Onimusha is a really short game, but the fact that it includes some really nice-looking CGI movies and a compelling gameplay make it an overall enjoyable experience.
The Resident Evil series has been Capcom’s most important franchise of the past years and it has become extremely influential, as it combines horror elements, puzzle solving and frantic action sequences. This successful gameplay has directly influenced some other franchises like Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry or even Onimusha. It’s surprising that the same company that was once only known for its fighting games has recently created and perfected this great survival-horror formula. But fortunately, Onimusha has some pretty distinct mechanics, and it’s able to difference itself when compared to other Capcom games, mainly as it focuses on close-range combat.
The game features samurai Samanosuke Akechi, a man dedicated to save princess Yuki of the Saito clan from a group of demons who have kidnapped her. Samanosuke has been given a gauntlet, which feeds from the souls of fallen enemies, giving him unique powers. The plot isn’t masterfully told and it’s based on some known clichés, the story it’s all over the place as it tries to appeal both Japanese and American markets. The dialogues are terrible, they have been poorly translated, lip-synching is pretty much inexistent and voice work in general isn’t very good at all. There’s an option to change the dialogues to Japanese and this feel much more authentic, but they never reach a level of greatness other games have.
One thing that differentiates Resident Evil with Onimusha is that in this game every time you kill an enemy he emits various souls, which you can absorb by using your gauntlet. There are three types of souls: the yellow souls represent vitality, so these replenish your health meter, blue souls refill your special attack meter, and red souls represent experience which you may use to upgrade different weapons, orbs and other elements (like herbs, bullets and arrows). If you decide to power up your weapons you can kill enemies much more easily, but enhancing the orbs also allows you to open certain doors. The use of souls eliminates one of Resident Evil’s main issues; you had to carefully ration some of your items and if you ran out of them that meant you had to restart the game. What’s great about this is that, if you’re patient enough, you can defeat certain bosses without having to use items at all. Also, there are many magic mirrors (places where you can save the game and enhance your weapons), a secret place called The Dark Realm, where you can obtain a legendary weapon, and magic fountains, where you can replenish your magic meter. Additionally, the game includes a couple of sections that require you to use the secondary female character: Kaede. These sequences are completely different as Kaede is really underpowered when compared to Samanosuke and you’ll find yourself running away from fights instead of engaging in them.
Apart from swords and bow, there are other weapons in the game, but combat wouldn’t be fun if the controls weren’t responsive. Usually, it works perfectly. It uses a simple lock on system which allows you to attack your closest enemy, so battles have a tendency to be quick and dynamic. Besides your regular attacks your character can perform a special attack, kick certain enemies, block them and so on. The bosses are different, not only they are bigger and more powerful, but they use unblockable attacks, though, most of them are slow enough to compensate these advantages. Some finishing moves are possible, but only when an enemy is on the ground and doing this can be extremely satisfying. As combat is so simple and well designed, the different levels rarely become tedious or repetitive.
As in any other survival-horror game, Onimusha has some serious problems with the position of the camera and the control system. Considering that this game is more action-oriented this is a serious problem and at times you’ll end up attacking a monster that you know is there, but you can’t see. On the other hand combat can be frustrating and sometimes it can be difficult to quickly turn to flee when you consider it necessary, though, it rarely becomes something unforgiving.
Something notable is the inclusion of some breath-taking CGI movies, and even though the game has been released a long time ago these have certainly passed the test of time. The rest of the graphics are amazing, as the characters mix in with the impressive rendered backgrounds. The design of the different characters is really good and the use of motion-capture provides this game with a really distinctive look. Also, the game offers various special effects, so whenever an enemy dies and starts emanating shiny souls you’ll understand why the graphics were one of Onimusha’s greatest achievements.
Furthermore, Onimusha features many puzzles. This is a surprising choice, taking into account that action is more prominent that solving logical teasers. But in fact, Capcom realized that and created puzzles that were built to be solved in a quick fashion. To be fair, many of these teasers are completely optional and you can pretty much finish the game without having to open certain chests or mysterious doors. But in case you decide you want to do all of that, you can, and fortunately this requires little to no backtracking at all. This decision made the game extremely short, but at least you rarely go back to previously visited places.
Onimusha’s length does represent a problem. Its fast paced nature makes it feel even shorter even when combat is so enjoyable and fun. Completing Onimusha should take you about three to four days and maybe even less if you’re patient and skillful enough. There are some secret items to find and it has replay value, but its mere 4 to 5 hours of gameplay feel really, really short.
In conclusion and even though the game has been released a while ago it’s a very enjoyable experience. Onimusha is an action paced version of Resident Evil, which never becomes boring because it doesn’t include little to no backtracking at all. While some people may dislike the game’s length some others will find its gameplay, graphics and survival elements quite engaging, even those who aren’t fans of the genre.