Title: Onimusha: Warlords
Date Released: March 13, 2001
Platform: Playstation 2, XBOX (Genma Onimusha)
ESRB Rating: M
Initial Retail Price: $49.99
Current Price: $19.99 (Greatest Hit)
From the makers of Resident Evil, the creators the quintessential survival-horror series, Capcom has released a new foray into the genre, although instead of Raccoon City, the game takes place in feudal Japan, and instead of elite military units, you play as a samurai, and instead of flesh craving zombies, you fight flesh craving, um... demons. As you can see, Onimusha follows much the same path as Capcom’s previous successes, and deviates very little from what has been proven by sales, to be successful.
The warlord Nobunaga Oda is attempting to unify Japan under his rule, but on the battlefield he has fallen to a stray arrow. However, demons (genma) have been following Oda’s progress, and resurrect him as a demon so that he might finish what he started and rule all of Japan for the genma. As Oda continues his rampage throughout Japan, he encounters resistance at Inabayama Castle, and ultimately kidnaps Princess Yuki of the castle. Just prior to being taken hostage though, the Princess sent a letter to famed swordsman Samanosuke Akechi. The game begins as Samanosuke arrives at Inabayama Castle, just in time to see Princess Yuki being kidnapped. After losing a quick skirmish to the Princess’ captors, Samanosuke is approached by the leader of the Oni clan, and he is given a gauntlet that can capture the souls of his vanquished enemies, so that he might become strong enough to defeat the genma, and rescue the Princess.
Samanosuke Akechi: the main character of the game. You’ll be spending most of your time as him, slicing up demons and absorbing their souls with his shiny new gauntlet. Interesting fact: Samanosuke's character is modeled to look like legendary film star, Takeshi Kaneshiro.
Kaede: a female ninja initially sent to assassinate Samanosuke, she actually developed a friendship with him, and has now dedicated herself to helping him rescue Princess Yuki.
Nobunaga Oda: the bad guy. Freshly resurrected as a demon, this warlord is determined to conquer all of Japan in the name of his genma saviors.
The concept of this game is simple: hack and slash your way through enemies of increasing difficulty, collect their souls, and then use those souls to enhance your weapons and gauntlet. Lather, rinse, and repeat. There really isn’t too much to the game, as far as diversity goes. Occasionally the fighting is broken up by a quick puzzle, but they seem out of place at times, as though they were only included to emulate Resident Evil. Also, to spice things up a little, you don’t always play as Samanosuke, but take on the role of Kaede for certain parts of the game. This then means that you don’t have those cool Oni powers when playing as her, but get to nimbly dart in close to enemies to slice 'em up, or attack from afar with her kunai. Actually, playing as Kaede is relatively bland... Overall though, the incentive of being able to enhance a weapon, or find out where a newly acquired key is supposed to be used is usually enough to keep up interests in the game.
Here's where the learning curve of the game is first realized, in that maneuvering Samakosuke is a little tricky, especially for someone new the genre. At any given time, no matter Samanosuke's position on-screen, the up button on the controller will guide him forward, the left and right buttons in their respective directions, and the down bottom directs him down. This all sounds simple enough, but the set camera angles tend to make things a little more tricky, especially as enemies cannot always be seen. However, for anyone experienced with the Resident Evil series will now this control scheme all to well (and might even like it). Most gamers new to the genre though, will wonder long and hard as to why the analog sticks were not utilized for the game.
Also like the Resident Evil series, all of the backgrounds in Onimusha are pre-rendered, which means that you cannot interact with them, and they cannot be affected by what you do in real time. This also means that they look very appealing and polished. All of the background environments are very well done, and reflect an unwavering attention to detail. Ancient Japanese castles and raw, fleshy demon corridors are illustrated in such a way that total immersion into the game is made that much easier. As for the characters and objects that you can interact with, they are serviceable, but by no means mind blowing. The fact that this game was one of the earlier games released for the PS2 should be kept in mind when looking at the graphical spectrum of Onimusha. For it's time, Onimusha had solid, appealing graphics that shine through even today.
On January 28, 2002, Capcom released a re-vamped version of Onimusha, entitled Genma Onimusha for the XBOX. This version boasted a variety of improvements on the older version, including better graphics (obviously, as the XBOX is capable of much more than the PS2), new enemies, new cut scenes, new secret areas, new unlockable costumes, a new attack, and a new soul to collect. Unlike in the original, in this version of the game, certain enemies lose a large green soul when killed or critically hit. If Samanosuke (you) manage to collect five of these green souls, then you become temporarily invincible. Overall, this adds a nice new aspect to the gameplay, allowing for more strategy. Another significant addition to this version of the game is the inclusion of a Japanese language track, adding a more authentic feel to the game. In fact, for some, this may be reason enough to purchase this version. Genma Onimusha has everything that a good post-release port should have, and does justice to the original.
You can't talk about this game without comparing it to Resident Evil - there are just too many gameplay similarities. That doesn't mean that that's bad, but that if you liked the Resident Evil games, then Onimusha is probably a safe bet. However, the same also applies to those who didn't like RE, in that they will most likely dislike Onimusha. Personally, I have only played Genma Onimusha, and found it very entertaining. Having not been a fan of the Resident Evil series prior to playing this game, I was a little frustrated at dying over and over in the game because I couldn't make Samanosuke turn fast enough to face enemies. This frustration was fleeting though, and I found myself playing through the game multiple times, which was made even more convenient due to the very short length of the game (anywhere from 4 to 10 hours, if you try to comlete all of special areas and get the alternate costumes). So, if you're a fan of the genre, or are interested in something new, then I recommend a purchase (especially at the Greatest Hits price), if not then a rental would be a safer route to test the proverbial waters.
The Onimusha trilogy:
Onimusha: Warlords -- Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny -- Onimusha 3: Demon Siege
Playing through the game multiple times