Review of Onimusha: Warlords
Onimusha: Warlords is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Capcom. Additionally, it’s a remaster of the original, which initially released in 2001 for the PlayStation 2. This updated version came out on January 15, 2019, for a wide range of consoles, including PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Years later, Onimusha still holds up well and manages to provide a unique, enjoyable gaming experience.
The plot of Onimusha focuses on samurai Samanosuke Akechi, and ninja Kaede, as they embark on a perilous journey to save Princess Yuki. Sowing death and destruction, demons have invaded Inabayama Castle, her home. As the story progresses, Samanosuke and Kaede unravel a sinister plot helmed by Nobunaga Oda and his demonic minions. Together, the two heroes must use a variety of mystical weapons, strategy, and their own wits to survive the castle.
According to the Capcom Press Center, the remaster contains several new features. These include high-definition graphics, widescreen display options, analog stick support, a new soundtrack, and Easy Mode available from the beginning. Furthermore, brand new voicework has been recorded for this version. Aside from these additions, the core of the game is quite similar to the original.
In Onimusha: Warlords, gameplay occasionally switches between Samanosuke and Kaede; although, the majority is from Samanosuke’s perspective. His sections focus more on combat and strategy, while Kaede’s sequences revolve around agility and puzzle-solving. As a whole, the game requires regular puzzle solving to progress. For example, there are “trick boxes” scattered around Inabayama Castle. These are sliding panel puzzles, in which tiles must be moved to their corresponding numbers within a time limit. If completed correctly, the player will receive a key item, or an upgraded piece of equipment. Moreover, key items are often needed to fulfill inventory puzzles.
Also, the game has an upgrade system to enhance weapons and certain items. However, this aspect is available only for Samanosuke. He wields a magical gauntlet that absorbs the souls of fallen demons; those souls are then used to improve weapons. In addition, the combat system relies heavily on utilizing caution and strategy. Players must ensure their blocks/strikes are well-timed and well-placed. Otherwise, even encounters with normal enemies can easily become fatal.
At its core, Onimusha: Warlords is a fun, rewarding experience with many positive aspects. First, the story is suitably dark and held my interest throughout the four hour runtime. I genuinely found myself wanting to see how everything played out. Second, both main characters are fun to play as; they have their own distinct characteristics, combat styles, and merits. It’s great there are gameplay specific differences between Samanosuke and Kaede. Really, I appreciate that Capcom didn’t just reuse the same traits for each character. That’s always nice to see.
Second, the upgrade system is simple to understand, as well as use. Even better, all upgrades have a noticeable impact on weapon strength and abilities. It becomes that much easier to defeat enemies with each improvement. And despite Onimusha’s original age, the combat is smooth to execute, and this makes switching weapons seamless. Honestly, I never felt as if I was playing a remaster of a much older game; it just runs that well.
Equally important, the combat system’s emphasis on strategy adds a layer of tension to every encounter. You go into each battle knowing it could result in death. Personally, I love this style of combat, and Onimusha perfectly nails it. The battles are challenging and suspenseful, without ever becoming too frustrating. Correspondingly, enemies can spawn whenever, wherever; the only safe spaces are ones containing save points. This aspect, along with the combat system, combine to make the overall atmosphere even more dark and thrilling than it already is.
Although battle can be difficult, it typically results in fitting rewards. These can range from demon souls to recovery items, but they’re always worthwhile. I really enjoyed this type of risk-reward feature, too. It consistently makes combat feel satisfying. Onimusha also contains a good variety of weapons; among these are elemental blades, a bow/arrow, and a gun. Likewise, these weapons fit well with the setting of the game, feudal Japan.
Yet another positive point, the numerous puzzles are simple, but still fun to complete. You never have to worry about them getting too difficult. A few were quite memorable, too. My personal favorite is a puzzle in which players must navigate Samanosuke and Kaede across a booby trapped floor. The floor is lined with “X” and “O” symbols, and both characters have to continuously land on the same symbol as they progress. Otherwise, the floor gives and triggers spikes, resulting in either warrior immediately dying.
Along with great upgrade and combat functions, Onimusha: Warlords has several other achievements to its name. Among these, the game maintains a balanced difficulty curve. Battles gradually become tougher and require more strategy. There isn’t a sudden difficulty spike or anything like that. In addition, the graphics look quite good, especially considering the original is from 2001. Most notably, the characters’ faces appear detailed and fleshed out. Admittedly, the voice acting isn’t great, but it’s decent overall. And it fits this charming adventure just fine.
One of my favorite parts of this game is easily the updated soundtrack. The music is dynamic, switching from area to area, and changing to encompass the current tone. Truly, the soundtrack meshes so well with the atmosphere of the game. For instance, if a sequence is time-based, a more fast-paced, suspenseful track plays. A quiet, subtle song adds a sense of eeriness to an already dark environment. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, and I’d be willing to listen to it outside of the game. I firmly believe it’s one of the better music sets I’ve heard in a video game.
Fixed Camera/Cheap Enemies
It’s true that Onimusha has many noteworthy features, but not all of them are necessarily positive. For one, the camera takes a fixed angle approach. Some players might enjoy the sense of nostalgia this gives, but I’ve never been a fan. I found the fixed angles to be obtrusive; they added unnecessary difficulty and frustration to combat that was fine on its own.
Furthermore, a specific enemy type can attack as it spawns. I thought this was a bit cheap, as I often didn’t have enough time to counter it. Because of this, I unjustly lost health many times. The following is a minor complaint, but a complaint nonetheless. An option to skip cutscenes would be nice. In several sequences, you can easily die from failing puzzles. If this happens, you then have to watch the preceding cutscenes over and over. As you can imagine, this quickly gets tiring.
Apart from a few small flaws, Onimusha: Warlords is a unique and satisfying title that features strategic combat at its finest. It also boasts a great upgrade system, a suitably eerie atmosphere, and a wonderful soundtrack. In conclusion, this is an exemplary video game for many reasons, and I’d highly recommend it to every gamer.
Official Capcom Press Center Page- https://press.capcom.com/Users/LogIn?ReturnUrl=%2f
Official Onimusha: Warlords Site- http://www.onimusha2001.com/us/
PC/Steam Store Page- https://bit.ly/2PA5jJ8
PlayStation 4 Store Page- https://bit.ly/2wK8rGl
Xbox One Store Page- https://bit.ly/2wAeI7J
Nintendo Switch Store Page- https://bit.ly/2WRglMQ
All pictures were obtained from the Capcom Press Center website, which I am registered to use. All images belong to Capcom.