Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny
The time has come to teach the demonic Nobunaga a new lesson. Full review of Samurai's Destiny!
Like the first instalment of the series, Onimusha 2 is a vigorous compendium of the way Capcom created adventure games in the latest six years.
In a moment in which almost every company seems to have made the big jump to the creation of fully 3D worlds, Capcom delivers adventures made of
pre-rendered backgrounds, 3D characters, and an action-based gameplay enriched by a bunch of never too difficult puzzles. With the exception of a few (excellent) titles, this formula remains solid at the root of Capcom's creations. That's what one might call classicism, but when you see a game like Onimusha 2 or the remake of Resident Evil for GameCube in action, this definition is, in some way, inadequate. Yes, these games are definitely classic in the gameplay structure, but the way in which they're crafted, in which all the pieces are put together, the way in which the old well-tested techniques are brought to a new level creates a sense of fascination in the player that's really the mark of Capcom.
Onimusha 2 shows its class from the very beginning. A breathtaking pre-rendered CG movie introduces the player into the story and the medieval world of the game. For the newcomers, the series takes place in the second half of the XVI century, in a formula that blends history and pure fantasy events. In the first Onimusha the hero was Akechi Samanosuke, a brave warrior who had to face Oda Nobunaga, once a cruel feudal lord and now an evil demon leading an army of creatures of the darkness. Onimusha 2 starts 13 years after these events. Nobunaga has re-emerged from the darkness, and he has started a campaign apparently aimed at the sole killing of all the innocents he finds along his bloody way.
Nobody seems to have the power to stop Nobunaga's fury, until Yagyu Jubei, the hero of the game, goes on stage. Jubei is a warrior, like Akechi Samanosuke, a skilled swordsman whose village is attacked and destroyed by Nobunaga's demons, his closest friends and loved ones slaughtered with no pity. Jubei decides with to embark in a journey to avenge his people and annihilate Nobunaga's menace. The story of Onimusha 2 is more complex than the one of the first game; there are more characters to interact with, more environments to explore, and a series of storyline branches that invite the player to play more than once the game in order to fully enjoy its multi-faceted storyline.
The basics of the gameplay have remained the same of the original, and this means that if you have played Resident Evil or Dino Crisis on Playstation, you know perfectly how to handle the situation here. What disappoints is that Capcom didn't include support for analog controls, when almost every game nowadays is based on this control system. This means that to move the character in Onimusha 2 you have to use the d-pad, while the Left analog stick of the Dual Shock 2 is of no use. The rest of the control scheme has remained the same too. Square is the main attack button, Square + d-pad let you kick the enemy, Circle absorbs souls of your enemies, and Triangle uses magic; L1 blocks the enemy's attacks, and R2 turns your character of 180 degrees. Holding R1 you can lock onto a target; if you have equipped a gun or a bow, you must hold the R1 button and then press the Square button to fire.
Like Akechi in Onimusha, Jubei can collect the souls of the demons he kills. The three types of souls from the first episode are back. Red souls upgrades Jubei's weapons and armor, blue souls recharge your magic meter, and yellow souls recharge your health. New to the series is the possibility to collect purple souls. Five of these let Jubei turn into his Onimusha (or "demon warrior") form. As an Onimusha, Jubei can inflict huge damages to the enemies and he is invulnerable to their attacks; a meter indicates the time remaining before you turn back to the "human" form, but you can lengthen this time if you find other purple souls.
While the combat system is nearly identical to the one of the first Onimusha, the action here is even more fast paced. With an impressive variety of horrific forms and combat techniques, and well developed A.I., the dreadful demons that you'll encounter in the game are tough ones, and this makes the combat experience challenging and electrifying but still less agile than the arcade experience offered by Devil May Cry.
The uninspired puzzles featured in other Capcom's survival adventures have finally disappeared, substituted by more interesting little puzzles that most of the times are not necessary to complete the main quest, but that give you the chance of getting your hands on precious objects.
The biggest new feature is the addition of simplified RPG elements to the adventure that occasionally don't blend perfectly into the big picture of a game that's supposed to be a survival adventure game, but that add a good dose of replay value and variety. First of all, in Onimusha 2 you can collect money killing enemies, something that's extraneous to the straightforward gameplay structure of survival adventure games. This money can be used in the village, a place where you can talk with other characters, have a taste of social life in feudal Japan, and buy some stuff from the local shop. You can collect different types of so-called "gift-items" which you must give to one of the other four playable characters in the game. If Akechi was supported by Kaede in Onimusha, here you have four companions that can help you during your quest and that you can eventually control in their own sub-scenario if you give them the right objects. Ekei is a swordsman, like Jubei, with a special love for liquors : use this passion at your own advantage. Magoichi is a strong-tempered man, with a love for guns and books. Kotaro is a ninja, and Oyu, the inevitable female hero of the game, is a mysterious woman extremely skilled with her western broadsword. What's interesting is that in order to see all the scenarios featured in the game and to take control of all the four playable sub-characters, you need to play the game at least four or five times. The structure of the game is more complex than the classic linear adventure offered by Capcom, and it's an extremely welcome change. If certain scenes remain necessary to proceed in the game, there are whole big sections that you will inevitably skip if you play the game just once.
Onimusha 2 delivers a gameplay that's loyal to Capcom's tradition but that at the same time introduces original elements into the survival adventure genre. The extraordinary overall sense of balance that one can feel playing Onimusha 2 is the result of years of experience. The only flaw here remains the lack of support for analog controls, something that could have added more "liveliness" to the game.