Digital | ON: GAMES

Gaming is on a winning streak

by Brian Ashcraft

The gods are back

“Okami” is one of the most beautiful and imaginative games ever made. It first came out in 2006 on the PlayStation 2 and was dubbed the best game of that year. Over a decade later it is still wonderful.

“Okami” is a Japanese pun: the title means “god” but also “wolf,” which is the form of the game’s main character. The canine heroine is the Shinto Sun Goddess Amaterasu, who takes the shape of the white wolf Shiranui to defeat the eight-headed demon Orochi. “Okami” is packed with references and allusions to Japanese religion and folklore in a way few games have been. The gameplay system is even built around Japanese calligraphy.

Okami was originally developed by the Capcom-funded studio Clover, which has since shuttered. Its creators also left Capcom to set up Platinum Games, which is famous for the popular “Bayonetta” series and recent critical hit “Nier: Automata.” But that hasn’t stopped “Okami” updates. “Okami” already has an HD version for the PS3, “Okami Zekkei-ban,” but this new HD remaster makes the timeless graphics even prettier, especially when the game is running in 4K.

The PS4 retail version of “Okami Zekkei Edition” is ¥3,229 and the download is ¥2,991, while the Xbox One version is ¥3,002.

www.capcom.co.jp/o-kami/zekkei

It’s not a crime to like this game

Originally released in 2011, detective game “L.A. Noire” is one of the most unusual big-budget titles of the past 10 years. OK, the in-game shooting may be a bit wonky and sometimes the controls aren’t that great, but the acting, dialogue, and novel sleuth and interrogation gameplay are excellent.

In “L.A. Noire,” you are police officer Cole Phelps. While the driving and shooting elements are typical of Rockstar Games’ open-world experiences (though, not quite as expertly done as its most recent “Grand Theft Auto”), what makes “L.A. Noire” so interesting is that you must look for evidence at crime scenes, pull the clues together, interrogate suspects and decide if they are being honest or not. The acting is top notch and the faces are rendered so realistic that even micro-expressions can sometimes hint at whether the suspect is telling the truth.

This Japanese re-release is subtitled, which should please both Japanese and English-speaking fans. Not only does the dialogue ring true of the era, but it also evokes the Los Angeles vibe, making this the closest you will likely get to living inside an old film noir or Raymond Chandler novel. New lighting effects, better weather and improved textures also bring greater realism to the city and its inhabitants, and on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, the game supports 4K, so “L.A. Noire” looks better than ever.

There is also a Switch version, with Joy-Con support, and for full immersion, there is a PC version made especially for VR, titled “L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files.” The PS4 and Switch versions of “L.A. Noire” are priced at ¥5,389, while the Xbox One version is ¥4,860 and the PC VR one is ¥3,539.

bit.ly/rkstarlanoire

Join a new battleground

The breakout game of this year wasn’t made in Japan. It wasn’t made in America, nor was it made in Europe. “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” was developed in South Korea. It was inspired, however, by the Japanese movie “Battle Royale,” in which school kids fought each other to the death in a game of survival.

Irish native Brendan Greene was modifying games and creating survival shooters using the online name PlayerUnknown while unemployed and living with his parents. After getting noticed by major game companies, however, he went on to work for South Korea’s Bluehole to make a multiplayer shooter, which became “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.”

In “Battlegrounds,” 100 players are dropped into an in-game location, which starts off massive but increasingly gets smaller. The goal is to be the last person standing. Ammunition and health status are limited, but there are vehicles that help players get around. So far, the game has robust customization and Greene wants it to have healthy modification support.

It has already sold over 20 million copies for PC, and the game only just ending its early access (preview phase) this month. Since Dec. 12, it has also been in a preview phase for Xbox One, where it will be a home-console timed exclusive. A PlayStation 4 version is also in the works.

“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: Game Preview Edition for Xbox One” is priced at ¥3,132.

www.xbox.com/ja-JP/games/playerunknowns-battlegrounds