Playing Onimusha… in 2016


The only experience I’ve had with Onimusha, up until a few weeks ago, was seeing my brother playing it back in 2002. I can’t remember what I was playing around that time that caused me to overlook it, but overlook it I did, along with its three critically acclaimed sequels. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally picked it up. It was never a game I thought about playing or even regretted missing, but I was just in a shop and happened upon it for a paltry seventy-five pence. So, for a jingling handful of silvers, I took home a fifteen year-old PS2 game more so out of curiosity than anything else. A lots happened since its original release in 2001, so what would a newcomer to the series make of it in 2016?

It’s a true relic. An utter mummy of a game. It shares the divisive control scheme found in the Resident Evil games of the time (which most people were fed up with already by 2001) and it has the old pre rendered backgrounds  and fixed camera angles that put a lot of people off Capcoms old zombie classics. It feels a lot different to Resident Evil though; the action keeps a quicker pace, there’s samurais and demons in place of zombies, and its set in sixteenth century Japan. The setting is quite cool, depicting a feudal period in Japans history, but the story is conveyed poorly and never commits to making you give a crap about what’s going on. You’re a badass samurai called Samonosuke and you have to save the princess. That’s it. Oh yeah, you also have a hot lady ninja friend that you control sometimes but is otherwise totally irrelevant.

Probably the best way to describe Onimusha is the middle ground between Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. It’s got all the backtracking, puzzles and invisible enemies of Resi, and a little of the swordplay, special abilities and upgrades found in DMC games. It retains a certain depth of its own in combat though, with perfect timing and blocking becoming essential for toppling tougher foes.

For the modern gamer, this could prove to be a terribly disorienting experience. However, despite its age, I actually quite enjoyed it. I grew up on the old Resident Evil games and up until now, I had no idea that Onimusha played so similarly to them. If you’re a hardcore Resi fan that’s never played this before, it’s really easy to recommend at the price of a bar of Snickers. Granted, it only lasts about four or five hours but it’s still possible (though admittedly hazy) to see why it was so well received back in the day.

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