Onimusha Warlords

I really had no idea what to expect going in, with this one. On one hand
it was produced by Capcom, one of my all-time favorite publishers, and
even they had seen enough potential in it to immediately produce a
sequel. On the other, if just due to the period in which the game was
set, I was immediately confusing it with Nobunaga’s Ambition, a military
simulation game that’s had about 1500 sequels and dozens of imitations
in the decade or so since it was first released. I’m not a fan of
military simulation. But within the first minute of play my suspicions
and fears were whisked away. Onimusha had taken hold of me, and however
hard I tried, I just couldn’t put it down for long.
Samanosuke, you’ve returned from a horrifying battlefield to discover
the princess you’ve spent your life protecting has been abducted.
Naturally, you embark on a simple quest to rescue the princess from her
captors. However, instead of battling enemy soldiers, Samanosuke finds
himself mixed up in the middle of a fight between demons and humans, the
undead and the living. It’s like Resident Evil on a grander scale.

the similarities to Capcom’s original “survival horror” series extend
well beyond the mere involvement of the living dead and related
monsters. Truly, the bulk of the game itself may have been ported
directly from the RE series. Onimusha is not a true 3-D platform title,
your surroundings aren’t totally navigable. You watch from an overhead
view, as Samanosuke runs from one pre-rendered background to the next.
As you run off the screen, the camera angle changes and a new background
fills the screen. Much like The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, your
ultimate quest is to defeat enemies and use their very souls to enhance
your own performance. The story explains this away as such; on their way
to conquering the Earth, the demons made mortal enemies of ogres.
Enraged, the ogres have chosen Samanosuke to represent them in halting
the demons’ plans, a sort of sweet scheme for revenge. They grant you a
bulky attachment for your right arm, used to capture enemy souls, and
send you on your way. If that sounds a little bit “out of left field”,
that’s because it is… the storyline on the whole is overly confusing,
generally silly and even occasionally ignored.

In keeping with
that trend, the voice acting takes poorly written dialogue and brutally
drags it along the coals. These guys didn’t even ATTEMPT to match what
they were saying with their character’s lips, and it’s not an uncommon
thing to see your character’s gums flapping for a couple seconds after
he’s quit speaking. Despite their ability to pronounce all the
characters’ names correctly, the voice talent just isn’t getting the job
done here. I’d rather read subtitles than endure this.

enough, the graphics almost completely make up for the lack of
compelling audio just by themselves. As a first wave title for the PS2,
there were most certainly lofty expectations for this disc, and I’d
wager it’s exceeded even those. Onimusha is a brilliant visual treat,
taking full advantage of what the new system had to offer. Even
live-rendered scenes look exceptional, with blur effects, trailers
following various light sources on the screen, and a well-designed
rogue’s gallery to hack your way through.

Likewise, the FMV
scenes in Onimusha, infrequent as they may be, are stunning. Though they
haven’t quite reached the level of perfection that Squaresoft seems to
demand in their cinema scenes, Capcom’s crew is giving the masters a
stern run for their money. While the story may be a little on the light
side, the real emphasis in these scenes is on dynamic poses and
memorable moments. As the back story is explained, hundreds upon
hundreds of soldiers march in slow motion, illuminated only by the
moonlight, their spears extending a good six feet above their heads.
It’s an ominous visual, one that sticks with you long after the power
button has been turned off.

As a standard hack-n-slash affair,
the gameplay doesn’t exactly light the world on fire. If you’ve played
Final Fight, you basically know what the deal is here, though battles do
occasionally require a bit more strategy than that old Capcom standby.
You’re granted a limited amount of magic special attacks, which are best
saved for major battles, and the rest of the game is comprised of madly
smashing the square button, retreating before the enemy can attack you,
and repeating. Interspersed throughout the land are a series of
rudimentary puzzles, which range from “not entirely challenging” to
“simple.” You’ll find a special item, hold onto it for a couple minutes,
and then find the doorway or puzzle requiring its use. Again, nothing
to write home about, but something that’ll keep you occupied.

one major complaint about the game is its length. Perhaps I’ve grown a
bit too used to RPGs that span upwards of ten, twenty, sixty hours
before completion. I defeated Onimusha in four and a half, with relative
ease. The end boss was a pushover, and I was never really concerned
about being killed in that final battle. Though I did fall on three or
four occasions, it was always due to my own stubbornness (I refuse to
use potions and recovery items unless ABSOLUTELY necessary) and not any
real difficulty built into the game itself. If you know how to press the
“square” button and have retained any sort of knowledge from elementary
school, you shouldn’t have much problem defeating this one.

it’s heavily reliant on one battle system, things never seem to become
monotonous. The scenery changes often, new enemies are introduced at
just the right times, and there’s a real epic, cinematic feel to this
that can’t be put into words. For all my words about what this game
could have been, I think it’s silly to overlook what it is. A solid,
entertaining little package.

Verdict: 80/100    

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