Okami’s Creators Explain How It Could Have Been Even Better, How It Could Have Saved Clover Studio, and More

Capcom and Tango Gameworks veteran Ikumi Nakamura hasn’t been shy about her love and nostalgia for the project that initiated her into AAA development: Ōkami. And now in a new video conversation with Hideki Kamiya, the pair have opened up about Ōkami’s development, including Kamiya’s belief that its development team as a whole…could have been better.

This comes from a new entry in a video series presented by Nakamura’s new studio, Unseen, called Ask Ikumi. In it, she’s been sharing all sorts of behind the scenes game development insights both on Unseen’s project, Kemuri, and her own development experience. In this latest video, she sits down to chat with longtime colleague Hideki Kamiya, with whom she worked on Ōkami, Bayonetta, and briefly on Scalebound. Their conversation largely focuses on Ōkami’s development, and the pair has a lot to say!

The video opens with Kamiya explaining his notorious philosophy of blocking anyone who annoys him on Twitter by asking questions he’s answered before, or not addressing him in Japanese. They then launch into a discussion of Ōkami’s development. First, they discuss its original conception in a photo-realistic style. Ōkami was apparently first conceived while Kamiya was working on Viewtiful Joe, and saw work on the Resident Evil remake for GameCube being done next to him. He was impressed by the realism, and wanted to use that style for something more “light-hearted” than the horror genre. So Ōkami was conceived as a game about “healing.”

But, he says, the photorealistic style they were aiming for was a struggle to get working on PS2. With Ōkami in trouble, the team was looking for new ideas, when character designer Kenichiro Yoshimura drew main character Amaterasu with a brush. This design sparked a new visual style for the entire game. Not long after, the studio leads convened a three-day summit over a weekend to revamp the game, during which time the Celestial Brush was pitched, and Ōkami changed directions for the better.

Ōkami was supposed to be Clover Studio’s signature title…It was supposed to be a dream team with all the best staff in each section. That was the plan, but in the end, not everyone, but as the whole team, I frankly think it was weak.

But even so, Kamiya is candid that Ōkami could have been even better. For one, Ōkami was supposed to have a bigger story, but the team ran out of time and ended midway through what Kamiya wanted to do. What’s more, Kamiya has apparently been notoriously critical of the team that worked on Ōkami, as Nakamura brings up. She reminds him that at a party near the end of development, Kamiya apparently said to the whole room, “This team was the worst!” Kamiya admits it, and while he backs off his comments at the time a bit, he goes on to say he was “half right.”

“Ōkami was supposed to be Clover Studio’s signature title,” he says. “That’s why we wanted to create a dream team. It was supposed to be a dream team with all the best staff in each section. That was the plan, but in the end, not everyone, but as the whole team, I frankly think it was weak.

“It wasn’t a dream team. There was a very drastic contrast within. There were certainly people without whom there would be no Ōkami. Those members shone brightly. Some of them really shone stronger even more than ones I had worked with previously. I’m not saying this as flattery, but you [Nakamura] certainly did. Naoki Katakai and Keniichirou Yoshimura, Sawaki Takeyasu, Mari Shimazaki, Hiroshi Yamaguchi. I’m really grateful, but when viewed as a whole, it wasn’t a dream team.”

Kamiya elaborates a little further in banter with Nakamura here and later in the interview, suggesting that the issue was that the level of passion and enthusiasm for Ōkami wasn’t high throughout the entire team, but instead was rather uneven. Nakamura acknowledges she noticed this, too.

“If I think about the Viewtiful Joe and DMC teams, the passion was uniformly high,” Kamiya says. “But in Ōkami’s team there was a huge contrast.”

“Because all the users who played and enjoyed Ōkami, I’m sure they all think it was made by a great team, but actually, that wasn’t the case,” Kamiya concludes. “This is my honest opinion.”

The full conversation between Kamiya and Nakamura is fascinating and worth watching in its entirety. In it, Kamiya refers to Ōkami as a “failure” (though he seems to be referring to commercial success) and notes that Clover Studio could have continued existing if it had been successful. Nakamura also states that Ōkami has had the greatest influence on the work she’s doing now at Unseen with Kemuri. You can watch the whole video right here, and then catch up on our own interview with Nakamura from IGN FanFest earlier this year.

Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to rvalentine@ign.com.

 

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