Tag Archives: Okami

Best Of 2008: Books and Games (And More)

31 Dec

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Film: “North and South” – My Second Take

Books

I read (= recorded as read) 101 books this year. I know there are some I didn’t catch (mostly non-fiction) and nearly 40 of the books are category novels, but all in all, and thanks to the huge effort in December, I managed to read over 100 books. Yeah!

My favorite reads by grade:

Top Ten of Books read in 2008:

  • Meljean Brook – Demon Bound
  • Kresley Cole – Dark Needs at Night’s Edge
  • Jennifer Crusie – Manhunting
  • Meredith Duran – The Duke of Shadows
  • Susan Fromberg Schaeffer – The Madness of a Seduced Woman
  • Laura Kinsale – The Prince of Midnight
  • Lisa Kleypas – Sugar Daddy
  • Kathleen O’Reilly – Sex, Straight Up
  • Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn
  • Linnea Sinclair – Shades of Dark
  • Special Mention:
    – Joanna Bourne (for the writing)
    – Kristin Hardy
    – Caroline Linden
    – Sherry Thomas

My favorite novel 2008:

This is really difficult because you’re comparing apples to oranges and depending on mood and day and whatnot, this changes but anyway, here goes:
I was a really close decision between Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows and Laura Kinsale’s The Prince of Midnight, with Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire a close third. In the end, I decided on

kinsale-laura-prince-of-midnight

Laura Kinsale – The Prince of Midnight

The fact that decided it was that I didn’t think I would like The Prince of Midnight all that much before I started to read it (the cross-dressing heroine).

This makes
Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows
my favorite of the books published in 2008
(that I read).

Additional thoughts:

  • I had to read my comments about Karen Rose’s You Can’t Hide again. I didn’t remember…
  • I also don’t remember much about Jennifer Crusie’s Manhunting. But I gave it a 5/5 so it’s on the list.
  • I got really into category novels this year. I like that they are fast to read and focused on the romance – a good way to fix my contemporary romance cravings. But most of all, I really appreciate how authors manage to turn out good stories with all the constraints on this format.
  • The most pleasant surprise: that I like Kresley Cole’s “Immortals After Dark” series after all.
  • Looking at all the books and the grades, I have really a lot of books graded in the 4/5 range. Maybe I’m too generous, I don’t know, but grading is probably something I have to think about (once more).

~ * ~

Games

I finished 4 games:

and started/played ? number of others, most notably Civilization IV (PC), Divine Divinity (PC), Spell Force (PC), Puzzle Quest (PS2), and some Diablo 2 (PC) and Civilization III (PC).

My favorite game:

Okami (PS2)

okami

It’s one of my most favorite games on the PS2. It’s beautiful and original.

Music

Usually, this is not part of my end-of-the-year post, but this year, there are two CDs I listened to a lot:

  • James Blunt – Back to Bedlam
  • Any MacDonald – This Is the Life

I already wrote about the significance of James Blunt’s Back to Bedlam so I want to conclude this year with a video by Amy MacDonald. I really like every song on her album This Is the Life, and since I already linked my favorite of her songs, Let’s Start a Band, I chose the title song of her album, This is the Life, as the last thing to post this year:

Amy MacDonald – This Is the Life

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Game Comment: “Okami” (PS 2)

3 Aug

Info: Clover Studio (Developer); Capcom (Publisher)
Genre: Action-Adventure

Started: May 2008
Finished: July 2008
Playing time: over 50 hours

Links: Official Website; Currently Playing post with video


Okami contains a lot of references to Japanese mythology. You play the wolf incarnation of a Japanese sun god, Ameratsu, and your task is to get rid of the evil that came over the world and restore the world to beauty again. For that, you have to regain your magical powers which you wield with a paint brush and (that’s for the most part optional) fight demons on the way. To lighten things up you’re accompanied by a side kick character, Issun, who looks like a small bug, rides on your back, and does the talking.

The paint brush thing is what sets Okami apart from other games in the use of magic and makes it fairly original, IMO. For example, you can restore broken objects and make trees bloom by going into paint modus where you pause time and paint on the screen using the game controller. This may sound complicated or difficult, but it isn’t. In fact, the controls are easily learned and smooth and that makes Okami fun to play.

Although the game is linear in that certain areas are only accessible after you did certain things, there is a strong focus on exploration in this game with all the extra stuff to find and do. Learning a new (brush) technique often means you can go back to already visited and restored areas and then do things you couldn’t before like digging on different ground. You also feed animals and help people with things. For that, you get praise which you use to improve yourself (for example, you can store more ink or money).

What I liked:

  • what I probably liked most: bringing order back to the world and restoring it to its former beauty
  • story
    Of course, it is a rather generic story when you look at what it comes down to: good vs evil. But there is actually a real story there and it is actually told (no “and then…”). The story even has some twists. It also has a nice (told) ending, not just a “the end” screen, and something like a message.”
  • graphics
    I don’t know what to say. I liked the water-colour painting look. And when you restore an area back to life and all the green and flowers spread and cherry blossoms floated through the air – just beautiful. Just letting Ameratsu run around and see more and more flowers swirl behind her the faster she runs is fun.
  • side quests
    There are quite a few side quests to do so you can take a break from the actual story line when you want and go fishing or go looking for objects. I just like to have some extra stuff in a game.
  • boss fights
    I liked that I had to figure out how to beat them. Just smashing buttons wouldn’t do for most fights. There is a strategic element involved in that you first have to get the enemy to a stage where you can attack him (smash the button) and often it involves the use of the paint brush techniques. Once you figure that out, the boss fights get rather easy.

What I didn’t like:

  • some of the extra stuff is quite difficult to get; even more so when you compare it to the rest of the game
  • sometimes the control is a bit tricky
  • sometimes the text messages are a bit slow to appear on screen and you can’t make it faster

Last thought:
Despite the rather dark story, Okami is actually a rather hopeful and cherry game, IMO. It easily is one of the best, most original and most beautiful games I played on the Playstation 2 with a near perfect balance between its elements.


Did I enjoy playing this game? Yes.

Would I recommend this game? Yes.

Grade: 5 – / 5


Currently Playing: “Okami” (PS2)

8 Jul

Formatting and re-formatting and re-formatting again my posts after my switch to WordPress, I realized how long ago I posted comments about a game I played: it was back in February 2007 (Dragon Quest VIII)! Since then, there are only 4 more posts I put in the category “games.” That has to change (after all, I kept the “Books and Games” title for the blog).

So, here’s a youtube-video of the game I’m currently playing: Okami (PS2)

I searched some time for the “right” video – not that this was a problem for me – but they all seemed to focus on things that didn’t convey what makes this game so special in my eyes. Watching the videos, even the one I finally choose, Okami looks like a rather dark game, focusing on fighting and with muted colours. But actually, I think of it as a rather bright, cheery, hopeful and – above all and strange as it sounds – peaceful game. You don’t have to fight if you don’t want to except for “boss-fights” and often the colours are actually brighter than they appear in this video. Okami is different than other games with its combination of story, gameplay and graphics. I really like it.

I settled for this video because there are hints about the story and a rudimentary explanation of the gameplay.