Back in 2001, Capcom debuted a samurai themed action game that borrowed heavily from their Resident Evil franchise. It was a delightful change of pace that gamers loved and now; you can relive the magic with this new release of Onimusha: Warlords.
Onimusha: Warlords stars a samurai named Samanosuke who's on a mission to rescue Princess Yuki after she gets abducted by demons. Soon into his adventure, Samanosuke receives a mysterious gauntlet that has the power to suck up demon souls which he can then use to upgrade his weapons and items at save points. Although this may sound very familiar to anyone who has played FromSoftware's Souls franchise, I assure you that Onimusha: Warlords came first and there were probably other games that featured similar mechanics beforehand. Anyway, he's occasionally joined by a kunoichi named Kaede who you actually get to control on a few occasions in order to rescue Samanosuke out of sticky situations. Thankfully, the story is paced consistently which makes for an engaging campaign.
Even though I played through Onimusha: Warlords many times in my life (including the Xbox remake Genma Onimusha), I haven't played it in a while so I was pleasantly surprised just how addictive its gameplay is. Hacking and slashing up enemies only to stick your blade into them whenever they fall on the ground then performing deadly counter moves is so satisfying, especially after you absorb all of the souls that are emitted after a horde of demons are vanquished. The fact that you eventually unlock 3 elemental swords complete with magic attacks as well as a bow and arrow and rifle helps mix up the combat to an impressive degree.
To make combat more exciting, you'll face off against a variety of demons and bosses that each require different strategies to take down effectively. For example, you can wait for shielded foes to expose themselves before you attack or simply hack and slash away until their shields break. The most annoying enemies are the ghastly spheres that can suck up souls faster than you. If they manage to disappear before you kill them, it can be pretty frustrating. Anyway, to complement combat, there are plenty of puzzles that are rather easy to figure out on your own yet satisfying nonetheless. Overall, the campaign is varied and consistently exciting.
One awesome aspect of Onimusha: Warlords is its unlockables and secrets. There are many nooks and crannies within the environments and if you have a keen enough eye, you'll unlock more powerful armour, talismans that will revive you whenever you perish, and jewels that extend your health and magic meters. There are also Fluorite chunks to be found that unlock a bonus mini-game known as Oni Spirits if you manage to find them all. Although all of these secrets and unlockables are fun to discover, it's annoying that there are plenty of missables so if you happen to overlook just one item, you may not be able to acquire everything in one playthrough.
Another aspect of Onimusha: Warlords that I thoroughly enjoy is its upgrade system. Pouring earned souls into your weapons and magic orbs in order to enhance their power is rewarding stuff. Also, upgrading your magic orbs allows you to enter certain doors which can either advance the campaign or reveal a handy item. I maxed out all of my equipment about two thirds of the way through the campaign but even after doing that, you can level up your herbs to medicine and ammunition to more powerful forms which is just as satisfying. Facing the final boss with a super-powerful Samanosuke who has plenty of medicine and talismans will make it quite easy.
Of course, Onimusha: Warlords is a rather old game at this point and many modern gamers will likely be put off by it, especially with its static camera angles that can be very disorienting. On top of this, long-time fans such as myself will probably be disappointed that this release isn't much of an improvement over the original game. Heck, there isn't even any content from Genma Onimusha which is puzzling to say the least. When you consider the fact that Onimusha: Warlords has about a 5 hour long campaign, it can be quite irritating to think of what Capcom could have done to expand on the almost 20 year old game. Simply adding more content or bundling all of the Onimusha games into one comprehensive collection would have been a much smarter move. That being said, this is still a solid experience.
Onimusha: Warlords stood out much more in 2001 with its unique gameplay and sinister setting. In this day and age, it's hard not to wish that Capcom went a bit further in modernizing the classic but it's still a fun and engaging experience.
- + Addictive gameplay with dastardly demons to fight and nifty puzzles to solve
- + Many unlockables and secrets to discover
- + Rewarding soul-based upgrade system
- - May be too old-school for modern gamers
- - Isn't improved much from its initial release
- - Very short campaign (about 5 hours)