4K gallery: the beautiful painted landscapes of Okami

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I reviewed Okami when it was first released in 2006. I loved it then, and I love it now. As our review says, it's a grand, sweeping adventure to lose yourself in, with a gorgeous art style based on traditional Japanese ink wash paintings. But back then, playing it on an old tube TV, the real beauty of that distinctive art direction was lost in a smudge of pixels. Which makes playing it now at 4K a delight. It finally looks like it looked in my mind, and it's remarkable how little the game has aged in the 11 years since I first played it.

So, with that in mind, here are some uncompressed 3840x2160 screenshots from around Nippon, the game's vivid setting. These are limited to the first 10 hours of the game, because I don't want to spoil some of the later locations. It's best if you discover them yourself, and at your own pace. Okami is a slow game designed to be soaked in, not rushed through. And make sure you click the icon at the top-right of each screenshot to see it in its full high resolution glory. If you've never played Okami before, you're in for a treat.

Okami didn't always look like this. In footage of an early prototype, the art is much more realistic. But the graphical limitations of the PlayStation 2, and a desire to better convey Amaterasu's connection to nature, inspired the shift to the sumi-e style we see today. And this led to the development of the Celestial Brush. "Once we fixed ourselves on this style, we thought it would be great if we could somehow get the player involved, participating in this artwork instead of just watching it." said Atsushi Inaba, CEO of developer Clover.

When you first arrive in a new area in Okami, the land around you is cursed and poisoned thanks to the sinister influence of the demon Orochi. But when Amaterasu uses her godly brush powers to bring dead trees called Guardian Saplings back to life, the area suddenly explodes with trees, cherry blossoms, and animals. Watching these bleak, barren worlds suddenly blooming with life and colour is a joy, and makes you feel like you're really having an impact on the world around you as you journey across Nippon.

Looking at the mountains of concept art that contributed to Okami's unique art direction, it's clear Clover had some supremely talented artists working at the studio. What's striking about the game is how hand-crafted everything feels. Whether it's the oranges decorating the house of Kamiki Village's citrus-obsessed elder, or the tiny sake barrels adorning brewmaster Kushi's headdress, every inch of the game is heaving with personality. And now, thanks to this new HD version, these details are even clearer.

Despite widespread critical acclaim, Okami didn't sell as well as Capcom expected in 2006 and Clover disbanded soon after. A game about a magical painting wolf was, perhaps understandably, a hard sell for a lot of people at the time. But it's great that Hideki Kamiya's masterpiece is getting a new lease of life all these years later—and I don't have to dig my old PlayStation out to play it anymore. Nippon is one of the most beautiful, evocative, and original game worlds to explore on PC, and it's never looked better.