People who know me well know that Okami is my favorite game of all time. Recently, when playing through the HD release, I found myself at a particular moment in the game just before I had to stop playing to go get dinner with Nick. I was turning in a side quest, and was mentally time managing what I was going to do next – “I think before doing the next story quest I’m going to train up at the dojo on my way back to Shinshu Field and get the clover that I couldn’t get before, but I need to go to a shop and get more seed because I missed some birds back there. I wonder if I should farm up demon fangs and get that mirror teleport now or wait until after I do the next dungeon…”
It struck me how excited I was about doing ALL THE THINGS in that game. This is unusual for me, because in most games of this nature I tend to be a primary-path sort of girl. Even in Zelda games, which I enjoy very much, I’m never too concerned about finding all the heart containers or whatever. So I got to thinking, what is it about Okami specifically that makes me so excited about doing all the collections and side quests and essentially 100%ing the game?
In many games, the story artificially drives my sense of urgency. I’m talking about when the story is like “oh no we must rush to the castle before it is too late!” My logic brain knows that I could go out and farm for experience, complete the secret side quest in the first area, AND finish the entire chocobo minigame series or whatever before going to the castle (and when I got there I’d still arrive just in the nick of time).
However, emotional brain doesn’t quite understand this. Emotional brain feels I need to book it to the castle as fast as I can, because something very serious is at stake. I think my tendency is to let myself get engaged in the experience to the point where emotional brain is sort of guiding things, so I readily go from story point to story point.
In Okami, the story has a lot of exciting moments, but when you get to a new place it tends to frame things as not being in too much of a rush. Your companion, Issun, will be like “you’re gonna love exploring the city, there’s so much to do! I guess we should investigate the weird thing about the queen at some point…but the city is so happenin!”
It is an ever so slight encouragement to do whatever the hell you please, framing the next story point as “yeah, we’ll get around to it.” Possibly this setup sets emotional brain at ease, and makes me much more enthusiastic about feeding all the bunnies along the coastline before actually going into the city.
It’s possible that the only thing compelling me to do so much of the extra stuff in Okami is that I’m so starved for a game experience that speaks to me. I know in the back of my mind that it’ll probably be over 10 years before someone else makes a game of this scope with this amount of whimsy and personal Lisa Brown appeal, so I become desperate to squeeze every last drop out of the experience before leaving it.
What about you, internet? What games compel you to do all their extra things when comparable games do not?