Onimusha 2 isn’t as good as its prequel, but if you like action adventure games that include a little bit of fantasy you’ll probably enjoy this one.
Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny is the direct sequel to Onimusha Warlords, which was release in 2001 and quickly became a commercially and critically successful game that established a new franchise. The gameplay was one of Warlord’s best features, as it featured Resident Evil’s control scheme. This inclusion suited the action quite well, but some changes were made to avoid certain frustrations. The second part of the franchise includes all the elements that made its prequel so successful and fortunately it incorporates some other ones to make it a worthwhile experience.
The main objective of the game is pretty much the same; you take control of a character who has to defeat the recently resurrected Lord Nobunaga. But this time around, our hero is different, he’s called Jubei Yagyu and he has other motivations to those of Samanosuke, from the previous game. When Jubei goes back to his home, he finds out that village has been destroyed by Nobunaga’s forces. Right after that, our hero decides to leave and the only thing he wants is revenge. The opening cinematic is pretty surprising and it demonstrates what Capcom’s animators are capable of. Throughout the rest of the game, though, you’ll mostly see videos generated by the in-game engine. This isn’t bad, and even though they don’t look as striking, they are all rendered in real time and are extremely detailed and well designed.
As mentioned previously, the gameplay has remained the same as Resident Evil. It’s really a shame that the analog controls have been completely ignored and this seems like a missed opportunity, but the controls are responsive enough to overlook this fact. You control your character by moving the directional digital pad, you attack using the square buttons, and you gather souls pressing the circle button. That’s pretty much it, but considering that the game is so fast-paced and the fact that you have backtrack a little and sometimes not at all, makes a huge difference when comparing Onimusha to the Resident Evil series.
Furthermore, and if you time your attacks right, you can kill some enemies instantly, you can block and you can transform into a devil monster known as Onimusha. An important part of the game is getting magic to release very powerful spells and the possibility of gathering souls to regain some of your health or use these to power up your weapons and armor add more distinction to the series.
A unique feature really proper of Capcom games has always been the inclusion of a really steep learning curve. Most of the franchises are well known and remembered for being extremely punishing: Devil May Cry, the old Resident Evil games, Street Fighter. But fortunately, Onimusha 2 is quite easy, at least during its first hours. There are some inconsistencies, though, some of the boss fights feel really cheap and the end of the game is really different to anything else. I won’t’ spoil the ending for obvious reasons (even though the game was released a long time ago), but let me just say that it feels unfair. Like at the end of the original Devil May Cry, Capcom decided to change the way we control the main character, changing the control scheme and therefore making it really difficult to memorize. This inclusion diminishes the whole experience making it almost unacceptable. Another new feature is that if you die many times in a row the game allows you to choose an easier difficulty making sure that almost anybody can finish the adventure.
Onimusha 2 also has many puzzles, and even though many of them are really hard to solve it’s good that most are optional. If you do solve them you’ll get some really interesting new items or equipment, but the game doesn’t force you to get them or anything like that.
At one point in the adventure you’ll probably get stuck somewhere. The backgrounds (and levels in general) are detailed and well designed, but there are so many doors that you’ll probably have a hard time remembering which ones are locked and which ones aren’t. You’ll have to backtrack sometimes, but this isn’t a punishing experience like in Resident Evil, besides every time you go back to a previously visited environment you can kill more enemies to get health, magic and more experience. In any way, every new place has a map that you have to find and this will be much easier to guide you through the various levels. It should be taken into account that some of these environments are taken from the original Onimusha, but these aren’t entirely recycled as some were changed and others were entirely redone.
The story also incorporates some new characters. Their stories aren’t as compelling as Jubei’s, but their inclusion affects the main plot of the game. You can interact with some of the secondary characters by giving them gifts, if you decide to do so and according to the items you give away they’ll come back at one point in the adventure and they’ll help you get rid of some enemies. It should be noted that this is the only way to listen to some of those lines of dialogue or get control over these new characters. This gift system is quite interesting, but there are some things related to it that the game should let you know about. For example, at one point in the game you leave the main city and you never go back to it, as most of these characters are there, the game should let you know that if you have gifts for some of them you should give them right away. Another feature is that there’s a small shop where you can buy some interesting new items and pieces of equipment, it’s not really a big deal but it’s a welcome addition.
Graphically, the game looks quite well for being in an old platform like the PlayStation 2. The pre-rendered backgrounds blend in well with the action and the presence of characters and bosses. As in the original Onimusha something that really stands out is the use of motion capture technology, the game also includes a short video which shows how they used it and implemented. Even though they use it to an obsessive extreme (developers not only motion-captured people, but a horse as well!) the results are more than satisfactory as it adds more realism to the game. The CGI sequences are really memorable and the rest of the graphics look really good. The inclusion of the terrible use of cameras is something that should have been fixed, as you end up having the same issues you probably did if you played the first Onimusha. You try hitting enemies that you can’t see as the camera leaves these blind spots.
Soundwise the game isn’t as good. Dialogues are predictable, corny and terrible overall. So, writing is bad… how are the spoken dialogues? Did they fix those? No, they are even worse. It’s a shame that you get to see these mind-blowing CGI sequences which include very bad lip-syncing. Some of the moments which are supposed to be emotional end up being funny or just mediocre. But in fact, what’s really disappointing is the omission of the Japanese language, at least as an option. The first Onimusha included it, the improved version for the Xbox, called Genma Onimusha, also included it so it was reasonable that Capcom put it as a part of this sequel, but for some reason they didn’t. For a game that’s heavily inspired in mythology and even Japanese history this is disappointing as it would have made the game a lot better. Additionally, the rest of the sounds are much better than voice acting, the sound effects of battles are realistic enough and mix in with the action.
Onimusha 2 is much longer than its predecessor and it should take you between 8 to 12 hours to beat it. Once you do so, many secrets and minigames are unlocked. A “making of” movie is available at the end of the game, as well as two interesting minigames that have new rules but use the same gameplay and control scheme. These are “Men in Black” and “Team Oni”. These are quite similar to the Mercenaries minigame of Resident Evil and are good enough to add a little more variety and replay value to the main game.
All in all, Onimusha 2 is a very good game, so if you played the first one you are not likely to be disappointed. The game is quite good graphically even after many years of its release, but voice acting still feels plain, predictable and ridiculous. The action has remained the same and the gameplay is interesting and compelling enough to give it a chance. The game isn’t as good when compared to the original, maybe for nostalgic reasons, but if you like action adventure games that include a little bit of fantasy you’ll probably enjoy Onimusha 2.