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Can games be art? It’s a question asked often, usually by those who don’t actually play them, as gamers have known for years that their ”playthings” are among the most interactive examples of art there are. Roger Ebert famously slammed games for not being art – well, Mr. Ebert, I give you Okami HD. Originally released — and subsequently ignored — on PS2, it was released on Wii, where it drew a slightly more emphatic response. Thankfully, Capcom is trying again with Sony hardware, and the result is one of the most unique, beautiful, emotional games available. Okami plays like a Japanese ink painting come to life, with gorgeous backdrops, stunning visuals and rich character animations. Its story is classic Japanese – rural past, emperors, kings, traditions, mystical forces – and it’s steeped in history and influences that are a joy to behold as you play through. Utilizing the PlayStation Move (though the DualShock can also be used), you play as Amaterasu, the sun goddess come to life as a wolf, and control her Celestial Brush, painting over the landscape to manipulate it. Want to turn night into day? Freeze the frame and draw a circle in the sky. Need to cross a river? Paint a bridge and climb over. Attacking an enemy? Slice the brush across their torso to cut them in half. Gameplay is satisfying, natural, never feels tired and is bolstered by a deep story, bursting with humour and life. Why does it make a great gift? Buy it for yourself, fall in love, and then spread it to your nearest and dearest. It’s gaming nirvana. Available exclusively through the PlayStation Network on PS3.
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