Another Capcom title is getting reviewed this week (they make a lot of horror games, I’ve noticed), as I take a look at an action horror game that’s also something of a period piece.
Title: Onimusha – Warlords
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 2
System: Playstation 2
Genre: 3rd-Persion Action Horror
Release Date: March 13th, 2001
One year after Oda Nobunaga is killed in battle, during his time of triumph, with an arrow to the throat, samurai Samaosuke Akechi (modeled after actor Takeshi Kaneshiro) is called by Princess Yuki of the Saitou clan to some mysterious happenings near Inabayama Castle. He arrives and discovers that the castle is under attack by demons, lead by a resurrected Nobunaga.
The game has some really good atmosphere, and also has some very good monster designs.
In short, this game is Resident Evil 1-3, in feudal Japan, with a melee focus, and instead of getting various healing items, enemies drop orbs when killed – with the proportion of healing, XP, and magic orbs determined almost at random. The problem is, the fixed camera angles and tank controls of RE 1-3 don’t work at all when the game is almost exclusively melee focused. Further, the game has bizarrely dated controls, with the game not using either of the PS2’s analog sticks in any way. If this was a game meant for the PS1 (particularly in its early days), I could understand this, as the Dual-Shock was a later addition to the system. However, the PS2 was planned from the beginning to have a controller with dual analog sticks, making the failure to support them in the game’s controls (particularly for things like movement) baffling. The fact that the game was released so early in the PS2’s life cycle isn’t an excuse here, for reasons I’ve already mentioned about the controls.
This game was rated “M” by the ESRB. While there is no nudity in this game, there is significant graphic violence.
Originality: While I like how the game takes Japanese history and weaves it into a horror narrative (in many ways, Oda Nobunaga has a lot in common, historically, with Vlad Tepes – indeed, Oda famously did get shot in the neck with an arrow and survived). However, the design team (which also did the Resident Evil games), seemed compelled to saddle the game with all the baggage of the early RE titles – tank controls, fixed camera angles, oddly placed puzzles, which strips the game of some of its unique identity, and turns it into RE with swords. 3 out of 6.
Graphics: The graphics look pretty darn good for an early generation PS2 game. I could totally see this game getting a graphical (and hopefully control) overhaul and getting re-released. 4 out of 6.
Story: The game’s story works well enough, though unfortunately, the demonic elements go just far enough that the series goes into the realms of alternate history, instead being something out of our history, but with demons and the occult). 3 out of 6.
Sound: The game’s music and sound are good, and the game’s voice acting is sold. 4 out of 6.
Playability: This game’s controls simply do not fit. RE style tank controls fit with games where the combat is primarily based on ranged combat, like Dino Crisis or Resident Evil. The do not work when a game is focused on melee combat. The inclusion of a lock-on-and-strafe button doesn’t help things either. 1 out of 6.
Immersion: The constant fighting against the controls and the very artificial puzzles help kill immersion stone dead. 1 out of 6.
Overall: This could be a fantastic action horror game, if the controls fit with the protagonist. It had serious potential, but all of that was squandered. 2 out of 6.
In Total, Onimusha – Warlords gets 18 out of 42.