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Onimusha: Warlords (PlayStation 2) artwork

Onimusha: Warlords (PlayStation 2) review

"If you're familiar with Capcom's own Resident Evil series, you'll probably have a good idea of how Onimusha plays. The simplest way to think of it is Resident Evil, in ancient China, with a few RPG elements. But that's only the simple explanation. It also has many other aspects which are reminiscent of a variety of genres. There will be "


If you're familiar with Capcom's own Resident Evil series, you'll probably have a good idea of how Onimusha plays. The simplest way to think of it is Resident Evil, in ancient China, with a few RPG elements. But that's only the simple explanation. It also has many other aspects which are reminiscent of a variety of genres. There will be no more Resident Evil games on PS2, however, there is Onimusha, and it will probably have a sequel or two. So we're not completely out of luck...


If eye-candy is what you're looking for, look no further. Onimusha has the same visual style as most other ''survival horror'' games on PS1, but rather than having those somewhat block, pixelated polygons PS1 was barely able to handle, Onimusha manages to boost the polygon count well above the standard. Now, characters look almost as good as early FMV sequences for PS1. But it's still somewhat of a disappointment that Capcom decided to use the same old style of 2D backdrops they used in their other games--With PS2's capabilities, using a 3D environment would've looked almost as detailed, and would've given the game a much more immersive and realistic look and feel. But that doesn't mean the 2D backgrounds don't look downright impressive--Tons of detail and lighting effects--Much like looking at a photograph.

The game is filled with cool effects, such as realistic particles, supreme lighting, great animation, unique character design, mind-blowing explosions and spell effects, and well-done facial expressions. All this makes for a very well-designed game, as far as aesthetics go. On par with other PS2 beauties such as Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Devil May Cry.


Unfortunately, sound isn't the greatest feature of Onimusha. Sure, the music is eery and ambient, and the sound effects of clashing swords and dying demons are quite stellar, however, the voice acting just flat out sucks. Honestly--It's rather frustrating. And it's not ha-ha sucks like Resident Evil, it just SUCKS! There is hardly any expression in the voices, and when there is expression, there's too much! The villains sound comical and maniacal, which could be a good thing, but in this game, it isn't.

On the other hand, there are still those sound effects and music to make the game a more enjoyable aural experience. Don't let the voice-acting totally let your hopes down, because there is some quality audio here, but it doesn't lie in the dialogue. I'm almost inclined to say that this game would've been better without spoken dialogue.


Onimusha plays like a slightly tweaked Resident Evil with swords. Resident Evil was more about puzzles than fighting, and Onimusha is more about fighting than puzzles. Other than that, it works in fairly the same manner. You run around, killing scary creatures, finding items, putting the items where they belong, fighting a boss, uncovering some of the storyline, and repeating. However, in Onimusha, the puzzles are often laughably easy, and because the environment in the game isn't terribly large, it's easy to tell where things go and what to do, unlike the Resident Evil games, where exploring a huge police station with hundreds of rooms was no easy task.

Now, if it weren't for the very bold and creative weaponry/battle system in this game, I would say that it had lost all hope. However, this system manages to save the game. Imagine Resident Evil with swords, except with a new element--You can earn ''souls'' (experience points) and power-up your weapons and magic! Is that cool or what? I thought it was a pretty damn good idea in a survival horror game, too. Essentially, at every save point, you have the option of ''enhancing'' items or weapons, which includes: Making your weapons stronger, making your magic stronger, and transforming certain items into items of the same class, but of higher caliber. All in all, the system is quite clever. Each time a demon is killed, you have the power to use your magical gauntlet to suck up the souls it leaves behind.

The demon will leave any number of any three kinds of souls:

Red Souls - The main experience system in Onimusha. You can collected red souls to enhance the power of your weapons and items.

Blue Souls - Upon being collected, these souls rejuvinate some of your magic power (mp).

Yellow Souls - These souls will rejuvinate some of your hit points (hp) when they are absorbed.

So, as you can see, Onimusha has a simple, yet effective system for making the game a little bit more interesting. This also gives the game a much more arcadey/RPG-ish feel, because when you leave a room, enemies will come back, unlike in other survival horror games. All in all, the way the game is laid out is so-so, but with the added effect of Capcom's brand new souls system, things get much more interesting and fun. The only little problem with this system is that each of the weapons and magic items can only be powered-up twice! That means only 12 power-ups in the whole game. That's WAY too little if you ask me. I was hoping for at least five for each weapon, maybe more! But, aside from this little flaw and the game only taking about 5 hours to beat (EXTREMELY short), the game plays very nicely.


Unfortunately, Onimusha lacks what any good game of it's genre should have--An immersive and interesting storyline. It reminds me somewhat of Tenchu's storyline. You take the role of Samonosuke and Kaede, two expert warriors who have set out to save a princess who has been kidnapped. Sound familiar? Yeah, that's probably because it's one of the most common storylines in anime and ninja-style videogames. Oh, and did I mention that the princess' kidnapper has some diabolical plan to use her for some dark ritual involving altering the world into some kind of land of darkness? Believe me, it's corny. Then again, it doesn't conflict with the gameplay, so, if you can overlook the joke of a storyline, things should be fine.


Probably the biggest problem with survival horror games is the awkward control. The RE games started this strange control scheme, and now no one seems to be able to let go of it. Things aren't really move different in Onimusha, except for a few added buttons concerning the game's emphasis on battles. Sure, in RE, the control system may not be that bad, because there aren't many battles, but in a game like Onimusha, you'd think that it would totally destroy everything. But I'll tell you, Capcom did a damn fine job of retaining their original idea, but adding onto it enough to make it more suitable for a fighting-oriented game. It controls much like RE, with the following features:

-R1 can now be used to auto-aim your weapon at the nearest enemy.
-L1 is used to perform a block.
-L2 can be held down to make your character always face one way (IE direction pad now sidesteps.)
-R2 makes your character quickly change directions (180 degrees)

With these few changes, the game is much to control. Sure, it still uses that annoying system where forward on the controller is always forward to the character, but once you get used to it, things work out very well indeed.


Onimusha severely lacks replay value. Not only is the game incredibly short to begin with (about 5 hours), but there's not really much to do after you beat it. Sure there are a few extras like the Oni-spirits and dark realm minigames, but even unlocking and completing those won't take you more than a couple hours. Once you beat it, you DO get a panda suit for the main character, but...Who cares? I'm sure it isn't any more fun playing through the game with a panda suit on. And as for the level-up system, because you can't level your weapons up past 3, you may find yourself with a ton of extra souls (I had around 15,000) for the last hour of the game. Capcom really should have thought about giving people more bang for the buck. I'd recommend AGAINST buying this--Rent it, you should be able to beat it in a day or two.


Overall, Capcom has made a very fun to play game. It managed to capture the same feel of Resident Evil, and combined it with cool, fast-paced, ninja/samurai-action. The puzzles may be a bit weak, and the game may be far too short, but short as it may be, the game is enjoyable, and is well worth a play. It definitely influenced Capcom's decision in making and crafting it's even more successful Devil May Cry (Their similarities will be obvioius when you play it). Don't pass this one by, even if it isn't the greatest game ever--It's solid, and it deserves credit.


Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 6.5/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Story: 5/10
Control: 8.5/10
Replay: 5/10

ender's avatar
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)

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