Onimusha: Warlords Review
While die-hard Resident Evil fans will be turned off by the game's length, others will find it to be the survival-horror game for people who don't like survival-horror games.
Throughout the last few years, Capcom has focused more and more on creating games for the survival-horror genre and less on the fighting games the company was once so well known for. The headliner of that genre is Capcom's Resident Evil franchise, a series so distinct that the company's other survival-horror line, Dino Crisis, was once commonly referred to as "Resident Evil with dinosaurs" (although it later distinguished itself with a more action-oriented sequel). Capcom's latest entry in the genre, Onimusha, has critics remarking that it's a "Resident Evil with samurai," but--like Dino Crisis 2--it manages to stand on its own.
In Onimusha, you play as Samanosuke Akechi, a masterless samurai dedicated to destroying a group of demons who have kidnapped a princess. To aid Samanosuke in his quest, a group of ogres has given him a magical gauntlet that devours the souls of the creatures he kills, providing him with special powers. The story and the way it's told are perhaps the weakest links in Onimusha. The premise is clichéd by both US and Japanese standards, the dialogue is either badly translated or just poorly written from the beginning, and the voice work behind the in-game cutscenes fails to match up with the characters' lip movements, making them appear like scenes from a shoddily dubbed movie. The result doesn't inspire as many laughs as the original Resident Evil, but it's very disappointing, especially in light of the game's otherwise high production values.
The most noticeable of these is the game's graphics. Without a doubt, Onimusha is the best looking game of its type yet. It has the most varied and impressive rendered backgrounds we've seen in any game to date, the most incredible CG sequences seen since Resident Evil Code: Veronica, and in-game story sequences that look better than the CG sequences you'll find in other games. The characters were designed with great style, and they come to life through excellent motion-capturing that you'll notice in watching their basic movements as well as their facial expressions. Numerous graphical effects complement the game as well, such as enemies exploding into bloody smoke when they die or the green glow that trails the eyes of the zombie ninja. The graphics may not be as much of an overall achievement as those in, say, Shenmue, but they are in the same general class.
Onimusha features the same basic camera and control systems as any Resident Evil game, although they're attuned to the game's more action-oriented style. For instance, a backward-movement command makes you leap back a few feet, while a back-and-attack command adds a kick that can either repel enemies or just knock them down to the maneuver. The camera angles are positioned so well that enemies only rarely block the view of your character. It does happen from time to time, but not often.
Though Onimusha somewhat feels like a Resident Evil game, it has much more in common with Dino Crisis 2's action-based gameplay. For instance, the puzzles in Onimusha are built for speed. In one scenario, two paths are presented. One way has a door that requires a green key. The other is a path that ends in a room containing the green key. This may sound too straightforward--and perhaps it is, a little--but it's very refreshing to not have to constantly backtrack or deal with inventory boxes as you spent most of your time doing in Resident Evil games. One of the criticisms leveled at Onimusha is that it's not very long. While it is short, not having to backtrack nearly as much as you would in similar games makes up for a lot.