The game twice dead and two times revived from its ashes has finally seen the light.
The story of the realization of this game from Capcom, released in Japan at the end of January and arrived in the rest of the world in March (the US release date was March 14, 2001), it is by itself an adventure. Initially, Onimusha had to be a title for Nintendo 64. But the game developers soon realized that the small capacity of Nintendo cartridges, that wanders around 40MB, was incompatible with their project.
And then, tucking up their sleeves, they have changed everything. They choose to develop their game for the more versatile Playstation, that with its Cd-Roms allowed to store up to 650 mb. It seems the game was almost finished when Capcom decided to change again the route. After the news regardining the launch of the Playstation 2, Capcom decided to port the game on this new system. That's how Onimusha, the game twice dead and two times revived from its ashes, has finally seen the light.
The story of "Onimusha Warlords: the Demon Warrior" has been written by the Flagship group, the same responsible for the storyboard of the Resident Evil series, and it mixes the history of Japan with the legend and the imagination of the scriptwriters. We are in medieval Japan, year 1560 D.C. Nobunaga Oda, a powerful warlord, has already defeated, in his path to conquer the whole Japan, the dangerous Yoshimoto Imagawa and he now prepares to face another great vassal, Yoshishatsu Saito. Nobunaga seems to die in battle, struck by an arrow, but he mysteriously reappears, more powerful than before, leading an army of demons. The sister of Yoshitatsu is abducted from the demons of Nobunaga; at this point, our hero comes on stage. Akechi Samanosuke is a brave warrior. Loyal, skilled with his sword, and fearless, he must find the princess and save her from the demoniac power of Nobunaga. In his struggle he will have to defeat hordes of demons and steal their powers to become more and more powerful.
For the realization of Onimusha, Capcom used all its resources. They hired a famous Japanese actor, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and they have "captured" his movements and physical appearance to create the protagonist of the game. A great orchestra performed the magnificent soundtrack and the best developers of survival horrors were hired to realize a high quality title. But is money enough to create a memorable game? I'm really sorry to admit that, but sometimes yes.
Onimusha is a fast-paced game. More action oriented than the instalments of the Resident Evil series, this game inherits the rhythm from the last episode of Dino Crisis. The fights are continuous and violent and with your Katana you can happily disembowel and make into pieces all the demons that you meet during the game.
Like it happened in Resident Evil or in Dino Crisis 2, during the game you'll control Akechi Samanosuke and another female character, a ninja called Kaede. The game automatically switches from one character to the other in certain sections of the adventure. Akechi will find three different swords during his voyage; more precisely, there are three different elemental orbs in the game, that once equipped into Akechi's special gauntlet, will generate a sword. Anyhow, Akechi can use particular long range weapons like a rifle or a bow, for which an auto-aim feature has been added to the usual Resident Evil controls, because of the faster rhythm of Onimusha. Each weapon and orb is upgradable at Save Points; swords and orbs have three different levels that you can gain during your adventure. Swords with a higher level are obviously more powerful, while orbs with a higher level are necessary to unlock sealed doors.
The game controls are extremely easy to handle if you have ever played a survival horror game from Capcom. The digital pad is used to move your character into the pre-rendered environments;
the X button is the usual multi-purpose button, triangle is used for special moves, square is the attack button, and circle is used to absorb the soul of the enemy you've defeated. In fact, in a Soul Reaver fashion, Akechi is able to absorb the soul of the monsters he has defeated thus achieving special energy that you can use to power up your sword or your magic orbs.
As usual for Capcom and games with pre-rendered backgrounds, in Onimusha there are fixed camera angles. Many gamers often complain about the problem connected with this visuals; sometimes you can be hit by an enemy simply because you are not able to see him with the current camera angle. While I admit that I strongly prefer games with environments rendered in real time and featuring dynamic camera angles, I think that's quite a non sense moaning about this characteristic. It's like saying that chess are a bad game because you don't like the way you can move your king. You know, that's a rule, and if you like that game, you have to accept it. Each game has its own rules that you have to follow if you want to enjoy it. So, playing with Onimusha or Resident Evil, you have always to consider that there could be a blind corner in that room with a dangerous enemy, and this adds a sort of subtle strategy element to your battles.
Capcom has inserted in Onimusha a little number of puzzles that you'll have to solve during the adventure. These are classical Resident Evil-style very simplistic puzzles; you'll easily get rid of any of them in a few minutes.
Overall, Onimusha: Warlords is a good action game. The gameplay is solid, fast-paced, often exciting but it's still in the tradition of Capcom's survival horror games. This will please a great number of players, but someone will inevitably turn up his nose at it. We'll probably have to wait for Devil May Cry to see something new from Capcom.