Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny Review
Fans of the previous Onimusha game will likewise enjoy the sequel. However, they'll find that Onimusha 2 also has the same drawbacks as its predecessor.
A game about a demon-slaying samurai indisputably deserves an encore. Considering the soundness of the concept behind the hit 2001 PlayStation 2 action adventure Onimusha: Warlords, it should come as little surprise that the sequel is a very similar game. Like its predecessor, Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny is a cinematic action adventure game with plenty of great-looking hack-and-slash combat and a little puzzle solving thrown in to make it last longer. As the vengeful samurai Jubei Yagyu, you'll travel from one beautifully rendered static scene to the next, fighting hundreds of demonic adversaries in your quest to find and defeat the resurrected warlord Nobunaga. Fans of the previous Onimusha game will likewise enjoy the sequel. However, they'll find that Onimusha 2 also has the same drawbacks as its predecessor, including some frustrating camera angles and a relative short main quest. Some bad English voice acting also hurts the game's otherwise excellent atmosphere. Those new to the series are just as likely to notice these problems, but they'll certainly also appreciate the stunning production values of Onimusha 2.
The story of Onimusha 2 is like a retelling of the first game. Much like how Dracula always comes back to life from one Castlevania game to the next, in Onimusha 2, the first game's main bad guy, the evil Nobunaga, has once again risen from the grave and is seeking to take control of Japan using his monstrous armies. In the game's impressive opening cinematic, the first of a number of outstandingly produced prerendered cutscenes featured in the game, you'll watch Nobunaga's forces lay waste to Jubei's village. An expert swordsman, Jubei is the sole survivor of the onslaught. While some of the story is told using prerendered cinematics, most of it is told using real-time cutscenes that feature the game's highly lifelike and meticulously detailed 3D character models. Motion-captured animation lends both the noninteractive cutscenes and the action itself some real dramatic flair, and there's a good balance of action and story--you'll view the occasional story sequences as rewards for getting past the action sequences.
Though you'll primarily control Jubei throughout the game, he'll also meet four other warriors during the course of his adventure, and they'll occasionally fight alongside him. You can occasionally interact with these other characters, but that interaction is mostly limited to offering them whatever trinkets you've come across with the hope of getting something from them in exchange. Sometimes you'll even get to control these other characters directly, though while they look different from Jubei and use different fighting styles, they essentially play the same.
Like its predecessor, Onimusha 2 is comparable to Capcom's famous Resident Evil series because of its mechanics and overall structure. The controls here are just like in Onimusha or in a typical Resident Evil game. Forget the analog sticks on your gamepad--you rotate your character by pushing left or right on the digital pad and make him run forward or retreat by pushing up or down, respectively. Though they control just like Resident Evil, the pacing of the Onimusha games is actually very fast, which is why it's surprising that Capcom has stubbornly refused to provide an analog control scheme. Those unaccustomed to Resident Evil-style controls will undoubtedly see Onimusha's controls as cumbersome and behind the times, though to be fair, the controls are actually pretty good once you get used to them.
Though combat in Onimusha 2 often requires little more than mashing on the square button to slash repeatedly, the game actually rewards finesse, since a carefully timed strike can be used to critically injure multiple enemies. Jubei can also block enemy attacks, imbue his weapons with elemental magic, and, much like the previous game's main character, absorb the souls of slain enemies. Absorbing souls restores Jubei's health and magic power, and it also lets you upgrade your equipment to more powerful forms. Jubei will get to wield a number of great-looking weapons throughout the game, though they are effectively interchangeable for the most part, so you'll switch between them based on personal preference instead of tactical necessity.
The sequel has a gentler learning curve than the original and is actually quite easy at first, though you'll soon reach some encounters with powerful boss monsters that are quite challenging. Die a few times, and the game will all but insist that you continue on in the easy difficulty mode, which makes it so pretty much any player could finish the game without breaking a sweat. That is, provided the player doesn't get stumped by any of Onimusha 2's puzzles, which are pretty simple but might confuse you for a while. Actually, most of the puzzles are purely optional and are used to lock away power-ups that you can opt to leave behind.