Onimusha Blade Warriors Impressions

We try out the import version of Capcom's fast-paced brawler for the PlayStation 2.

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Onimusha Blade Warriors is the upcoming PlayStation 2 game from Capcom that takes characters from its popular Onimusha series and puts them in a fast-paced 3D brawler. The game plays like a combination between Nintendo's Smash Brothers and an Onimusha title. We recently had the chance to try the import version of the game (known as Onimusha Buraiden in Japan), which was recently released.

The controls in Onimusha Blade Warriors are based on previous Onimusha titles but feature some modifications. Slashing is handled by the square button, kicking is initiated by the triangle, and guarding is executed by the L1 button. The R1 button locks your target on to a single enemy, but its use isn't required for an attack, unlike previous Onimusha titles. Continuously hitting the square button executes a combo, while holding it in allows you to release a powerful attack. The circle lets you jump, which is a feature that hasn't been seen in previous Onimusha games. Guarding depletes an onscreen meter, and if it reaches zero, you'll sustain damage. The guard meter refills slowly over time if you don't block, although you can speed up the process by absorbing certain souls. You absorb souls by using the X button. Souls play a vital part in Onimusha Blade Warriors, as they can power up your character's strength or agility and can replenish his or her life or guard meter. If there is more than one player trying to absorb a soul, you have to rapidly press the X button and play a game of tug-of-war to try and win the soul.

Issen slashes are still in Onimusha Blade Warriors and can be executed by hitting the square button instantly--before receiving an attack from the enemy. While the Issen slashes were one-hit-kill attacks in previous Onimusha titles, they only drain a block of your opponent's life in the game's latest iteration.

Treasure chests appear every once in a while during a battle. They contain objects that range from star blades to laser cannons. The majority of objects found in treasure chests are weapons that can be used a limited number of times, but there are also specific items and special objects, including a hammer that can dizzy an opponent and items that can block an enemy's attacks. In addition, some chests also contain elemental orbs that are the only way to use characters' magic abilities.

The graphics stay pretty close to the style of those established for the Onimusha series, and the roster of characters stay true to their previous incarnations. Onimusha Blade Warriors seems to feature all the player characters and enemies from the Onimusha series, each of whom has different characteristics and special attacks. For example, the female ninja Kaede is extremely agile but has a short range when it comes to her attacks. Ekei, on the other hand, is rather slow but has a long weapon-range.

There are 20 different stages in Onimusha Blade Warriors, each based on backgrounds from previous Onimusha titles but redrawn and rendered in 3D. Some of these stages include traps, like a flaming statue or a poisonous floor, for instance. Most of the stages consist of three planes, which include the foreground, the midground, and the background. You're able to jump between planes by hitting up or down twice on the D pad. Oddly enough, the game doesn't let you control characters with the analog stick.

We tried two of the game's main modes--single-player story and multiplayer. Single-player mode follows each character's storyline through 10 stages of battles. Each of these stages consists of a mission, such as having to defeat a set number of enemies or absorbing a certain number of designated souls within a given time. Much like the previous entries in the Onimusha series, your character can strengthen his or her attack or defense by absorbing souls and allocating these power-up points appropriately from a specific menu screen. Equipable items can also be uncovered when playing through the single-player mode. You can use a character who is powered-up with souls and equipment in the four-player mode via a special option. Playing through the single-player mode also unlocks new stages and characters, as only about half of the character slots in the game are opened by default.

The versus mode, in which up to four players--either human- (by using a multitap) or CPU-controlled--can fight in teams or against one another, is the other major mode in the game. The gameplay in this mode can get hectic, with all the characters attacking, using items, and trying to absorb power-up souls. The variety of items and special attacks available makes for some exhilarating multiplayer matches.

Based on what we've played so far, Onimusha Blade Warriors is a unique entry in the Onimusha franchise. The fast-paced gameplay is accessible, and the graphics are looking good. There appears to be a fair amount of content to unlock in the single-player game, and there's a good amount of replay value in the multiplayer modes. Onimusha Buraiden is slated to ship early next year for the PlayStation 2--though, of course, it will be under the name Onimusha Blade Warriors. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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