Rise from your grave!
The legions of undead samurai have crawled out of the ground again and this time, they're headed for the Xbox. It's been almost a year since they first stalked the PS2, but these rotting corpses still know how to lay the smack down on any would-be samurai hero's armored behind.
Genma Onimusha is the brand new Xbox version of the PS2's Onimusha Warlords. It's got an extra area to explore, a few new enemies and a lot more challenge, but for the most part, it's a sword forged from the same Capcom anvil.
You play the great Samanosuke Akechi, swordsman extraordinaire. Inabayama Castle has been overrun by evil demons, zombies, and other monstrosities, so naturally it's up to you to stop them. Good samurai help is sooo hard to find these days…
So how does a simple guy like Samanosuke kill what's already dead, you ask? Easy - with the power of Ogres! It seems that the Ogres and Demons had some sort of falling out in the past and the Ogres are more than happy to help make life difficult for the Demons. Samanosuke has been given a magical soul-sucking gauntlet that will help exterminate the monsters for good. Talk about your great gift ideas.
Okay, so the plot sounds like a freaky Japanese B-movie, but while the story's not one of the best, some top-notch gameplay surely makes up for it.
Onimusha may fall into the survival horror genre, but it actually has the heart of an action game. You'll slash your way through hordes of demonic underlings using several types of weapons, both melee and ranged. You'll also use that magic gauntlet to capture the souls of your enemies once you have smashed their mortal shells. These souls will enable you to further power up your weapons and items, making our main character one bad mamma jamma.
The most interesting new feature of Genma Onimusha is the green soul that's occasionally released by a freshly dispatched monster. Collect five of these and you'll gain OGRE POWER! This mystical ogre aura will surround you and provide temporary invincibility as well as a little bit of healing. It also fights tartar and stops plaque.
The only problem is that the monsters want these special souls, too. If they are allowed to absorb them, the monsters will turn red and freak out, becoming more powerful and more aggressive. You'll have to be careful, because fighting a zombie for green souls will leave you completely defenseless. Why can't they just be satisfied with brains?
When you're not swinging your chosen instrument of martial mayhem, Onimusha has the feel of Capcom's famous Resident Evil series. You'll search out keys and various other items to help you get closer to the heart of the problem. You'll occasionally need to solve a straightforward box puzzle in order to gain said items.
It's obvious that Onimusha is based on the RE formula, and sometimes the similarities are a bit annoying. You still use the infamous "green herb" for health, search for items like cogs and key pieces, and are unable to walk up a simple set of stairs without the push of a button. It's not a big deal, but a little more creativity on this end would have been nice.
Some similarities are a good thing, though. Controlling Samanosuke is a breeze thanks to the Resident Evil style control scheme. It's been tweaked to be a bit more responsive for the faster paced action of Onimusha and it won't take long for players to slash like a pro.
Don't think that Onimusha is just a button masher (though one could certainly play that way), since a smart samurai will discover the secrets of swordsmanship with a little practice. Dodging and slashing at the correct instance can bring about a sweet one-hit kill and knowing when to block is crucial to surviving the game. This is even more important in the Xbox version, since the big bad boys come out and play a lot sooner than they did in the PS2 version.
To further augment the solid show of gameplay, Onimusha gives gamers an awesome visual treat. Picture perfect CG and great looking scenarios do a good job of showing off the Xbox capabilities. The details are a little better than the PS2 version, but you probably won't notice the difference unless you see them side by side.
Cheeseball English dubbing may be the norm, but fortunately for us, a smart move was made at Capcom to provide the option for Japanese with English subtitles. I can't begin to tell you how happy this makes me. Bad English dubbing in a game like this should be illegal.
If you perform well enough, a mini-game called Oni Spirits will be unlocked, which is essentially a timed survival mode. A nice touch of replay value, but nothing to get excited about.
The only real letdown in Onimusha is its length. Despite having a few new areas to run through, the game is still short. The first time through will probably take around ten hours or so, provided you explore every nook and cranny and run around like a lost soul. If you decide on another round to pick up other things you may have missed, the game can be completed in less than three hours. So little demons, so much time.
Still, Genma Onimusha is an extremely solid game. It retains the amazing graphics and fun gameplay of the original and throws in a few new features for good measure. Just watch out for that damn Japanese Chucky doll. I think it has a crush on you.