. In Handheld Mode, you just touch the screen. You don’t press any other buttons. You don’t need to stop what you are doing. You just take whichever hand you can spare and draw what you want to draw. Okami automatically reacts as though your finger was a brush and the world was your canvas, ready for the sumi-e artwork you are about to create.
Even better, there is a sense of intuitiveness when drawing on the Nintendo Switch touchscreen in Okami HD. Sometimes, you need to draw more than one line when performing a Celestial Brush technique. You might worry and think, “Hey, is the game going to give me enough time to go ahead and draw the fuse for the Cherry Bomb? What if I am filling in a broken bridge, but accidentally lift my finger?” It is fine. It gives you about two seconds to start drawing again. That may not sound like much, but it is actually the perfect amount of time to get something accomplished. In fact, the only time I did have a problem was with some constellations. Filling one for say, Hasugami, where you need to place two stars, was occasionally tricky. But then, for something like that, you can do have the option of pressing a trigger button even in Handheld Mode to bring up the painting screen and allow yourself more time.
But, I can not close this out without mentioning Okami HD’s motion controls. I did not care for the Nintendo Wii version’s implementation. I always had trouble with slashing enemies to defeat them, due to trying to get lines recognized, precise, and drawn within enough time. I didn’t perfect drawing until I met Kaguya, to give you an idea of how long it took to get the hang of things. (For those who have played Okami before, that is a substantial number of hours into the game.) The Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons are absolute perfection here. I had no issues whatsoever.
It was easy to position the brush in Okami HD, whether it involved cutting through an enemy or making a circle for the Bloom or Water Lily techniques. When I would draw, I could make small motions and have the game recognize what I was doing. As an example, I could hold the Joy-Con in front of me and make a circle about the size of a grapefruit or softball, rather than the watermelon-sized loops the Nintendo Wii version required of me.
Okami is a wonderful game. For years, it has told a great story while using a timeless artistic direction and an unconventional gimmick that calls back to a historic painting technique. On the Nintendo Switch, I feel like Okami HD does all of those things while also offering the best possible control schemes and the option to have it with you wherever you go. It is a glorious thing to fire up the game, send Amaterasu out into the world, and actually use your finger as the Celestial Brush to impact the virtual world.
Okami HD is now available for the Nintendo Switch.