In 2001, Capcom took the concept of survival horror to feudal Japan in Onimusha: Warlords and in 2019, they updated the game with a fresh vibrant coat of paint for the current generation of consoles.
How does the game age up after 18 years? Mostly as expected as the CG rendering and game transitions better in high definition. Everything about the game is exactly as ported from the Playstation 2 original.
You play as Samanosuke of the Akechi clan, a samurai trying to protect villagers from a demonic threat. As he runs off with his cousin Princess Yuki to save her, a demon ambushes them, knocks him out and kidnaps her. After coming to, he gets imbued with demonic siphoning powers in the form of a gauntlet bestowed upon him by 12 Oni (supernatural creatures in Japanese folklore).
Every time you defeat enemies, you use the gauntlet to suck in available soul power. Different colors fill the various bars from power and life. Accumulate enough purple and you can transform into an overpowered warrior that can dispense enemies with ease while battling the forces of Nobunaga.
Actor and singer Takeshi Kaneshiro became the model for Samonosuke with his likeness digitized, while also providing his Japanese voice. You can select Japanese or English for vocal options and the subtitles provide even more options.
You have multiple stances you can approach your enemy from the default vertical ready pose with the blade pointed up, the attack ready position by holding the R1-button that allows you to strafe while having the pointed end of the blade facing your opponent or the blocking/deflect stance with the L1-button. The sound is as pristine as the original and the controls are more fluid.
It’s been 18 years since the original game and I wish Capcom offered more than just the same mechanics. They had opportunities to improve the gameplay beyond the HD upgrade.
I would retain the original as an option for those who liked the game as is, but Capcom should offer fans an enhanced version with updated controls and mechanics. A more simplistic counter system like Rocksteady’s Batman games could fit Onimusha. As a beat them up, a counter can launch combos to string tons of damage in a satisfying way. The current system by Capcom you can time a strike where you can score critical hits that befall most low-level enemies.
Also you as you advance through the game, you can channel different elements accessed through shrines. When you start a combo, you use your specialized element to finish off your opponent. Capcom would also adopt the fighting mechanic that Devil May Cry series. You can also access projective weapons like bow and arrow and you can switch targets.
The other major complaint I have is that Capcom failed to address the poor fixed camera angles indoors, especially involving corners where you can’t see enemies coming. The game only changes angles when you reach past a point so you may have to lure them out to be visible or potentially suffer damage. This was also an issue in the early Biohazard/Resident Evil games. Capcom should at least offer that in favor for a fixed isometric view. Blizzard showed you how to do this with their Diablo franchise. Another carryover from the original game uses the d-pad for movement with up to move forward, left and right buttons to turn, and back to jump back. Using the analog stick makes so much more sense with the character moving to where you just point the stick.
The story is a bit standard. No huge twists. Writing is adequate and voice acting works with each actor fitting the role they’re playing. I didn’t listen to the English voices (so sue me) as I prefer to watch anime/movies/games places in their country of origin spoken in their native tongue. So you know where I sit on the subs vs. dubs debate.
If you already own a copy either digital or the PS2 version, it’s not worth getting the PS4 version unless you’re a huge fan or have money to burn as part of your HD versions of classic PS2 games. If you never owned the game before, it’s worth checking out as you live out your fantasy of being in an Akira Kurosawa samurai film.
The game is rated M for Mature.
What do you think? Should more have been done?