Capcom’s other great demon-slaying classic from the PS2 era returns. Find out if it’s a warm welcome in our Onimusha Warlords review.
It’s been almost two decades since Onimusha first slashed its way onto screens, quickly becoming a PS2 favorite. After a glowing reception, Capcom was quick to follow with four mainline sequels and then, with the launch of Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, the fledgling action game series just disappeared.
For close to fourteen years, the only glimpse of a new Onimusha came via a 2012 browser game that was exclusive to Japan. Apart from that? Zilch.
At the same time that Dawn of Dreams launched, Capcom was already starting to pivot more towards a western audience. The Xbox 360 was just on the horizon and so too were Dead Rising and Lost Planet, both of which performed well for the publisher. Capcom doubled down, however, and those westernized games that followed (its Bionic Commando reboot and Dark Void, just to name a couple) didn’t go down well.
In a way, Onimusha being benched during the past console generation may not have been such a bad thing after all but for years fans have waited for its return. And here it is: a full remaster of 2001’s Onimusha: Warlords.
For those who skipped the original, Onimusha is a combat-heavy action game set during the Sengoku period in Japan. The land is in turmoil as warlords muster their clans and go to war, Nobunaga being chief among them, a powerful daimyo often referred to as the “demon king” in most pop culture. That moniker takes on a more literal meaning during Onimusha’s epic opening as he falls in battle, our hero Samanosuke returning to his lord’s castle only to find that Nobunaga has risen again, a demon horde now at his command.
Originally, Onimusha was pitched as a Resident Evil game under the title Sengoku Biohazard. Although Capcom decided to steer the project in a different direction, it’s hard not to look at Onimusha as a game heavily inspired by the world-beating survival horror franchise. From the tank controls (which we’ll get to later) and enemy types, to a familiar approach in level design, the two have much in common, Onimusha also acting as somewhat of a precursor to Devil May Cry.
As Samanosuke, you must repel the demon invasion and thwart Nobunaga’s quest to conquer Japan under this dark new regime. Most of your time will be spent dueling with his minions and exploring the game’s vast castle complex which, in a way, mirrors the Spencer Mansion of Resident Evil.
Combat is swift and skillful. Samonosuke’s moveset is somewhat limited though unlocking and switching between various weapons and magical powers add new flavor to the fairly basic gameplay. Naturally, there’s a samurai-esque quality to the way he fights using precise sword strikes, counters, and blocks, encouraging players to circle around individual targets and wait for an opening.
Where most games of this ilk can be incredibly linear, Onimusha: Warlords involves a surprising amount of exploration and puzzle-solving. You’ll often need to loop back and revisit areas in order to find clues and key items in order to progress, again, much like Resident Evil.
For a game that’s almost pushing twenty, this isn’t the prettiest remaster you’ll come across on current gen hardware though it definitely has a nostalgic charm about it. Some of the static backgrounds can look oddly out of place but there’s an appeal to them you just don’t get from full 3D environments.
Aside from sprucing up the visuals, this remaster makes some other noticeable changes. Inventory management can still be a hassle though equipping weapons is now be done at the press of a button instead of diving into menus. You can now move your character using the analogue stick too, supplementing the admittedly archaic “tank” controls that featured in the original release.
While it would have been nice to see Capcom tart up those three original games and present them in one package, simply wanting more of what this remaster has to offer is a good sign. Beneath a new lick of paint and some clever adjustments, Onimusha: Warlords doesn’t make for an essential action game in 2019 but it’s a great modernization all the same and hopefully we’ll see more Capcom classics undergo a similar makeover.
Onimusha Warlords review code for PS4 provided by the publisher.
Onimusha Warlords is out now on PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC.