Onimusha Tactics Preview

We check out the upcoming Game Boy Advance strategy game based on Capcom's popular franchise.

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Onimusha Tactics is the upcoming turn-based strategy game for the Game Boy Advance based on Capcom's popular Onimusha series. The Onimusha franchise chronicles the battle against the forces of evil by lone warriors armed with a powerful mystical weapon. Onimusha Tactics has a completely new look and offers a new perspective on the fight against evil. It's a 2D turn-based strategy game that reflects the genre's growing popularity on Nintendo's portable system. We took a look at the Japanese retail version of the game, which was released recently, to see what this new installment in the franchise has to offer.

Onimusha Tactics puts you in the role of a warrior who must halt the creation of an evil army of demons.
Onimusha Tactics puts you in the role of a warrior who must halt the creation of an evil army of demons.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Onimusha Tactics takes place in the rich world created for the Onimusha games on the PlayStation 2. You'll be put in the role of a warrior summoned by his master, who must halt the creation of an evil army of demons that spell doom for humanity if assembled. While it may sound as though the odds are stacked against you, you won't be asked to face this challenge alone. You'll be joined by a rather hefty cast of characters as you progress through the game, including some familiar faces from the previous Onimusha games.

Onimusha Tactics' basic structure is fairly similar to that found in the GBA games Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. You'll start each mission with a dialogue sequence that fills you in on the story and victory conditions for that particular level. You'll pick from your available roster of fighters to form a party and then head into battle. As you defeat enemies with your party, the attacking members will receive experience and advance in level, while your main character will absorb soul energy from them that can be used to power up your character's weapon. Following the battles, you'll be treated to more dialogue and find yourself on a world map that shows your next location.

The gameplay mechanics in Onimusha Tactics are pretty basic and shouldn't be intimidating. Combat is menu driven and turn based, which gives you plenty of time to plan your attacks. Characters will initially start out with a simple attack but will eventually earn special skills as they level up. They will also be able to upgrade their weapons as they advance in level to beef up their attacks. As mentioned, the game's main character will be able to use the absorbed soul energy from defeated foes to upgrade his sword, much like in the PlayStation 2 Onimusha games. The slight hitch to the overall experience is that it appears to be much more basic than FF Tactics and Tactics Ogre. There aren't many customization options for managing your characters. The fighters are pretty much locked in to very specific roles and abilities based on their weapons. As a result, you won't be able to change and upgrade your party's classes or jobs. Positioning also doesn't appear to be as important a factor as in other tactics games, which tends to make battles a bit more cut and dried.

The main character will be able to use the absorbed soul energy from defeated foes to upgrade his sword, much like in the PlayStation 2 Onimusha games.
The main character will be able to use the absorbed soul energy from defeated foes to upgrade his sword, much like in the PlayStation 2 Onimusha games.

The graphics in the game offer a somewhat uneven presentation that mixes atypical graphics with a darker look. Like the console versions of Onimusha, Onimusha Tactics features a distinct art style that's a bit darker than the average tactics game. Detailed character portraits and still images used in the story sequences are suitably atmospheric and true to the franchise's style. However, the actual character sprites, which are detailed and fairly well animated, are pretty standard for a tactics game. As a result, the game graphics are a bit more brightly colored than the portraits used to represent the individual characters. The game's isometric view is pretty typical for this type of game and does a fine job of balancing form and function. You can get a good look at the stages and navigate around the different levels of terrain easily. The locales you'll be fighting in offer a solid helping of variety and are complemented by atmospheric touches such as rain and little bits of animation on background elements. You'll also see some nice but modest special effects when you're performing skills.

The audio in the game is comparable in quality to the graphics, with a mix of strong and weak elements. The game's soundtrack is pretty solid, and the tune playing during the title screen is a decent approximation of the orchestrated themes in the console Onimusha games. During battle, the music is solid although a bit bland. There is a mix of generic and high-quality sound effects for weapons and skill attacks. For instance, swordplay is accompanied by very crisp "clangs," while some other effects sound a bit tinny and unimpressive.

From what we've played so far, Onimusha Tactics seems to be a very linear and easy-to-pick-up tactical game that should be accessible to a fairly broad range of players. The overall experience may leave seasoned players wanting a bit more, due to the rather simple combat and character-development systems. However, the game includes more than 40 missions, which is certainly respectable. Newcomers to the tactics genre may want to check the game out because of its accessible nature, while some veterans might enjoy its solid, albeit simple, challenge. Onimusha Tactics is currently slated to ship this fall for the Game Boy Advance.

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