Onimusha Blade Warriors Hands-On Impressions

We get an exclusive look at the US version of Capcom's upcoming brawler.

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Capcom's Onimusha franchise has turned out to be quite a popular series with a varied catalog of titles for the current generation of consoles. The action adventure franchise has gone down well with gamers who've been taken with its hack-and-slash action and rich story. The series will come to a close later this year with the third and final installment, Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, but soon Capcom will offer fans another way to explore the franchise's rich world with Onimusha Blade Warriors, a multiplayer brawler in the vein of Capcom's own underrated gem Powerstone or Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. The game was originally released in Japan earlier this year, and it's headed stateside later this month. We recently had a chance to spend some time with the US version of the game to see how it has made the trip to the Western Hemisphere.

The Onimusha universe has popped up in the least likely place you can think of--a Smash Bros.-style brawler.
The Onimusha universe has popped up in the least likely place you can think of--a Smash Bros.-style brawler.

Unlike the previous Onimusha games, which have been pretty straightforward action adventure games, Onimusha Blade Warriors offers a much more combat-focused experience. You'll find three main game modes--story, versus, and custom versus--and a tutorial to choose from in the game. Story is a mission-style mode that will let you take your selected character through a series of chapters, which are essentially different arenas, and it will pit you against a variety of different foes. Each chapter will have its own set of conditions for victory, such as defeating a set number of enemies within a time limit, collecting a certain number of souls, or just defeating a boss. The chapters are linked together with real-time story sequences that are unique to the character you use.

As in the previous Onimusha games, you'll collect souls from fallen enemies and use them to enhance your weapon. This time out, you can also use the souls to beef up your fighter's attributes, which offers an extra incentive to rack up the kills. Versus mode is the expected competitive gameplay type where you can take on a friend. However, the game manages to offer more than a simple one-on-one experience, thanks to its four-player support, via the PlayStation 2's underused multitap peripheral. Custom versus is essentially the same game, but you'll be able to import your powered-up character from the story mode into the game. Finally, the tutorial mode will let you familiarize yourself with the game's unique fighting system.

You'll be able to upgrade your character throughout the story mode and then use him or her in the versus mode.
You'll be able to upgrade your character throughout the story mode and then use him or her in the versus mode.

The combat mechanics in Onimusha Blade Warriors share many similarities with the system used in the Onimusha games, but there have been some tweaks to quicken the pace of the fighting. You'll have the same basic attacks as in the previous games, but this time you'll have the ability to jump between three different planes (much like in the classic Saturn game Guardian Heroes), which offers some unique strategic options for battles.

Each character will have a number of unique attacks that you'll pull off via Street Fighter-style controller motions. A counter system also allows you to turn the tables on enemies while blocking. You'll find a variety of pickups that will help you beef up your stats. In addition, these pickups will include weapons or magic attacks you can use against an enemy, provided your special meter is full. Overall, while the game may initially seem to be a button-mashing fest, you'll find that there's actually some depth to be mined here. The counter system alone will take some work to master. However, the game is easy enough for players of any skill level to enjoy.

Blade Warriors' graphics are quite impressive, thanks to shared technology with the Onimusha 3 engine. The character models are highly detailed, standing up to scrutiny in the close-ups during the cinematics, and they animate smoothly. The backgrounds are based on familiar locales in the series and offer a good amount of variety. Color in the game is quite vibrant and helps complement some of the rich, atmospheric stages. The various attacks are flashy and appropriately melodramatic, which suits the gameplay perfectly.

Onimusha fans looking for a slightly different experience should check out Blade Warriors.
Onimusha fans looking for a slightly different experience should check out Blade Warriors.

The audio in Blade Warriors is solid, albeit uneven in spots due to some lackluster voice acting. The music tracks and sound effects are the strongest components in the audio package. The assortment of solid, but nondescript, tunes is punctuated by the sharp sounds of clashing weapons and the grunts of the assorted warriors. The actual voice acting is a bit blasé, but not necessarily in an off-putting way.

From the looks of things, Onimusha Blade Warriors is shaping up to offer a solid and original fighting experience. While the game may seem a bit simplistic at first blush, if you spend some time with it you'll find that it has its own unique charm. The story mode is a bit bland, but the impressive variety of unlockable characters (including a familiar face from one of Capcom's classic franchises) and the ability to build up your character make it worth repeated plays. The multiplayer element of the game is solid and pleasantly hectic with four players. Anyone looking for a fun brawler will want to keep an eye out for Onimusha Blade Warriors when it ships this month.

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