Honoring the undead.
You can shoot it, you can chop it up and you can even set it on fire, but there's no real way to keep a good zombie down. Sure, some of the lesser undead can be stopped. In fact, the last time we met, the lone samurai Samanosuke had defeated the evil Demon King and saved Japan from a new era of darkness. Fortinbras was a wuss, anyway.
But with the Throne of Darkness vacant, what zombie would be powerful enough to assume control of the legions of undead warriors bent on world destruction? Well, Zombie Duke was too busy sitting on the Throne of Game Revolution, so it looks like we'll have to settle on an undead Oda Nobunaga instead.
Yep, that's right. Nobunaga has taken the reigns of the undead armies and is picking up where his predecessor left off. You know, death, destruction...all that jazz. Ten years later, Samanosuke is nowhere to be found, but a new hero has risen up to take his place. His name? Yagyu Jubei. His game? Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny.
Those of you familiar with Onimusha won't have any problems diving right into Samurai's Destiny. Control is identical and gameplay is essentially still the same hack n' slash/puzzle solving/find-the-green-herb with a few new improvements thrown in for good measure. Even if you somehow missed the first game, it won't take you long to become a worthy swordsman - just think Resident Evil with a sword and you've got the basic idea. But while this sequel upholds the honor of the series, there are still a few flaws in the quality blade.
Like the original, Onimusha 2 starts off with an impressive visual display worthy of any Hollywood production. Jubei's village is getting trashed and naturally our hero isn't around to defend it. You can't have an epic tale of revenge without a little trouble, right? These visual effects stay in top form throughout the game with the photo-realistic backgrounds and well-modeled characters we've come to expect from the Onimusha series.
Unfortunately, the audio isn't as satisfying as the last go round. Though the original game supported Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, Onimusha 2 is jammed in strictly English mode. The dub quality is actually better than most, but if you're a purist like me, it's hard to go back to hamburger after having filet mignon for so long.
One of the most noteworthy additions in Samurai's Destiny is the cast of four supporting characters that Jubei will interact with during his adventures. There's Ekei, the spearman, Oyu, the Japanese version of Soul Calibur's Sophitia, Magoichi, the man with a gun, and Kotaro, the obligatory ninja. In addition to conversing with these characters to gain information, Jubei has a unique way of interacting with the crew - gift giving. Jubei can hand out items he's picked up along his journeys like a samurai Santa Claus. Give characters things they've always wanted and they'll reward you not only with more useful items, but help in combat. Just who comes to the rescue will be determined by your degree of friendship with them. You'll even take control of them during certain portions of the game.
It doesn't end there though, as interaction with these characters plays an integral role in story development. Onimusha 2 has a somewhat branching storyline that is dependent upon who your friends are. This adds another dimension to the replay value of the game, as you'll need to play more than once to uncover the entire story.
And speaking of replay value, completing the game will unlock a few more goodies to bring you back for more. Several mini games can be found, including (but not limited to, *wink, wink*) "The Man in Black" and "Team Oni." "The Man in Black" puts Jubei into a stylish new suit and arms him with a big stick. His mission this time is to collect 20 film reels and reach the exit within the time limit. It won't take you long to pass this one, but you'll be rewarded with some in-game cutscenes. "Team Oni" lets you run through a few of the game's levels with a tag team of several characters. It's much more challenging than "The Man in Black," but it really isn't anything to write home about.
It's a good thing that there are more distractions, because the main game is still on the short side. While longer than the original, Onimusha 2 again feels a little too short. Factor in replay time for those pieces of the story you missed, though, and things look a little better.
Another small problem that lingers from the original is the occasional bum camera angle. Thanks to the dramatic fixed camera angles that Capcom is so fond of, you'll sometimes be stuck looking at the back of an enemy or fighting a monster that isn't even on screen. This problem isn't too hard to work around, but it sure is annoying.
But when the last demon has dropped, you'll still find a certain sense of satisfaction that can only be found in a game with zombies and samurai. Solid gameplay with plenty of new improvements make Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny another fine blade.