Onimusha started as a spin-off to Resident Evil, just like Devil May Cry. It never managed to find the same success though, and after a last-ditch effort by Capcom to make the franchise popular on the PS2, it was never tested again. This brings me to the current Onimusha: Warlords remaster, which is an attempt by Capcom to make this franchise relevant again for the modern platforms.
Onimusha: Warlords is simply a high-definition remaster of the very first Onimusha game which kickstarted the series. It doesn’t offer anything new or improve the visuals in any meaningful way, but it is not a simple port either. Just having a look at the remaster, it can look rather dated and it is clear the graphics have not aged that well. This is why it feels like a missed opportunity here by Capcom to not use the same technique that they did with Resident Evil 1 Remake. It would have taken a lot more time, but the result would have definitely helped in making this one more appealing for the current generation platforms.
The issue with Onimusha: Warlords is it is only good for those who have played it in the past. It is more of a nostalgia-fuelled journey so if you have no personal attachment to it, then it just becomes a classic game with flaws that needed some changes and fixes to suit the modern environment. The controls stay the same and so do the visuals. The fixed camera view is hard to enjoy in fights where you are unable to see the action clearly. The combat is pretty simple but surprisingly challenging too, with hints of brilliance.
Onimusha uses the same rendering technique as the Devil May Cry and classic Resident Evil games. There is a fixed camera view that focuses on backgrounds which show pre-rendered environment. They might have made the game look great on PS2, but with the resolution and other improvements to the remaster, they haven’t aged that well and look fuzzy next to the 3D visuals. On the plus side, this gives the game a unique artistic style, like you are playing in the world of some painting with beautiful backgrounds.
The story feels very important to the core of Onimusha: Warlords. You get proper cutscenes that will advance the plot or files that try to explain some of the lore behind a place that you explore in the game. The plot deals with the rivalry of Nobunaga Oda and the series lead, Hidemitsu Samanosuke Akechi. In the opening introduction, Nobunaga gets killed at the hands of Samanosuke but trades his soul with demons, referred to as Genma, to get resurrected again. It is essentially a tale unfolded around saving the life of a princess so you are performing a rescue mission for most of the campaign.
Genma is mostly a group of demonic looking creatures that end up becoming a threat to the world, so to help him on his journey, the powerful oni clan grants Samanosuke some special powers with the oni gauntlet. After killing an enemy, you simply press a button to suck out their souls into the gauntlet which are then redeemed to level up weapons. Now with the oni gauntlet in hand, Samanosuke has to fight his way through countless demons to rescue the princess.
The combat in Onimusha is fairly simple. There are two different attacks: a normal attack and special attack while blocking and side-stepping are available when needed. You can equip a variety of weapons, each of which has its own unique attack animation and skills. They offer elemental magic that needs you to use the power of the gauntlet and will work based on how much charge you currently hold for them. There is an extremely precise attack move that needs perfect timing to execute. It can lead to instant death for any enemy that you encounter but getting the timing right is tricky. It is a skilled parry attack that will take some time to master and learn the enemy attack pattern.
The issue with combat has to do with the fixed camera view, which sometimes will purposefully block the action or enemies on the screen so you feel at a disadvantage. The movement controls fine but it is possible to end up in situations where the enemy is at an advantage or has your surrounded while you feel hopeless. This will take you some time to properly figure out, and it is especially tough in some boss fights.
Speaking of the performance, Onimusha looks fine (or terrible at times) but it runs great. You are getting the full 60 FPS on consoles without any limitations in place, so whether it is exploration or combat, the reduced response time vastly helps here.
Onimusha: Warlords is also an incredibly short game when speaking strictly of the game length. It can take you between 6 to 7 hours to complete. The default difficulty settings are just easy and normal, and unless you completely suck at the game, normal is perfectly fine and the ideal difficulty for a newcomer.
Onimusha: Warlords Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Capcom’s riveting samurai adventure returns! This version includes the original game’s intense swordplay and dramatic revenge story, plus improved controls, widescreen display, a new soundtrack, and more. Experience this enhanced version of the best-selling action-adventure classic!
Final Score - 7.5/10
Onimusha: Warlords is a fantastic game that will always be fondly remembered as a true classic. This remaster is, unfortunately, rather barebones and a big missed opportunity to bring back the franchise into the limelight.