Developer(s) – Capcom
Publisher(s) – Capcom
Director(s) – Jun Takeuchi
Producer(s) – Keiji Inafune
PEGI – 16
Released in 2001 and going on to become the first PlayStation 2 game to reach sales of over one million units, Onimusha provided a very different take on game design with the Resident Evil engine. Set in the Sengoku period in 15th century Japan, the story involves a samurai named Samanosuke Akechi and his resolve to save his cousin princess Yuki from a demon invasion of the Inabayama castle. It’s highly regarded as one of the best titles on the PlayStation 2 to date by most critics and to me, although I think the best of the Onimusha series would be yet to come, it still remains a classic to me.
Graphics – 8/10
The game is set in a fictional take on the 15th century Japanese Sengoku period, which was something pretty unusual compared to what kind of settings Capcom was used to perpetuating in titles like Resident Evil, Street Fighter, or Mega Man. However, it works brilliantly, along with the conceptual designs of the various different demons the player will encounter along the way. It did a particularly good job showcasing what the PlayStation 2 was capable of doing early on in its shelf life, but more importantly than that, because the vast majority of the scenery is composed of detailed still imagery, it does even better to hold up even after 20 years.
Gameplay – 9/10
The game is a hack and slash adventure with the player alternating between two characters; Samanosuke and his kunoichi companion Kaede. Samanosuke’s sequences provide the vast majority of the gameplay as well as the entertainment since there are far more abilities to take advantage of in order to subdue enemies in an increasing variety of ways as the game progresses. They are also upgradable giving the player that more incentive to play through to the end. Onimusha is also heavy on puzzle-solving to access new areas and find new items; the puzzle-solving element is handled in an almost identical manner to that of Resident Evil in fact and requires players to think on their toes at times. With Kaede, there is an additional weapon to find giving her marginally greater attack power, but Kaede’s sequences are few and far between and it’s easy to understand why.
Controls – 9/10
Prior to playing Onimusha, I had had issues playing the Resident Evil games because of the somewhat clunky movement controls, but in Onimusha, it’s much less of a problem; somehow because the game seems much more fast-paced at 60 frames per second. Ever since the developers introduced the strafing ability and the facility to quickly turn 180 degrees, it sorted prior issues out massively. Apart from this, however, there are no issues with the control scheme of this game. Combat is as fluent as possible, allowing players to be as proficient as possible without having to worry about any silly mistakes on the part of the developers.
Lifespan – 6/10
The main gripe I had with this game, as well as everybody else who reviewed it at the time of its release was the lifespan. Clocking in at around 10 hours, most critics, including myself, felt as if it didn’t last anywhere near as long as it should have done, especially given the direction in which gaming was going at that time, and the standards that had been set during the previous generation. Thankfully, later installments of the series would go on to rectify this problem, but it is most definitely a problem where the first game in the series was concerned.
Storyline – 9/10
Set in the fictional take on the Sengoku period, it all begins when princess Yuki of the Saito clan is captured by demons. Samanosuke Akechi and Kaede arrive too late to save her initially and Samanosuke is subsequently subdued by a demon far more powerful than himself, who then stows away with Yuki. Samanosuke is then endowed with a gauntlet that has the power to absorb the demon’s souls, thus being able to destroy them permanently. With this newfound power, Samanosuke vows to destroy the demons and save Princess Yuki. Since Capcom started implementing full voice acting in their games, the dialogue has ranged from mixed to laughable at times; musically with the whole Jill sandwich thing in Resident Evil. But in Onimusha, there are some examples of mixed voice acting again, overall, the dialogue implemented is a decisive improvement on most of anything they had come up with at that point. The concept of the story was also particularly well thought out, as outside the Dynasty Warriors and Tenchu series, there weren’t a lot of games themed around the Feudal era of Japan, or like in Onimusha, just after which.
Originality – 9.5/10
It was interesting at the time when the game was released to see exactly what Capcom could do differently with the whole Resident Evil formula. In my opinion, the Onimusha series is far superior to the Resident Evil series, since there are more fun and enjoyment to be had in terms of gameplay, and the Resident Evil series has come with a lot of unnecessary complications throughout, such as the lack of movement during the shooting in Resident Evil 5 and the lackluster voice acting in the first 3 games. But the original Onimusha took the overall gameplay formula to new heights and it made for something that hadn’t been seen in gaming beforehand; it’s a shame to think that the Onimusha series faded into obscurity as it did since it makes me think about where the series could’ve possibly gone or worked on further.
Overall, Onimusha: Warlords remains a PlayStation 2 classic to this day in my opinion. It has intense combat, a great story, and though the second game would go on to blow the first out of the water, this definitely was not a bad starting point.
8/10 (Very Good)