Just because a sequel has an air of finality to it doesn't necessarily mean it's really the end. As is the case with Capcom's Onimusha franchise, which seemed all but concluded by the end of the last game in the series, Onimusha 3. But that's the benefit of creating a universe like that of the Onimusha series--you can just jump ahead 15 years in the future and you can start the whole thing anew. Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams for the PlayStation 2 will do just that, revolving around a new hero, a new threat, and a new dual-character play mechanic. Dawn of Dreams was available at Capcom's pre-E3 press conference, and we got to sit down and play it for a little while.
The main hero of Dawn of Dreams is Soki, a mystically powered warrior who is on a mission to stop the newest villian of the Onimusha series, a man called Hideyoshi Toyotomi, from taking over the Genma, the demonic group previously headed by the evil Nobunaga. You'll be able to control five different characters in the game, though they'll always come in pairs (with Soki always being one of them.) As you play, you'll be able to switch between Soki and his chosen partner on the fly by pressing the "select" button. As you would imagine, each character moves differently and features unique abilities. In the demo levels we played, we switched off between the decidedly more sword-heavy Soki and a female companion, who moved and attacked in a more ninjalike way. You'll be able to use combination attacks that both characters execute in a special cutscene when both of you fill up your magic meter.
We got to try out a couple of demo levels at the event. One such level was something of a time trial. The battle took place on a thoroughly rain-soaked field, and we initially started battling it out with what looked like skeletal zombies, which were relatively easy to dispatch. However, after slicing through a few of them, much larger, much more bladed enemies began appearing. These creatures could literally jump up and hang in thin air when in trouble, making it more difficult to attack them. The catch here was the five-minute time limit that counted down as we played. In that time, we were required to kill 15 of those hover-happy foes. The folks at Capcom referred to this type of mission as a test of valor, and noted that we'd find several of them scattered throughout the game.
Apart from this level, we also got to check out a couple of boss fights. One such fight involved a large, four-legged spiderlike creature, which, despite its relative size, actually seemed pretty easy to beat up on--save, of course, for its tendency to hurl large flaming objects at us (possibly boulders.) A number of zombified soldiers would also appear from time to time to hassle us, making things a tad more difficult. Significantly more impressive was another fight against a giant, mechanized samurai warrior, who literally towered over an entire city, crashing through buildings as it came after us. Finally we settled on a platform, where we found ourselves running back and forth as it swiped at us with its large blades and shot at us from gigantic chest cannons. Periodically, when it would miss with a strike, its sword would become embedded in the ground, at which point we would attack it. We had our ass handed to us before we could finish the fight, but the fight itself was pretty epic and thoroughly enjoyable.
The visuals in the game seemed to be in good shape in the demo we played. The main characters all had a distinctively colorful look, with a sort of ancient Japanese/fantasy hybrid design, and the demonic monsters looked appropriately deformed and horrific. The environments all looked impressive, especially the first, rain-soaked area we encountered. The impressive weather effects didn't seem to have any negative impact on the frame rate, which was certainly a plus. The game will also feature a new, dynamic camera system that you can adjust as you please with the right analog stick. Admittedly, during our play time, we did run into some issues with camera angles that weren't terribly conducive to a productive combat experience, so hopefully those issues will be ironed out before the game's release.
Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams seems to be coming together pretty well, and it appears like it will be a nice treat for those who were saddened by Onimusha 3's evident finality. Capcom will have a playable demo of the game available on the E3 2005 show floor. The game will hit stores exclusively for the PlayStation 2 in 2006.