Posted on 11 Mar 2019 by L Coulsen

Onimusha:Warlords

The Defence

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: 15 Jan 2019

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i3 Dual Core @ 2 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 760
AMD Radeon R7 260X
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 12 GB
DirectX: 10
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 3770 @3.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960
AMD equivalent
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 16 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Unknown
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Once upon a time, Capcom were among the most loved and respected names in game development. Over the years, their star has waxed and waned several times, but they have never truly lost that sense of nostalgia, meaning that newer games still get people’s attention. Even if they ultimately fall a bit short of expectations. We still hold on, knowing that when they are on form, they give us gold. So, remasters and/or re-releases of some of their older games is a surefire way to keep the love alive. Which brings us to today’s game, which falls into both of those categories, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Onimusha: Warlords.

The Trial

Originally released right at the beginning of the PlayStation 2’s life cycle, fun fact, Onimusha was one of the two games I bought with my own console. I don’t even remember what the other one was, so that, right there, should tell you something. And yeah, it holds up just as well today. For the most part at least. Especially with its crisp, upscaled visuals in this remaster.

Now, let’s get this out of the way right out of the gate; this is a port through and through. With no graphical options to speak of, beyond the ability to play in native 16:9. The only other options to speak of is that you can use a controller with analogue movement. Not something I recommend. Having spent some time with it both using the mouse and (mostly) keyboard for the tank controls, it just works. Given that it uses a fixed camera system, analogue runs into the age old problem of your player character Samanosuke doing an ADD dance, the moment you shift direction, when you move from one screen to the next.

Given its age, Onimusha is a fairly simple game. You use magic imbued melee weapons to hack at demons until they fall over and die. There are a few more bits and pieces but that’s pretty much the crux of it. Magic attacks add a little more variety, and being able to stab a downed enemy for a quick kill keep it from going stale, as do the different weapons. But the most advanced gameplay features are a simple, though rewarding, counter system primarily based on timing. Either hitting an enemy as it attacks you, as it spawns, or after a perfect block.

Who's the demon now, beeatch!

Don’t get me wrong though, that doesn’t mean combat is boring, far from it. There are some ranged weapons that add a little extra variety, giving you, effectively, a total of four different fighting styles. There are actually two ranged weapons and five melee, but several of them are variations on a theme. Which may seem a tad anemic but it also helps keep things focused whilst allowing enough time with each to really get to grips with them. Though if you’re like me, you’ll choose one of them to be your primary, with the others being a quick fix by spamming magic when things get a bit hairy.

The rest of the gameplay loop consists of some light exploration and a few logic puzzles. The latter primarily consisting of arranging numbers in sequential order by turning them four at a time, or just finding the right text file to tell you the answer. Most of your time will be allocated to killing stuff, gathering their souls, and using them to upgrade your weapons to unlock doors. The soul harvesting mechanic is the most interesting part of the game actually. There are three types, red, yellow and blue. These are used for leveling up weapons, healing and refilling magic, respectively. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and wasn’t even really a new thing at the time, but it’s well contextualised within the game’s narrative, rather than just being a gameplay gimmick.

Onimusha’s story -Capcomy as it is- is actually quite interesting. The basic premise is simple enough. A princess has been kidnapped by demons, samurai warrior Samanosuke goes to rescue her along with his ninja friend Kaede. But it’s the way it’s told, and the way it ties into real Japanese history and mythology that makes it stand out. The choice of setting it right at the end of Nobunaga Oda’s reign adds a lot of behind the scenes politicking that is fascinating in its own right. He’s a fascinating figure that is equal parts applauded and reviled for his actions. A dictator who unified Japan by, supposedly his own words, becoming the demon his nation needed.

Oh look, a liver.

He even pops up, very briefly, at the end of the game, after Samanosuke slays the demon king Fortinbras. Though that is a plot element that doesn’t really come into play until later games in the series. Which I really, really hope we also see remastered in the not too distant future. Hell, even straight ports would be good enough for me. And a sequel, if that’s not asking for too much. Which it might not be, given the recent release of Devil May Cry 5.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that this is a damned fine game. It has aged, yes, but it has done so gracefully. Retaining all of the charm that made it so popular to begin with. It looks rather spiffing in its new duds, and the sound design is still impressive. But the thing that stood out to me, most of all, about the remaster is the pre-rendered cutscenes. Instead of just being the old, heavily compressed videos from the original release, they have also been touched up so that they look pretty darn spiffing.

It’s a tad on the short side, clocking in at about 5 hours or so. But there are a few extras to unlock, including; a time attack pot breaking mini-game, an extra difficulty setting, and some unlockable costumes. Like the demonic panda outfit for the protag, with a headpiece that can be toggled on and off just…just because. That, alone, makes it worth at least a second playthrough.

The Verdict

It is a port, yes, for all its claims to the contrary. But it is a very good port, and it runs without a single problem. Easily maintaining a strong framerate even on older tech and at higher resolutions. At its current price, it is well worth your money. Good game is good.

Case Review

  • Combat: Simple and easy to grasp, in the good way.

  • Performance: Buttery smooth, ’nuff said.

  • Visuals: Dated, but well designed and very crisp thanks to the remaster treatment.

  • Length: It’s an older game, so it won’t keep you for more than 5/6 hours.

  • Analogue Controls: Nice to have, they just don’t work well with fixed camera angles.

4 Score: 4/5
A solid port of a damned fine game.

Evidence

  • Controls: Keyboard controls are fully customisable to your liking, apart from the Escape key, which is hard bound to harvest souls for some reason. Controller cannot be changed in game, but you can easily get around that via Steam's interface.
  • Settings: It's a port, so really, what you see is what you get. Nothing to speak of beyond the barest of bare bones.
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