Review – Onimusha: Warlords
Onimusha must be one of the most criminally underrated gaming franchises of all time. Capcom’s attempt at mixing the survival horror camera angles and difficulty from Resident Evil with hack and slash elements that would later on become more notable in games like Devil May Cry was bold back in 2001, and while it managed to sell relatively well and spawn a handful of sequels, we haven’t heard anything new from it for more than a decade.
Fast forward to the near end of the following decade, and to my surprise, Capcom has decided to announce a remaster of the first game in the series, Onimusha: Warlords, to all major current-gen consoles (sorry Soulja Boy, not this time). With Warlords finally back in the spotlight, it delights me to say that the game is still as fun now as it was back in the day. What a great way to kick off the year of samurai games!
For the uninitiated, Onimusha plays like your typical proto-Platinum hack and slash with the fixed camera angles and (optional) tank-like movement from the pre-4 Resident Evil games. It’s obvious that those two last gameplay elements have aged as gracefully as the average framerate of a Nintendo 64 game, but weirdly enough, it still works, mostly due to the fact the environments are small and the framerate is always at sky-high levels. The combat is simple and far from complex. If you’re looking for Nioh levels of depth, this isn’t for you. However, given how the enemy AI isn’t Nioh levels of intricate, it makes up for a simple but fun button mashing experience.
Onimusha isn’t a very difficult game, even in its harder difficulty settings. Despite the fact it takes a lot of influences from older Resident Evil games, health bonuses and pickups appear regularly. The enemy patterns aren’t exactly difficult to figure out and your weapons are powerful and varied. Some of the puzzles, on the other hand, can be a nuisance due to how cryptic they are, as well as the fact you need to complete them in a certain amount of time before being thrown back to your last save spot. I could have definitely lived without the water trap sliding panel puzzle, for instance.
It might seem unfair, but I do have to point out that, when it comes to its visuals, Onimusha: Warlords hasn’t aged well. The gaming industry was living through its ugly polygonal puberty, halfway between the primitive but adorable low-poly days of the PS1 and the high-definition beauty of today. Onimusha was an early PS2 game and it shows. It had some bold ideas such as facial expressions, motion-captured animations, and high-quality (for 2001 standards) cutscenes, but we’re now living in 2019.
Capcom did add some slight improvements on the overall quality of the textures, resolution, and framerate, but it does look very dated, especially when playing it on a big flat screen. I am sure that the effect is less noticeable when playing on a Switch, but on a TV that wasn’t the case. One thing that actually aged well, however, is (most of) the sound department. The soundtrack and Japanese voice acting are absolutely top-notch. The English voice acting isn’t as good, but can still be enjoyed due to how campy some of its lines are.
Onimusha: Warlords is pretty much the same Onimusha you have played eighteen years ago, just with a couple of facelifts in order to try to hide its age, but that’s fine by me. Despite the dated visuals and irritating fixed camera angles, this is still as fun now as it was almost twenty years ago. The sole fact that I’m now aware that Capcom still acknowledges Onimusha‘s existence makes me excited for the near future. Maybe we’ll finally get a new game with the same visual quality as that jaw-dropping CGI intro from Onimusha 3. Hey, dreaming is free!
The improved textures, resolution and framerate are very welcome, but there’s no way to deny that Onimusha looks very dated.
Not being forced to withstand tank controls is a blessing, making the game’s combat a lot more enjoyable than ever before, but the fixed camera angles are still beyond annoying.
The epic soundtrack and Japanese voice acting are fantastic. The English voice acting, well, not so much…
Fun Factor: 9.5
Onimusha: Warlords might be a bit dated in the technical department, but mowing down demons in feudal Japan never gets old.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Onimusha: Warlords is available now on PS2 (non-remastered version), PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Onimusha: Warlords was provided by the publisher.