It is one of the facts of life that work so often gets in the way of play. But as I recently read in the book Quitter by Jon Acuff, “90 percent perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100 hundred percent perfect and stuck in your head.” I have wanted to write about Okami since I started this blog but I also wanted to include some video of the game. I am in the middle of a large project at work and a video is just not going to happen. So here is my 90 percent…..
Okami is a VERY Japanese game and it encapsulates the best of the culture. It has bright colors, an interesting story of legend, great monsters, and a great hero – a white wolf named Amaterasu.
Okami originally came out on the Sony Playstation 2 and then was ported to the Wii. The art direction is first rate and it’s a shame that the game did not sell very well. The visuals are so stunning and a real treat for the eyes.
The story-line is excellent and is based upon genuine Japanese mythology. A terrifying dragon has unleashed darkness on the world and the curse has burned up vegetation, polluted the waters, and made the world a dismal place. Nature’s beauty has been taken out of the world. Except one village is able to resist because it is protected by a goddess named Sakuya. She implores a stone statue of a world to, “Shine your divine light upon this broken and polluted world.” The statue awakens and a white wolf appears. The wolf is more than a mere animal, she is an actual goddess in wolf’s form called Okami Amaterasu. You play the part of this goddess/wolf and slowly restore the land to its true state of beauty. Following the lead of games like The Legend of Zelda, the wolf does not speak. Instead she is joined by a tiny flea-sized artist who tags along for the rest of the adventure. Navi anyone?
The fact that gameplay is similar to The Legend of Zelda series in many ways – to me is a good thing. Your character gains skills and abilities throughout the game. Each new skill is integral to destroying the boss monster for each level. However, the gameplay incorporates a unique concept. You can freeze the game at any point in combat and use a brush to paint a supernatural action. For example, if a bridge is out, you can paint a repaired bridge into existence. Or in combat, a single swipe of ink can cut an enemy in half. There is a limited amount of ink, so you must be strategic as to how you use this gift.
Now for some theology. It is probably not a surprise that Japanese mythology has some key differences when compared to Christian theology. For example, there are many gods and goddesses throughout the story. I say gods or goddesses with “a small g” because they are really more like demi-gods than a single all powerful deity – or God with “a capital G” In fact the Amaterasu gains strength from the prayers of people in the game – almost dependent upon humans for strength. The God of Christian theology is truly all powerful and does not need human strength. I’ve already commented in an earlier post about how most video games rely on dualism to tell their stories.
But Okami has some small glimpses of the concept of regeneration. Regeneration is a word that implies restoration to the way something was intended to be. One of my theology textbooks describes regeneration in this way. “The purpose of the gospel is not merely to make bad men good or even make good men better but to bring dead men back to life.”* Here is how Okami illustrates that concept in a way that really affects me emotionally when I see it. When Amaterasu restores a Guardian Sapling, life is unleashed on that dying section of the world. From the source of the lifted curse – life just pours out and it affects everything in it’s path. Trees and grass return to green, rivers become clear, the sky becomes blue. It is one of the best pictures of regeneration that I’ve ever come across. Notice, that it’s not just generation, but RE-generation. It’s the restoration of what was once ruined and ugly. The beauty is restored.
I’m attaching a youtube video (made by someone else – so I’m thankful I found it) that shows all of the restoration cut scenes of the Guardian Saplings. Something I like to think about when I see it: God is working that same miraculous change within me.
* Daniel Akin, A Theology for the Church