Onimusha 3: Demon Siege Review
If you're a fan of the series or just want to play an action adventure in which you can hack up tons of ugly monsters--with style--then this game is just the ticket.
For all the hard work the heroes of the Onimusha series have had to do, slaying countless demons and zombies in their effort to vanquish the power-hungry warlord Nobunaga, they've been woefully unable to finish the job. Nobunaga returns once again as the main bad guy waiting for you at the end of Onimusha 3: Demon Siege. However, this time the adventure doesn't just take place in medieval Japan, but also in present-day France. The game stars Samanosuke, the noble samurai from the original Onimusha, and it also introduces a new main character, Jacques, a French commando bearing the distinctive likeness of actor Jean Reno (The Professional, Ronin). In addition to the unlikely cast and the time-twisting premise, Onimusha 3 also features a control scheme that's vastly improved over its predecessors, and it ultimately offers up a substantial single-player action adventure filled with impressive visuals, lots of fast action, and a few clever twists. Fans of the Onimusha series will certainly enjoy this episode, as would just about anybody intrigued by the premise of the game.
Onimusha 3 begins as Samanosuke, along with a small army, is assaulting the fortress in which Nobunaga has been pinned down. It would be a very short game if this were to be the warlord's last stand, so instead, a temporal rift suddenly appears during the confrontation, and Samanosuke is whisked away to Paris in 2004--and he's not the only one. The sorts of demonic fiends--called genma--that have plagued medieval Japan now appear in droves in the streets of France, and they begin slaughtering everyone in sight. One of the survivors of this onslaught is Jacques, who unwittingly becomes Samanosuke's counterpart. Both men gain the favor of the Oni, in the form of a soul-sucking gauntlet and the ability to wield elementally imbued weapons. And even as Samanosuke ends up in the present, sure enough, Jacques ends up in medieval Japan. Now, with the help of a little winged spirit named Ako (basically a black-winged Tinkerbell), who can conveniently whisk her way across space and time, these two warriors will need to put a stop to Nobunaga's nefarious time-traveling schemes--and hopefully find a way back to their respective eras.
The story starts strong, and all the time-bending business is a good setup for a few of the puzzles later on in which you'll be able to transfer key items across the ages and affect the future by accomplishing tasks in the past. In a few key sequences, Samanosuke and Jacques will find themselves in the same place, but hundreds of years apart, yet they'll still be able to assist each other thanks to Ako. Perhaps due to all the space/time conundrums, sometimes the plot loses its course. For instance, Jacques frequently has occasion to concern himself with the strained relationship between his young son (who gets way too much screen time in the game) and attractive fiancée, even while he's fighting for his life. Meanwhile, Ako's spunky schoolgirl attitude is presumably there for comic relief, but she's just annoying, despite being so darn useful. You're probably not expecting Onimusha 3 to be the greatest story ever told; still, the story could have been a bit less ham-fisted, if it only kept to the point. And in spite of the unorthodox premise, the story mostly just goes through the motions you'd expect, especially if you've played the previous games in the series.
Apart from the plot, there are two main differences between this Onimusha game and previous Onimusha games. One is that, this time, the graphics are all 3D, whereas previous games in the series featured 3D characters on top of prerendered 2D backgrounds. The 3D backdrops here are a bit of a trade-off. They do lend the game a more cohesive look, but at the relative expense of some of the visual richness of the past episodes. Make no mistake--this is still a gorgeous-looking PlayStation 2 game, featuring great-looking character models, lots of believable settings, and some impressive visual effects. Onimusha 3 plays fast and smooth for the most part, though there are times when the action noticeably and significantly slows down, which is unfortunate. This usually happens when there are more than four or five enemies onscreen, which isn't often. Also, while the 3D backgrounds are ultimately a step in the right direction, it would have been nice if they were more interactive. Apart from the odd button, breakable garbage can, or treasure box, there's nothing to do in these environments. Your character won't even come to a halt if you run into a wall--he'll just keep running in place, like a mime going against the wind. Onimusha 3 does a much better job handling the interaction between your weapons and your enemies. The animations look great, and most importantly, the controls are tight and responsive.