Review of Onimusha Warlords
Onimusha Warlords is an epic saga of 16th century feudal Japan, a time when these Eastern lands were mythically awash with tales of bloodthirsty demons and magical spells. At the height of the chaos a giant ogre kidnaps a beautiful young princess and only one brave Samurai volunteers to rescue her. But even the highly skilled Samanosuke cannot realize the desperation of this mission as an entire legion of demon warriors stands between him and his vow to avenge the princess.
Following almost five minutes of high quality opening movie sequences the player takes control of the games main character, Samanosuke, in this third person perspective epic. Apart from the lush CG intro and lavish finale most of the intermittent cut scenes spread throughout make good use of the in-game engine, which could have been a slight disappointment had the in-game graphics not looked so amazing. Each of the characters skin texture, features and facial expressions has been meticulously motion captured to the finest detail. In fact, had the lip sync not been so adrift of the Japanese speaking mouth movements then the word perfect could easily have come into play. Sadly this dubbing effect looks as if it will haunt every Jap port on the PS2 so I guess we just have to live with it (we surely cant expect every cut-scene to be animated into each language, can we?). Apart from realistic looking models their movements appear fluid and sharp, an essential element to every fighting game.
The enemies are wide ranging in both appearance and attack, although I couldnt help relating some of them to a previously used console character. For example the little purple ninjas were as sharp and lethal as Soul Blades Voldo, the giant axe wielding ogres had Duke Nukem boss stamped all over them, while I thought the teleporting floating swordsman had recently been defeated by Solid Snake. This certainly doesnt create a problem as many other enemies have exclusive stamped all over them, such as the multiplying worm-armed beasts who, when sliced in two regenerate as double trouble. I also loved the inclusion of the sniper archers who added a further dimension to the gameplay.
The rendered backgrounds tend to fluctuate a little… one moment youll be edging through a narrow channel with a flat backdrop (basically acting as a corridor to the next main location) but this soon opens out into a larger zone featuring some amazing detail including wonderful smoke, fire and lighting effects. However, if there was one thing that I constantly yearned for throughout the entire game it was perhaps a little more room to maneuver (ala Vagrant Story).
With camera angles always intelligently placed and a slick and easy to use control system any defeat in battle can only be attributed to the player. Sword combat is achieved by repeat tapping of a single face button with R1 used to block. Now this may sound like childs play but with attacks often raining in from six different angles (two archers on the roof, three fast moving ninjas and a slow, but extremely powerful big boss guy) this simple system works a treat. You can perform a couple of combos (kick and power charge) although in the main just getting your timing right as when to block and thrust should keep you fully occupied. Of course once sufficient magic has been gathered each of the three collectable swords has an awesome special attack that can usually clear the arena in a couple of swipes.
Although baring similarities to Resident Evil gameplay leans more towards Soul Reaver because health, magic and power are gained by sucking the life from dead bodies. Once an enemy has been defeated red (enhances weapon), blue (magic) and yellow (health) souls float around the environment for a short while (about 10 secs), waiting to be absorbed by Samanosuke. It may sound an easy task to press and hold the button on the joypad attributed to absorbing these free roaming spirits, however with some enemies regenerating half a dozen times it becomes an almighty balancing act as to when to suck them up and when to fight. Once a save point has been reached these accumulated souls may be shared out among each weapon, eventually enhancing their power threefold. Orbs must also be upgraded to allow access through sealed doors.
Dispersed throughout the game are the numerous collectable goodies such as health healing herbs and medicines, maps, weapons (a bow for those sniper archers and a rifle for flying bosses), ammo, books and fluorites (if all 20 are found a challenging bonus game is awarded called Oni Spirits). There are even magic fountains where your magic meter can be filled for free and a special area called the Dark Realm (a really tough 20 level challenge mode) where you can collect bonus items. Some items can only be gained by solving a puzzle. These generally involve working out lock combinations and deciphering an ancient script, although mid-game there are a glut of tricks and traps to overcome where control switches between Sam and his female companion Kaede.
To wrap thing up Onimusha features accurate sound effects, a fitting soundtrack and some impressive voice character acting.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Onimusha Warlords' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Martin © Absolute PlayStation
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