July 3, 2008
My post on fidelity and quality uses music as its example, but the real battleground in this debate is with graphics. Indeed, the desire for more realistic graphics has been a driving force in hardware improvements for decades; it’s only recently with the Wii that graphical fidelity has been intentionally sidelined in favor of other new features.
As with audio, though, more realistic doesn’t necessarily mean better. Crysis may look more like real life than Yoshi’s Island, just as the orchestral music in Super Mario Galaxy sounds more like real instruments than Mega Man 2, but photorealism is not in and of itself an objective improvement.
Actually, to be honest, I’m a bit worn out with photorealism. Sure, it’s technologically impressive to try to create a lifelike environment, but there are diminishing returns — I was floored when I first saw Super Mario 64 after playing Genesis games, but was only moderately excited by the improvements from Morrowind to Oblivion. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who would prefer to have the original sprites in Chrono Trigger DS instead of the 3D graphics of the Final Fantasy III and IV remakes. Low-fidelity can be beautiful too.
Anyway, all this is to say that Okami, which I recently started, is the best-looking game I’ve seen in years. True, it’s not any great technological feat, and more could certainly be done with the powerful hardware of the PS3. But frankly, if all games had such original art direction, I’d happily never play another photorealistic game again.
I’m unfortunately too busy to play Okami the way I’d like, but that hasn’t been much of an issue. Even playing for 30 minutes at a stretch I’m happy to just walk around the game world and marvel at the graphics. I can’t remember the last time I felt that way — maybe Ocarina of Time.
After I get a bit further in I’ll have more to say about the gameplay itself.