Sunday, 30 November 2008


Okami is a game originally for the PS2 that was recently ported to the Wii with a widescreen aspect ratio, a 'polished' look and an updated control scheme. The control scheme certainly added a new way of playing things, but the widescreen was what made all of the difference. This game was beautiful the first time around but it only got better with its re-release - just a shame you couldn't use a standard controller. So why am I writing about a video game on my animation blog....if you have to ask that you are kind of boring I guess, games are a fantastic outlet for modern media and animation. But I will privilege you with an answer anyway! Okami is probably the most unique looking video game since the 8-bit era brought to life a whole new side of art: I was most chuffed to see that at the end of Wall-E they used a load of 8-bit animation art in the credits; it really made me smile.

So why is it so unique? Okami's stylised look comes from a fruitful Japanese art background...pun intended to all the Okami fans out there :P The games creators loved this unique brand of art so much they transformed a whole world into this stylised look and the results are beyond gorgeous. I was lucky enough to be given the original artwork book as a present - one that quickly went on to become my favourite present! Pictures can only describe what I mean....I will start off with some pieces of work that I like the most, then I will get to the main hunk of the blog: the background artwork!

Okami Amaterasu

The new box art.

This is where the good stuff is: the concept art.

Just breath taking.

The world of Okami is full of beautiful and wonderful places. Every single one will take you aback for a second...that is what games should do. The background art is essential in creating this experience. In Okami you play the God of the Sun Amaterasu, the Benevolent Mother and you have many powers to control the game around you...including some which adjust the scenery. You can for instance switch between night and day at will. This means that all the backgrounds change and mature at your discretion. Places like Ponc'Tan (Pictured further down) are just incredible. The game is all about nature and so the backgrounds are especially designed with that in mind. Cherry blossoms bloom everywhere and blow in the wind. The skyline is constantly changing gradient, with hand drawn Japanese style clouds to fill in the gaps. Sparse weed growth and 2D trees that circle around as you run past so they are always facing you instead of 3D trees. The game is unique and the artwork is inspirational - especially the character design. So, here are some of this games unique background offerings.

These trees are dying and they keep away the darkness - it is your job to literally give them life. Okami is all about nature and saving the Earth. When you circle these trees with your celestial brush, they blossom to life immediately and you get a beautiful cut scene that drops your jaw.

There is a lot of 'greenery' in Okami and you think at some point it would get repetitive or dull...but it never does. Every area opens up new kinds of vegetation and life and the bamboo forest is a fantastic example of this. The above concept art is amazingly accurate to the final piece. They designed the leaf can ope as one whole thing and then sparingly drew in individual leaves. Underneath are hundreds of thousands of thing bamboo sticks - it is a striking thing to see and a well thought out method of showing off this side of nature.

This is Ponc'Tan, home to a Poncle that could be viewed as the games protagonist: Issun. Poncles art artists, who paint to inspire people to believe in Gods: thus giving the Gods the power to watch over the human race. Sadly, Issun ran away from home and lost his inspiration - this is as much his journey as yours and Ponc'Tan is one of the most impressive landscapes in the entire game. Poncle's are a tiny race and the tress in these images are no more that tiny stalks to you or much room for invention.

The Divine Tree is the last thing keeping the darkness out, it looks this good even in game. All the tree designs are amazing - I am trying to take a lot of influence from this way of designing things - its a very open minded way of looking at the world.

This final image says everything there is to say about the game. Its what its all about. The artwork is stunning and the locations just awash with staggering beauty. This is probably one of the most beautiful games ever made and it really is something to behold.

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