Onimusha: Warlords Review

By Kevin Tavore, 24 days ago
Onimusha: Warlords is a trip back to a time from which we’ve long since moved on. The game is a remaster of the 2001 PS2 classic of the same name, which also released later on Xbox as Genma Onimusha, and at the time it was highly lauded. The original game was clearly inspired by Resident Evil at the time and this modernization still retains those roots while eradicating much of the gameplay quirks that would be untenable nowadays. This isn’t going to be one of the best action games of the year — games have simply evolved too far since its release — but that was never the goal. Onimusha: Warlords is a look back twenty years into the past, and it brings with it a charisma and appreciation for the past that’s undeniable.

19/12/2018 - Carousel

I’ll be blunt. Not everything about this game has aged well. Nowadays, developers attempt to inject meaningful and well-crafted stories into their games and to some extent, we expect to see that. In 2001, that wasn’t nearly as common and Onimusha certainly didn’t try much at all. But even the standard of its original era doesn’t excuse the outrageously poor narrative. Storytelling isn’t a new idea. It’s a concept humans have been working on since the dawn of civilization. It’s difficult to explain in words just how bad the story is, but a short synopsis of the intro scene might give you a glimpse into its quality.

The game begins with our heroes Samanosuke and Kaede on a mission to save Princess Yuki. The two are told there are two ways to the castle holding Yuki, and they agree to split up for no reason. As soon as Kaede leaves, Samanosuke is attacked and it turns out Princess Yuki is actually literally right next to him even though we were told she was at the castle. What? He saves her only to immediately have her taken by a demon to the castle we originally thought she was at. With that, Samanosuke sets out on the adventure to the castle after all. The game continues on, filled with gaps in the plot, logical inconsistencies and baffling narrative choices all the way until the very end. In a way it’s charming, but it’s also just plain bad.

Princess Yuki was actually standing by the gate the entire time, what a relief.Princess Yuki was actually standing by the gate the entire time, what a relief.

The camera also leaves a lot to be desired. The Resident Evil influence is on full display here, with a fixed camera and original controls available should that suit your fancy. Luckily, the remaster includes modern analog stick controls to smooth out that aspect of the game. It feels much better, though the fixed camera remains and that can make movement feel very jarring, especially if you’re in the middle of combat and the angle keeps swapping around. This isn’t something anyone should have expected the remaster to fix, but it does add a bit of frustration to the game at times even if it’s mostly forgivable.

Luckily, much of the game does hold up nowadays. Combat itself is a simpler take on the action genre which was revolutionized that same year by Devil May Cry. Samamosuke has access to multiple weapons that can be upgraded throughout the story. There aren’t any combos to learn, but you can utilize blocking and strafing to fight enemies, which are varied and require different tactics. It’s not challenging except for the final boss, which is brutally hard even with the secret ultimate weapon, but it is certainly tolerable and can even be fun at times.

Onimusha: Warlords

The world is mostly set within a Japanese castle filled with demons. The castle is large, with many twists and turns, but despite its earlier issues, the fixed camera here does a wonderful job making the world feel full but not claustrophobic. The world is open, but you’ll be funneled toward your next destination if you’re paying attention to the clues spread around the world. This means you’ll need to explore nooks and crannies to ensure you don’t miss important scrolls to solve word tasks and puzzles to unlock items you’ll need to progress. Progressing never feels confusing and while the puzzles are exceedingly easy and one-note, they do help break up the combat and I found them to be fun mental exercises. These elements combine to create an adventure that is engaging for the entire length of the game.

The game features very little side content, as evidenced by the achievements. The only event of note is a twenty round arena you can enter which ultimately rewards the best weapon and an achievement. Beyond that, the only reward for exploration is learning where to go and finding collectible items which also reward achievements. The rest of the achievements are tied to beating the game, a speed run and a few other miscellaneous achievements. With the main story taking less than five hours for a first playthrough, it’s foreseeable that the completion could be had in less than ten hours with ease for skilled players. It's worth noting that some achievements did not unlock for me, but I believe the issue is with Xbox Live, not the game.

Check out our Best Xbox Horror Games Available in 2017 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

Onimusha: Warlords wasn’t revolutionary when it launched in 2001, but it was certainly good and time has been kind to it. This remaster offers a fresh overhaul of the game’s visuals and gameplay that make it feel accessible and enjoyable for a modern audience. The gameplay itself holds up quite well despite lacking the depth some other action titles have, with a variety of enemies and weapons to fight and wield. The story is horrendous and the camera can be difficult, but exploring the world has a nice flow to it that alleviates some of that. Onimusha isn’t a 2019 classic, but it has earned its place as a 2001 classic that’s still more than worth playing today if you’re in the market for good games from bygone eras.
3.5 / 5
Onimusha: Warlords
Positives
  • Remastered visuals go a long way toward making this playable in 2019
  • Combat is simple but still fun
  • World is well-designed and suits the gameplay
Negatives
  • Story is inexcusably bad
  • Fixed camera can be frustrating
  • Very little side content
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 5 hours exploring the world, fighting enemies and bosses and finally completing the game. He also completed the arena side content to get the illest sword. He earned 25 of 55 achievements. The game was played on an Xbox One X. A review code was provided by the publisher.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.