13th Jun 2008 | 13:00
Orochi was a demon who liked his routine. Appeased by a human sacrifice, he would slumber for a whole year before waking, wreaking a little havoc, and claiming another tasty offering from among the terrified young women of Kamiki village.
People could set their watches by him - if watches had been invented back then.
Eventually, one brave warrior decided to put a stop to the annual party. Aided by a fearless white wolf, he defeated the demon and brought peace to Kamiki.
After 100 uneventful years, Orochi's reign became the stuff of folklore - until a foolish adventurer inadvertently revived the beast.
With eight sore heads and a century-long backlog of sacrifices to get through, Orochi turned his attention to the whole of Nippon, and a new age of darkness began.
This is Okami, one of the biggest and best action RPGs since Ocarina Of Time, yet it's billed by Capcom as the greatest game you've never played.
It's the equal of any number of million-selling Zelda games, although - criminally - it was only a relatively minor cult hit on PS2.
Now we've finally got it on the console everyone thought it would be so much better suited to, but can Okami succeed on Wii?
There's much to admire about Okami, and unlike many other arty, worthy sorts of games, it's immediately playable, very forgiving, characterful, funny and every bit as deep as it is broad.
It's a genuine masterpiece in some ways, although it's hard to explain exactly why.
Way of the wolf
This game has the best non-speaking hero ever. Amaterasu is a goddess reincarnated in the form of the wolf that helped seal away Orochi 100 years previously, and the human characters see her as just a plain old animal.
Not being able to talk, she has a little trouble getting her message across, but as a benevolent sort of deity she's happy to let people take the credit for her miraculous deeds.
In fact, that's why she does it. When some drunken village elder tries to do a dance to make the trees bloom, Amaterasu discreetly intervenes and the old guy goes home thinking he's magic.
When the cowardly descendant of the original warrior needs gentle encouragement to live up to his ancestor's reputation, Amaterasu is the one who guides his hand, slaying monsters and shattering boulders until he starts to believe in himself.
Doing the right thing has never been so satisfying. Even as Amaterasu slinks away from another cutscene, while lowly mortals pat one other on the back, there's no resentment, no sense of injustice. You're a god, and that's the way things are.
Other gods recognise your selfless good deeds and reward you with the Celestial Brush techniques that form the main gameplay hook.
Freeze the screen and paint on top of it with the remote, drawing circles, lines and swooshes to summon the appropriate type of magic power.
You can activate the brush at any time, turning the screen into a static pen-and-ink drawing.
The effect doesn't last forever, and you have to be quick on the analogue stick to spin the camera until you've got the best view of the scene you want to draw onto. A swish of the Wii remote lets the ink start flowing.
Drawing straight lines to slash enemies is a breeze with the Wii remote. Circles are more problematic, and it can be extremely fiddly to draw the precise lines needed to connect specific objects that are necessary in some of the brush techniques you learn later in the game.
You'll get used to this system, particularly if you haven't played the PS2 version, but we didn't find it quite as natural as some reviewers have suggested.
Other motion controls include flicking the remote to launch attacks and tilting the nunchuk to dodge during fights.
Even after a long period of acclimatisation we still couldn't make some of the nunchuk motions register correctly every time.
On the positive side, however, the enhanced speed of the basic slash attack with the brush means you can be a lot more aggressive in combat, and fights tend to be over rather quickly, leaving you more time to explore.
The world of Nippon is divided into several large hub areas, with villages and sub-levels scattered all around.
You can enter every building, talk to the residents and sometimes receive bonus quests such as catching fish or locating troublesome monsters.
It's so easy to become sidetracked that you can spend hours in one main area, just collecting things, feeding animals, trading goods, earning money and searching for treasure.
By the time you remember to move onto the main quest, that's when a whole new area unfolds before you, followed by another, and another, and another... The scale of the game can be quite intimidating.
Fortunately you can warp between the main save points - just as well, because running from one end of the country to the other takes ages, even at wolf speed.
The other technical issue is related to the look of the game. If you want to compare the Wii version with the original, the graphics are much sharper and brighter on the newer console.
On the other hand, the PS2 game has a lovely parchment effect, which shows through the graphics and adds to the hand-drawn look.
Both versions seem to run at the same framerate, and there's the same amount of pop-up - so not a great deal of difference, really.
During our long, somewhat awestruck play through Okami, we must have run into at least three or four parts where we thought the final scene was moments away.
But each was just the prelude for something even grander, and because the ultimate goal doesn't become apparent until very late in the game, most of it comes as a complete surprise.