A high-definition port of the classic adventure game Okami is headed to several platforms this December. The Nintendo Switch absolutely should be one of them — but, for whatever reason, it isn’t. And while it’s easy to complain about insert-game-here not having a Switch port, or wanting a big third-party title to be playable on Switch, Capcom skipping out on Okami HD for the console is an especially big oversight.
Okami is my favorite Legend of Zelda-style game, taking the Nintendo series’ best parts and mashing them up with a gorgeous aesthetic and innovative mechanics. There’s the familiar, Zelda-style experience of a living, breathing, expansive world to explore and protect. But why I love Okami more than any actual Zelda I’ve played is its combination of historical Japanese influences, a literally artistic battle system unlike any other I’ve played in a game and, of course, that the hero is a very cute wolf.
Amaterasu, a physical manifestation of a sun goddess, is a beautiful heroine who wields a celestial brush. To take out enemies, she must sketch out symbols that correspond to certain abilities, an arsenal that only expands over the course of her adventure. Weaponizing illustration is one of the grabbiest twists on combat I’ve ever played, and one that resonated with me as someone who often stays away from games with more traditional acts of violence. Combined with her charming sidekick and a land that feels familiar but never repetitive, Okami’s parts create a delicious whole.
Amaterasu’s adventure is an unforgettable one, even if the sun goddess’ one and only game failed to move many copies when it launched on PlayStation 2 in 2006. Yet she’s had several chances to win over the masses in years since, with ports and revamps coming to PlayStation 3 and Wii. This cult success even got Capcom to produce follow-up Okamiden for Nintendo DS, scaling the gigantic adventure into something tinier, with a chibi-sized hero to boot.
Okami HD is a culmination of the original’s increased profile over the years. It’s an updated port of the PlayStation 3 HD version, and it brings the game to an Xbox console (and PC) for the first time. But not having the chance to play Okami on a Nintendo platform feels ... wrong. Unfair. Illogical. The game draws frequent comparisons to one of the biggest Nintendo franchises; it is one of the best Nintendo-style games I’ve ever played from an unrelated developer.
This is a game perfectly suited for a console like the Switch: It’s proven that it works well at home and on the go, thanks to its portable-exclusive follow-up. It appeals directly to the core Nintendo fanbase. Okami’s Wii port went a long way in broadening its cult fanbase, even making use of gesture-based controls to let players actually draw out Amaterasu’s brush stroke attacks. (Whether or not that worked is divisive.)
Another great reason why Okami and the Switch are perfectly matched, though, is one of the game’s only faults. It’s long, and maybe even too long. An adventure game upward of 30 hours or more, Okami works better in smaller doses as it continues on. The Switch’s portability can help break that late-game feeling of repetition. No longer would we have to be chained to the TV for hours and hours — a boon, conversely, for those who don’t mind the length and want to play anywhere and everywhere.
Since the original Okami HD launched only on PlayStation 3, bringing it to consoles with more conventional controls makes sense. But the Switch isn’t the Wii or Wii U — it’s not dependent on a strange, uncommon control scheme. (I mean, Skyrim and L.A. Noire are going to be playable on it.) Features like HD rumble and gyroscopic controls are welcome, but not required; while the Joy-Con’s fancy tricks would benefit Okami, the game could go without them.
It’s unfair to argue this without pointing out that Okami HD for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One isn’t just a simple, straight re-release. It will feature 4K graphics on compatible systems, and the Switch simply doesn’t have that functionality. But then, neither do the standard PS4 and Xbox One consoles. Only PS4 Pro and Xbox One X will make use of the 4K resolution, while the rest of the additions don’t strike me as beyond the Switch’s hardware capabilities.
Maybe asking for a Switch port is old hat at this point. But it does strike me as odd that this is just the latest fan-favorite title from Capcom that is skipping over the Switch entirely, at least for now. Console owners didn’t get the second Mega Man Legacy Collection, nor did they get a compilation of classic Disney Afternoon NES games this summer. With Capcom committed to porting over far less coveted older titles to Switch — hi, Resident Evil Revelations — it’s not only strange that the publisher would pass on doing the same for these nostalgic hits, but baffling.
I have the luxury of owning a PlayStation 4, so I’m set either way. But older games continuing to skip the Switch doesn’t help me view the system as my primary console, but a supplementary one. In the case of Okami HD, that’s disappointing. For the system’s future, it’s a disturbing, disconcerting trend.
Correction: We’ve amended the text above to reflect the true spelling of Amaterasu’s name.