First Impressions: Okami HD

By Michael Mendis


One of the recent trends in gaming is for the bigger game companies to look back into their portfolio of old games and re-release some of them on new consoles.  This gives old games a chance to gain new audiences, and in the process these classics often get a fresh coat of paint thanks to the power of new hardware.  One of the latest games to receive this treatment is Okami, a classic PS2 action-adventure game from 2006.  Directed by famed developer Hideki Kamiya (best known for having directed the critically acclaimed Devil May Cry series), Okami became a cult hit among gamers for its colorful artstyle and clever implementation of Japanese culture.  I never played it back when it first came out, but now that it has been re-released on current generation consoles, I’ve picked up a copy and played a couple hours into the game.

In Okami, you play as the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu, who has taken the form of a white wolf in order to protect the world from the evil god Orochi.  After a somewhat long-winded intro, you are set free into the game world, restoring the local village and surrounding region that has been attacked by demonic forces.  As you go about your task you encounter a variety of characters, including other divine spirits as well as the simple human residents of the village.  The story being told here (at least at this early point in the game) is fairly light-hearted; your wise-cracking, bug-like companion is a consistent source of comedic relief, and many of the other characters are goofballs in their own ways.


One of the first things you’ll notice about Okami is its beautiful artwork.   The game’s cel-shaded graphics highlight the vibrant colors filling the screen, and the thick black outlines around the characters and other objects in the environment give the game a cartoony look.  The influence of Japanese culture and art is everywhere, from the pagoda style buildings, to the cherry blossom trees that dot the landscape, to the interesting use of Japanese calligraphy in the gameplay (which I’ll talk more about in a moment).  Putting it all together, it’s a treat for the eyes, and it holds up well despite originally being made over a decade ago.

Not only does the artwork translate well over the years, but the gameplay does, too (though not quite flawlessly).  You spend most of your time roaming through the game world, solving puzzles and engaging in brief skirmishes against monsters.  The controls are smooth and responsive, and the puzzles prove to be simple, yet still quirky and satisfying.  Combat gets a bit repetitive at times, though; new weapons can be equipped to mix up the gameplay, but I have yet to see how much of an impact that will have in the long run.  The lack of an autosave system, while hardly a dealbreaker, does also betray this game’s age.

Okami brush.jpg

Probably the most interesting aspect of gameplay is the paintbrush that you can use to alter the game world.  At any point you can hold down a button that pauses the action and allows you to draw on things in the environment with your paintbrush; through the course of the game you unlock new ways that your brush can affect the world, such as damaging enemies, restoring cursed trees, and accessing new areas.  It’s an integral part of gameplay, and easily the most unique and memorable aspect of the game so far.

All things considered, these first few hours with the game have been quite fun; the colorful artwork, slick controls, and the unique ways it incorporates Japanese culture have rightfully made this game a cult classic, one that holds up fairly well over the years.  It’s awesome that a game like this now has a chance to find new audiences (like me) on new consoles.

Judges - The Texture of Failure: Week 8

By Jacob Toman

Throughout our study of the lives of the judges, I have had two hopes. First, I sincerely hope we’ve been confronted by the grotesque nature of sin. Second, I sincerely hope we’ve witnessed God’s care for his people. Today we wrap up our study by concluding the life of Samson and study the summary description of God’s people at the conclusion of the book of Judges.

Few others in the story of the scriptures are described to have the strength of Samson (perhaps Goliath is the only other comparable physical specimen), or to have accomplished so many deeds of bravery (King David also had killed many in battle and defeated wild beasts). Yet for all the great outward strength of Samson, he lacked much of the inner strength of someone like Joseph, who fled from temptations of the flesh, rather than allow himself to be destroyed by them.


Read Judges 16...

How would you describe Samson’s romantic relationships? (Hint: see 14:1, 16:1, 16:4)

How would you describe Samson and Delilah’s relationship?

samson defeats the philistines.jpg

The book of Judges ends with these two phrases repeated in Judges 17:6 and 21:25

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

As we conclude our study of the book of Judges we have 5 lessons to be reminded of and learn from.

  1. The enemies of the Israelites came from geographically all around them. As their sin continued and they generationally rejected the Lord, their troubles exponentially grew.
  2. The troubles of God’s people are not the result of an abusive, angry God, but are the natural consequences of what happens to a small nation when God doesn’t specifically protect them.
  3. God does not sit idly by while evil persists. The wages of sin is death - this applies not only to God’s people but also to those who hate the Lord.
  4. God does not abandon his people - God disciplines his people and then restores them to himself.
  5. God uses people from every background for his glory.

Judges - The Texture of Failure: Week 7

By Jacob Toman

These will be our last two weeks in Judges. We’ve seen the lives of 5 previous major judges; now we see the life of the final and perhaps most famous judge in the entire book: Samson. Many have heard of Samson in wider cultural references, as he, in many ways, fits the stereotypes of the tragic Hero.


Read Judges 13:1-25...

How long have the Israelites been oppressed at the time of Samson’s birth? (Hint: See 13:1)

What other biblical births does Samson remind you of?

What are the attributes of Samson as a leader? Is he a strong relational political thinker? Is he a warlord? Is he of noble birth?


Read Judges 14:1-20...

Who does Samson desire for his wife? (Hint: See 14:2)

Where are Samson’s wife’s loyalties? (Hint: See 14:15)

How does Samson speak to those he’s in relationship with? Would you describe him as a patient listener? How would you describe his manners of speaking?

How does Samson overcome his enemies? (Hint: See 14:19)


Read Judges 15:1-20...

On whose authority is Samson acting in this chapter? (Hint: See 15: 3)

Why are the Philistines angry with Samson? Why is Samson angry with the Philistines?

Who in this chapter does Samson feel betrayed by? (Hint: See 15:1-2, 11-12, 18)


Samson often finds himself embroiled in heated moments of life or death peril. Despite all his individual abilities, he keeps finding himself surrounded by foes. In our own lives, are we seeking to avoid the obstacles, challenges, and trials by which God is growing us? Do we see our various obstacles, challenges, and trials as moments when we can uniquely focus our faith and dependence on the Lord? What are the trials surrounding you in your life? Finances? Health? Relationships? Loneliness? Purpose? Are these things you are trying to avoid or escape from?

Samson’s failures are often a result of his determination to follow his own desires, rather than depend on the Lord. Samson’s successes are the result of the Lord’s determination to love his people.

Consider if, in your trials today, you are following your own determination, or depending on the Lord for his strength.