Complaining about ports has become increasingly common amongst Wii owners, but few would have anything bad to say about Okami, which will complete its transition from PlayStation 2 to Wii next week when it launches in the U.S.
If anything, Okami is the perfect example of how porting games can be a force for good. One of the most notable critical darlings of the last few years, sales of the title were sluggish on Sony's platform, yet its appearance on Nintendo's console will give it another opportunity to attain commercial success. We can't think of many other games that are so deserving of a second chance.
Recently, Wii Fanboy got a chance to chat with Didier Malenfant, President and co-founder of developer Ready at Dawn, who filled us in on why those who played the PS2 version should return to the Wii edition, on how his company ended up working on the project, and on the future of lengthy adventure games.
Hi Didier, and thanks for agreeing to talk Okami with us! First of all, we think there's a question that many Wii owners would like to know the answer to: what would you say to people who have already played the PS2 version to convince them to get this game?
I would say that they are part of an exclusive group of people because, as you know, Okami was one of those amazing games that unfortunately got a little bit lost on the PS2 and didn't do as well as everyone expected, despite off-the-charts reviews and multiple game of the year awards. This is a unique chance for people who haven't played the game to discover it and for people who have to experience it the way it was meant to be played, using the Wiimote controls.
There are also newcomers to consider, of course -- how would you sell Okami to them?
People who haven't played the game before are in for a treat because Okami is one of the greatest games of these past few years. It's got incredible depth, amazing visuals that replicate the looks of Japanese water paintings, and easily over forty hours of gameplay -- not counting replays, which then open up other things in the game. Okami is truly a milestone in videogame history.
Capcom approached Ready at Dawn about handling the Wii port -- what was so appealing to the team about developing a Wii edition of Okami?
It was a bit more complicated than that. What happened was that we met Christian Svensson from Capcom during a party at last year's Game Developer's Conference. He was a huge fan of Daxter, our previous game on the PSP, and we could not stop talking about how much we loved Okami and its art style.
A week later, we got a phone call from Christian asking if we wanted to do a Wii version of the game, and we pretty much said yes on the spot. Okami is a work of art, and we felt it was always meant to be played on the Wii because of the brush and mini-game controls. We just felt it was such an honor to take after Clover and finally let a big audience experience Okami for themselves.
Visually, there's little difference between the PlayStation 2 and Wii versions (though we really appreciate the game being in widescreen and supporting progressive scan!); what was behind the decision to preserve the visuals of the PS2 version so closely?
The visuals are the one thing most people remember when they see Okami, especially in motion. So there was no way we were going to mess with that and pretend we knew better than the original creators of the game.
Was it difficult maintaining the game's art style on a different hardware platform?
The rendering hardware is completely different, so we spent a lot of time trying to match all the filters that Clover had developed in order to achieve the look of the game. There were a couple of areas where we did not match it exactly, one with the 'paper look' of the game which is a little less pronounced on the Wii. But on the other hand, the game's visuals have much more color depth than on the PS2, because of the Wii's hardware. It was a balancing act all the way.
So many people have said that Okami is perfect for the Wii, and that it will improve upon the PS2 version. That's something of a backhanded compliment, but we'd like to know how it -- or if it -- affected the porting process.
We think the game is perfect for the Wii. It's so hard to go back to the analog stick version once you have played the game using the Wiimote. Everything flows so much better, and the minigames are a lot of fun using the Wii's controls. It's something you have to experience but it makes a huge difference.
Okami is revered by both critics and its loyal fan base; did the team feel any added pressure, knowing that they were working on a franchise that is so important to people?
What helped the most was the fact that we were all huge fans of the game ourselves to begin with. You don't take a game as beautiful as Okami and think that you can mess with it, try to add content that doesn't belong there or something. We have so much respect for the original game that we decided from the get-go that this was going to be a labor of love. The goal was to reproduce the experience as closely as possible. If it's not broken, don't fix it basically.
To date, Wii games that would typically be described as cult or "hardcore" haven't fared that well at retail (No More Heroes, Zack & Wiki). Do you expect Okami to buck that trend?
I think Capcom would beg to differ after their recent results with Resident Evil. This game is both hardcore and mature, two things people thought didn't associate well with the Wii demographics. I always like to think that great games, in the end, do well, so here's Okami's chance to shine like it deserves to.
Do you feel that long, expansive adventure games such as Okami have a bright future on the Wii, considering that a significant portion of the console's audience is relatively new to games? Are games of Okami's size in danger of becoming unfashionable?
I think that long games that keep you interested and have new challenges or content all the time are fine. Okami definitely fits in that category while so many other games try to add length by repeating the same things again and again. Again, to me it comes down to judging a game by its quality, not whether it's long or short. The truth is, if you really enjoy it, any game is going to be too short for your taste anyway.