August 24, 2001
Onimusha Warlords - Review
After a lengthy wait, Australian gamers can now sit back and enjoy Capcom's latest survival/action/horror game, Onimusha: Warlords; and enjoy it they will. This is a refreshing change from the Umbrella Corporation and zombies of Capcom's Resident Evil series, but the similarities between the two can't be ignored. That's not saying that being similar to Resident Evil is bad, it's exactly the opposite, as gamers are virtually guaranteed and deep, engrossing story with plenty of action, suspense and surprises.
|Several creatures attack at once.|
The first thing that will hit you when you start this game is the stunning 5-minute intro. Having just seen Final Fantasy in the cinema I was blown away by the quality of the CG in this game with entire armies doing battle, plenty of subtle lighting effects and a couple of surprises. There is little doubt in my mind that this is among the best intros ever seen in a video game. It sets up the story perfectly and introduces all the characters. In fact the intro is so enjoyable that you'll re-start the game several times just to watch it again and again. Fortunately Onimusha: Warlords isn't all just front end flash, as the actual game is just as impressive.
Onimusha: Warlords follows the fortunes of a young man named Samanosuke who is trying to find a Princess who was mysteriously kidnapped on night. It may not sound like much but soon enough you will be encountering plenty of demonic creatures who are trying to stop you at every turn. As you battle these creatures and defeat them they release health, magic or vitality powers which can be collected by pressing the square button. These powers can then be used to upgrade your weapons and magic powers at the various save points dotted throughout the game. Each of Samanosuke's weapons has three different power levels, which modify not only their powers, but also their looks. Likewise, as you progress through the game doors can only be opened when the power of the magic reaches a certain level. This adds an element of decision making to the game. There is no point powering up your weapons to the max if you can't open doors to advance to the next area due to a locked door. Onimusha: Warlords takes around 10 hours to complete which is a little shorter then I would have liked, but much like Rayman Revolution it's not the quantity, but the quality that counts.
|The whirlwind does a lot of damage.|
There are however, a couple of small problems with the game. The biggest complaint is that the controls still runs through the digital control pad, making movement and turning awkward at the best of times. After so many games on the Playstation 2 using the analogue sticks it comes as quite a shock. Onimusha also retains the somewhat antiquated Resident Evil control setup. It's a shame as this is the biggest disappointment with the game, making it hard to precisely aim your attacks or flee from enemies in a hurry. It would have been great to get a more precise targeting method (in first person for example) for the bow and arrows which are a nightmare to aim at something a distance away. Similary there is some difficulty in changing your targeted enemy. The CPU keeps you locked onto one target until you are almost directly facing another opponent. It makes is pretty tough to change when you are surrounded by 3 or 4 monsters.
Capcom re-invented the survival horror genre with the Resident Evil games on PSOne. Indeed a port of the Dreamcast game Resident Evil Code: Veronica will be released on PS2 in September while Resident Evil 4 is expected early next year. Following the success of Onimusha (sales are over 1 million in Japan alone) a sequel is in the works for release worldwide in mid-2002.
As previously mentioned the intro has quite possibly the best graphics seen on a console but the in-game graphics don't disappoint either. As with Resident Evil the game takes place with polygon generated characters over pre-rendered backgrounds. These backgrounds are wonderfully detailed and offer much more variety and richness then real-time backgrounds seen in other games. Capcom have also added realistic special effects to most backgrounds with fire, rain and wind all present during the game. Each character is comprised of approximately 10,000 polygons that allow for massive detail and intricate effects, while the motion capture is among the best yet seen. On the down side Capcom have once again screwed the PAL market by not optimising the code to remove the borders, and as usual for Capcom's games the borders are moderately large. A shame for such a graphically rich title.
|Onimusha has spectacular effects.|
When it comes to reviewing games one of the areas that gets least attention is the sound. It usually plays second fiddle to the graphics and gameplay, but if done right it can add so much atmosphere to a game, and in Onimusha it does just that. Capcom have reportedly used a 200-piece orchestra for the music in this game and the Japanese influence is very obvious. The sound effects will send chills down your spine. The lip-synching is quite poor in spots, but considering the expense to re-do the cinematics it is not a surprise. Overall, however, the voice acting is very good.
|Flames should generally be avoided.|
If you are a fan of Capcom's Resident Evil titles, as I am, then this will definitely keep you happy however, if you aren't to keen on Resident Evil then you probably won't get to excited about this game. Perhaps with a little more tweaking of the controls this could have been elevated to another "must have" Playstation 2 title, but it falls ever so short of that name despite the high overall score. With some great characters, plenty of action and stunning visuals Onimusha: Warlords is a brilliant example of how exciting the genre really can be. Grab a copy now.
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