The Hidden Mythology of Ōkami (Part III)

[Originally published on Nintendojo on November 2nd 2011]

Despite not being an even number, there’s just something that feels right about the number three. Plays regularly have three acts, stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, and trilogies abound across all forms of media, not least in games. And so it is that we come to the third and final part of our tour through Ōkami‘s hidden myths and legends. Even more fittingly, this time we’ll focus on the third and concluding arc of Amaterasu’s quest when she finds herself drawn to the northern island of Kamui and the wolfish Oina tribe.

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The Hidden Mythology of Ōkami (Part II)

Okami Generic Masthead 2
[Originally published on Nintendojo on September 19th 2011]

Here we are again. When I began writing the first part of this article, it wasn’t long before I realised that Ōkami was utterly jam-packed with layer upon layer of myths and legends spanning the entire length of Japanese history– certainly far too many to cover in only one editorial. Thankfully, my kind and generous editors have allowed me to continue this odyssey into Ōkami‘s hidden Japanese folklore, so without further ado, let’s get started.

Last time I looked at the stories surrounding Amaterasu (the game’s main star), Issun (her wandering artist companion), the great warrior Susano and his battle with Orochi, and Kaguya (princess of the Moon Tribe). Today I’ll be fast-forwarding to the second main arc of the game: Ammy’s quest to save Sei-an City and Ryoshima Coast from the Dark Lord Ninetails.

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The Hidden Mythology of Ōkami (Part I)

Generic Okami featured image
[Originally published on Nintendojo on August 1st 2011]

Just one look at Ōkami tells you that it’s a game steeped in Japanese culture. Its unique ink-and-wash art style and cel-shaded graphics don’t waste any time showing off Japan’s rich artistic heritage, and everything from the smallest sparrow to the grandest of cities looks as though it’s been lifted straight out of an ancient, hand-drawn painting.

Yet there’s a lot more to Ōkami than mere appearances, and while its renowned visual aesthetic certainly garnered a lot of praise from both fans and critics alike, it was perhaps the game’s story which left a more lasting impression in players’ minds. With one of the most engaging and highly crafted narratives in recent years, Ōkami began with the tale of a small village terrorised by the eight-headed serpent Orochi, growing in size and scale to encompass the plight of a dying land ravaged by imps and demons, until eventually the balance of whole world was in danger of being overthrown by the evil and malicious Yami. It was a story of epic proportions, creating a vivid and resonant gaming experience which few games have matched since its release.

But there’s also no denying that within that outstanding story there were just a few moments which seemed a bit bizarre, even for a story straight out of Japan. You know the ones I mean– a bamboo girl from space? Defeating an evil dragon by getting him drunk? One that particularly sticks in my mind was the unexpectedly sinister introduction of Mr. and Mrs. Cutter in Taka Pass. For me, it ranks up there with the first time I innocently ran up to that mad, blood-thirsty piano in Super Mario 64. But if you take a closer look at the underlying Japanese myths and legends that have been woven seamlessly into the game’s narrative, then you’ll find that there’s some method in the madness. For underneath Ōkami’s main plot lies a whole other world of literary allusion you might not have noticed before. For example, the psychotic Cutter couple are actually based off characters from the Japanese folktale “Shita-kiri Suzume” (Tongue-Cut Sparrow). In the same way, even fairly incidental characters like Yoichi the archer and Urashima the fisherman can trace their origins to a number of Japanese fairytales, so let’s stop and take a moment to explore some of those hidden legends– and we might even discover why the futuristic Moon Tribe makes perfect sense in this game based on feudal Japan!

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Top Ten: Zelda Tunes

[Originally published on Nintendojo on September 4th 2012]

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the Kakariko Village well for the last twenty five years, I think we can all agree that The Legend of Zelda features some of the most beloved music in all of video games. It’s such an integral part of the series that Nintendo even put on a worldwide symphony concert tour to celebrate Link and Zelda’s 25th Anniversary last year. Whether it’s that famous main fanfare or the tiny tunes of Link’s ocarina, you can always count on Koji Kondo and his team of composers to put a smile on your face.

But as with any franchise, there comes a time when simple appreciation just isn’t enough, and our insatiable need to rank things in order from one to ten rears its ugly, Dodongo-shaped head. We start compiling certain lists, knowingly igniting flame wars the world over, but we just can’t help ourselves. Just like Ganon can’t give up on the Triforce, so too do we continue our quest to take over the internet via rage-fuelled fan implosions, and today we’re tackling what’s quite possibly the most hotly contested subject outside of the Zelda timeline wars– its music.

Now I know you’re probably not going to agree with all of my choices (and that’s fine– that’s why we have comments, after all!), but I hope you enjoy my chosen tracks nonetheless. So before this turns into the Farewell Symphony, let’s count ourselves in.

And a 1, 2, 3, 4…

Top Ten: Best (and Worst) Nintendo Moments of E3 2012

E3 2012 Generic Masthead 5

[Originally published on Nintendojo on June 13th 2012]

Ah, Nintendo, how you toy with our excitable E3 hearts! You tease us with amazing Wii U games and then you show us reel upon reel of game footage that many of us have already played. It may not have been everyone’s favourite show this year (that’s for sure), but don’t despair, dear readers, because it’s not all doom and gloom out there. In fact, hidden away amongst all those pre-announced games and trailers lay a veritable treasure trove of top quality moments that will surely go down in the E3 history books.

We’re talking the introduction of Non-Specific Action Figure, countless Reggie antics, and of course, one of the best entrances from Nintendo’s top man in years. But while we’d love to focus on all the best bits of Nintendo’s press conference this year, we do feel rather compelled to talk about the bad bits too, just for the sake of fairness.

So join us as we count down Nintendo’s best and worst moments from this year’s E3. It may not be remembered for its games, but by the power of Mario’s moustache, it sure will be remembered for its comedy gold.

Top Ten: Zelda Items

Zelda items mural (Wind Waker)

[Originally published on Nintendojo on October 12th 2011]

When there’s only one more month to go on the calendar until the fabled day of Skyward Sword‘s release, you know it’s time to get excited. Not only is it looking to be one of the best console Zelda games in years, but it’s also going to feature a whole host of new and exciting items like the Beetle– so what better way to start the hype than to cast our eyes back at some of the most best-loved accessories Link has acquired over his 25 years as Hyrule’s courageous hero. Here are my top ten Zelda items:

Top Ten: NPCs of All Time

[Originally published on Nintendojo on November 30th 2011]

Ah, non-playable characters– where would we be without them? Heroes and heroines the world over may get far more glory and time in the sun, but behind every act of bravery and courageous feat lie the little people that need saving in the first place. From the first faces to greet us when we visit a new town to our most beloved companions, a game without NPCs would be a very boring one indeed (unless it’s Metroid). Just picture it– there would be no princess in another castle, there would be no townsfolk to give you helpful hints and tips when you needed them most, and there would be no middle-aged men in green lycra trying to sell you extortionately priced maps. (Wait, that might actually be a good thing.)

In making this list, I had only one ground rule: namely that characters like Star Fox’s Falco or Final Fantasy’s moogles, once NPCs now playable characters (in whatever shape or form), won’t be included on this list. With that in mind, here’s a little bit of love for the characters who have to walk in everyone else’s shadow– the people whose lives and household furniture are routinely destroyed by would-be heroes and villains but are too humble to take up arms themselves. (Mostly because they’re rooted to the ground). Here are my top ten NPCs of all time.

(Oh, and minor spoilers ahead.)