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Onimusha: Warlords

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: NeoBards Entertainment
Release Date: Jan. 15, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Onimusha: Warlords HD Remaster'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Jan. 15, 2019 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Onimusha: Warlords is a sword fighting action game that lets you step into a feudal world filled with magic, samurais, and demon warriors.

Buy Onimusha: Warlords HD Remaster

The Onimusha franchise was big for a short period of time and then vanished into obscurity. One of the early best-sellers for the PS2, it spawned a host of sequels and spin-offs, from a bizarre sequel starring actor Jean Reno to a tactical strategy game. It's been a long time since a new entry in the Onimusha series, but Onimusha: Warlords HD Remaster is the latest in the long line of HD ports of older games from Capcom. Unfortunately, unlike many of those games, Onimusha's origins may not be the best place to start.

The easiest way to describe Onimusha Warlords is "Samurai Resident Evil," and that sums up the game. You take control of your protagonist and explore a bizarre castle filled with monsters, puzzles, and illogical doors that can be opened with crests that are scattered about the world. It's more action-based than the older Resident Evil games but fits well alongside something like Resident Evil 3.

What sets apart Onimusha is what would've been the beginnings of Devil May Cry: Samanosuke uses swords instead of guns. He begins with a regular sword but quickly upgrades to a quick lightning sword, a slow fire sword, and a double-edged wind sword. They all function similarly but possess different balances of range, speed and power. You can select your favorite and make it through without much trouble, but different players will likely gravitate toward specific weapons. Each weapon also has a magic attack that can do a ton of damage to enemies but drains the weapon's magic meter.

As for combat in Onimusha, there's a slash button and a block button. As in older survival horror games, you mostly spend your time running around in circles avoiding enemy blows and then landing a few hits of your own. You can perform an "Issen" counter-attack that instantly kills enemies by trying to attack them just as they attack you, but it's finicky enough to not be reliable without tons of practice. Considering the game's short length and overall low difficulty, it isn't worth pursuing Issen attacks unless you enjoy self-imposed challenges.

One nice change to the remastered version of the game is the controls. The original Onimusha had "tank" controls, like the older Resident Evil titles, but Warlords HD adds full analog control. It makes the game easier because players have a lot more mobility and control than before, and it feels more comfortable to play. The game offers the option of using the original tank controls with the d-pad, but attempting to use them made it clear that the new controls are much better.

You'll spend most of your time in Onimusha wandering around looking for various keys or ways to progress in the castle. This is mostly straightforward, but occasionally, you'll encounter doors that can only be unlocked with upgraded weapons. You upgrade weapons by using souls earned from defeated enemies. By and large, you'll probably have an overabundance of souls, especially if you don't bother upgrading the weapons that you don't plan to use.

The truth is that Onimusha hasn't aged well. The analog controls make it play better, but they're often at odds with the game's pre-rendered, static camera angles. The controls emphasize the basic and dated gameplay, especially given the ensuing years of gameplay improvements. Onimusha was a relatively early PS2 game, so it feels incredibly dated no matter how much HD polish is layered on top.

I want to say that Onimusha was a hidden gem, but honestly, unless you're fond of the PS1-era Capcom survival-horror games, it doesn't have much going for it. The combat is simplistic, the plot is barely there, and the setting (a novelty at the time) no longer feels fresh. I enjoyed it, but I have a strong affinity for these sorts of nostalgic games. Newcomers will probably find it archaic.

One of the biggest disappointments of Warlords HD is that it's one of the only HD remasters I can think of that is based on the original version of the game when an enhanced version exists. The Xbox-exclusive Genma Onimusha was an enhanced version of the game with a good amount of new content, but Warlords HD is based on the PS2 version, which is nice for nostalgia but lacks the content of Genma.

This lack of extra content really hurts Onimusha because it's not a very long game and doesn't have much replay value. It's easily finished in a handful of hours, and unless you're replaying the game for a higher ranking or on a higher difficulty level, there's no reason to replay it after you're done. It's not terrible for the $20 price tag, but even among only Capcom remasters, the Mega Man, Okami and Resident Evil remasters on the Switch are all better bets for the money.

Visually, Warlords HD is a passable-looking PS2 port. The original game was an early PS2 title, and it shows. The pre-rendered backgrounds look rather rough and don't seem to have improved much. The character models look noticeably better than their blurry PS2 counterparts but still contain relics of the old models. Samanosuke's face has a perpetually surprised look, which makes several cut scenes look rather hilarious. The soundtrack has been redone, largely due to some controversy over the original composer faking his credentials. The new soundtrack works well with the game and sounds quite good, but the lack of the original may decrease the nostalgia upon which the game depends so heavily. The voice acting is just as cheesy and bad as ever.

Onimusha: Warlords HD Remaster is intended for those looking for a trip down memory lane, but it won't impress others. It's an interesting historical artifact, but that's about all it has going for it. (A true remake would be delightful!) Otherwise, it's just Samurai Resident Evil, and even then, it doesn't stand out much from the crowd. The HD remaster makes it the best-looking version of the game, but it's far from a definitive version. It's a nice trip back in time for those who played the game when it was fresh, but without the shine of being "next-gen," it may not hold a lot of appeal for others.

Score: 7.0/10

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