Genma Onimusha (Xbox) review
"About four years ago we first heard about the ''ninja Resident Evil''. I was excited about the idea at first, but it all but left my mind when I played and was disappointed by the similarly-marketed Dino Crisis. Now that the eventual result of this idea, Onimusha, has come to my native console, I am happy to be able to praise it as being good as or better than any Resident Evil game ever.
About four years ago we first heard about the ''ninja Resident Evil''. I was excited about the idea at first, but it all but left my mind when I played and was disappointed by the similarly-marketed Dino Crisis. Now that the eventual result of this idea, Onimusha, has come to my native console, I am happy to be able to praise it as being good as or better than any Resident Evil game ever.
The story of the game is set up nicely. You play as Samanosuke, a noble Samurai who fights for no clan. He receives a distress call from his friend, Princess Yuki of the Saito clan. Unfortunately, she is captured by demons before he can get to her. Sound familiar? Well, there are a few nice twists. At almost the same time, a General Nobunaga of the Oda clan is ironically killed just as his army is winning a battle. He has made a pact with the Genma (demons), to be resurrected and granted great power. The demons have taken the Saito castle and Yuki, and you're job is to stop them and get her back.
It’s Got ‘Something’ RE Didn’t Have
The gameplay is where the game really shines. You lead your character, usually from a skewed top-down perspective, on a crusade against the aforementioned demons using classic Samurai sword fighting augmented by predictable magical powers. The weapons system is like a dwarfed version of the side-shooter MegaMan’s, with weapon upgrades giving you some depth of strategy in your fighting. However, these are quite few and all come near the first of the game, making the focus more on hack-n-slash battles broken up by exploration and puzzle solving.
Add to all this the Soul Absorption system, which adds enough variety to Onimusha to keep it from being a rehash of the Survival Horror genre. Using an artifact attached to your arm, you can collect or ''suck up'' the souls of enemies you defeat. They can be used to replenish magic or health, as experience points to upgrade your weapons and items as well as to unlock new areas, and some to grant you invincibility in a tight spot. It sounds simple, but it is truly genius and addictive, and it makes up for the relative lack of weapon variety.
The challenge is also solid, thought the learning curve is a bit steep. Once you get used to the controls, the game offers you some truly intense enemy fights. The only problem with the otherwise joyous battle system is that the ever-changing camera and its sometimes awkward angles can cause you to loose track of how far you are from an enemy or even which direction you're facing. If only this game had a battle system that could really be perfectly mastered with pure skill, I would want to give it an 10.
The Four Hour Long Cutscene
Remember when we all used to sit around and wonder, ''Do you think real time graphics will ever be as good as these CG scenes?'' Well, that time seems to have come with this generation of consoles. Of course, this game does continue the CG tradition with scenes even more gorgeously prerendered than ever, so there's still a slight gap to be seen. But, for example, the old glaring difference between the backgrounds and the moveable items in other similar Capcom games is all but gone.
The characters are all well detailed and accurately clothed for the time period. The only eyebrow raiser is the female character and her obligatory ''sex clothes''. The realism is startling from the average camera angle, and hardly a single blurry texture is to be found even up close. The movements are also fluid, and the frame rate almost never falters, thanks to the pre-rendered backgrounds taking quite a load off the processor.
Many have criticized Capcom for these pre-rendered backgrounds. But they are absolutely beautiful, and they fit in with the polygonal characters better than any of the previous Capcom survival horror games. They also serve another purpose: the already short load times of the XBox are here practically nonexistent. Half of the time the next room would load for me even before the ''NOW LOADING'' could flash on the screen once. Candles and other light sources blend in
with and cast light on nearby characters and the ''walls'' with unprecedented seamless-ness.
There are hardy any graphical glitches, polygon bleeding, or even lip-flap timing problems. The only thing that keeps these graphics from a full ten is that they don't do anything revolutionary, or anything that affects the gameplay significantly.
Almost a Samanosuke Sandwich…
Take everything you hate about the Resident Evil franchise's controls, and then take out the safety of using mostly all long range weapons. Sound frustrating? It is at first. But like it's
predecessors, Onimusha can be mastered.
Taking a cue from Zelda 64, Onimusha's protagonist can focus on an enemy when you press the R trigger. This helps relieve much of the stress of playing an intense action game with a Resident Evil style engine. (And inn passing, the number of saves you make doesn't seem to have any affect on your score, taking one more coal out from under the frustration pot.) The L trigger allows you to block, so that you can stand a chance against enemies in large numbers. All of the main action buttons work naturally with the XBox controller, and within about fifteen minutes you can be slashing, blocking, dashing, and turning like second nature.
Thought not perfect, the controls are manageable. But they also lose points for not having customizability. I personally don't want to click a thumbstick during gameplay unless I absolutely have to, period.
The sounds are right on. Katana against katana, metal into flesh, raging wind, blazing fire, demonic grunts, haunting laughs - they're all here; nothing is left out. The Japanese voice work is also excellent, with the main character voiced by Kaneshiro Takeshi, a moderately famous Japanese actor who can supposedly speak 21 languages. (Incidentally, his face is also used for the hero Samanosuke's.) The English voices are what you'd expect - not quite as good - and the translation leaves a bit to be desired. (And for what it's worth, I say that as a published Japanese translator, not some ''Teach Yourself Japanese in 3 Hours While Watching TV'' fanboy.) But the option to choose between either language is cause for rejoice.
The music is also well done. It is usually subtle, but it serves it's purpose. In the game's many scripted sequences it sometimes takes the lead, with Kabuki woodblocks and howls for accent. The only problem is that the musical mood of the scenes often seem a bit out of place, but that is nitpicking and largely a matter of personal taste.
Just One More Secret Costume…
Capcom always delivers here, and this is perhaps their best go of mini-games and unlockable secrets yet. You can collect gems (called fluorites), kill tons of demons, and speed through the game to unlock various little extras. On top of this, there are several optional missions in the actual game, and dozens of rooms of enemies to test your skills on, with useful rewards for the hardcore. The best thing about this game's system of extras is how naturally they come. One
extra will give you access to something that will open another extra, which in turn will make you able to get a higher ranking to score another extra, etcetera.
I played this game all day for five straight days, and I never got bored with it. It's short and even quite linear, but it offers enough and secrets to keep you coming back, and somewhat-mindless-but-engrossing swordplay to make the process bona fide pleasure. I'd say you owe Genma Onimusha at least a rental. It comes short of a perfect score due to some faults, but it has to get a nine just for being so damned cool.
OVERALL SCORE: 9
GRAPHICS – 9
SOUND – 9
CONTROLS – 8
GAMEPLAY – 9
REPLAY VALUE – 9
OVERALL – 9
[ + ]
Cool Samurai theme
Mild RPGish level system
Loads of extras
[ - ]
Could’ve been longer
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Community review by richorosai (January 26, 2003)
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