Onimusha: Blade Warriors PS2 Review

nother addition to the Onimusha saga has finally arrived, although those yearning for their usual fix of Onimusha stress relief are in for a let down. Onimusha: Blade Warriors is an extension of the series, a spin-off that isn’t entirely lacking of the essence of the series (it’s still all about feudal Japan, big swords and demons). Those expecting nothing but a shoddily made gleeful cash-in for Capcom are sorely mistaken, as Blade Warriors is a genuinely well crafted title.

Capcom obviously thought they had struck gold with coming up with the premise behind Blade Warriors, or at the very least they should be happy with having the likes of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros to mould it on. To be fair the game is a totally different monster from Nintendo’s fluffier majestic effort, Blade Warriors isn’t quite as good as Smash Bros but it still happily resides in the multi-player party genre as a very enjoyable multi-player title.

On first glimpse Blade Warriors may disappoint if compared to the usual splendour of Onimusha titles, but further inspection does reveal that differences are small. The characters are richly detailed, and with a possible four on screen simultaneously things can get pretty busy at times. Backdrops do lack the quality of both the pre-rendered original game and its sequel but they do swell the feudal Japan setting nicely, graphical highlights aren’t totally lacking either. A number of scenes even boast destructible elements, which does add a little to the action, think-chopping trees down with wild sword swings and you’ve got the idea.

The fighting itself is accompanied by plenty of camera trickery with instant opportunities to jump between three planes whenever you feel the need. Whilst the game looks 2D to the naked eye, closer scrutiny reveals that you can pirouette around any enemy to attack from behind and the earlier mentioned plane jumping ability also slightly removes it from 2D. With the latter proving that the game has a stint of 3D, therefore from hereon we’ll call it semi-3D. It works well enough and we haven’t come across anything (bar the odd obscure camera) that dispels the playability of the game.

Initially Onimusha: Blade Warriors may be slightly bewildering to rookie players; a couple of training sessions later and the greenness you go in with is left behind thanks to the fantastic tutorial mode. You’ll learn how to counter attack, power up your weapons and make use of the assortment of souls. When souls are absorbed with the circle button you earn yourself a singular use of some powerful magic (obviously inspired by the usual series) such as lightning or fire attacks, easily brought into play by pressing the R1 and triangle buttons. Then there’s the various power-ups found in crates, which can turn the tide of battles, these range from spectacular elemental attacks to a giant squeaky hammer and even a laser gun, just don’t ask. All the power-ups serve a purpose as comedic as some of them may appear to be from the outset.

If you decide to stick with Onimusha: Blade Warriors then your persistence will pay you. The Story Mode is highly demanding, having to play through many times if you want to assure you’ve unlocked everything that is hidden away. You begin the game with an ample 12 characters, but this can be boosted to many more (familiar Onimusha faces and a few surprises) if you have plenty of play repetitions. We commend Capcom’s efforts at attempting to extend the single player mode, but sadly the monotony of having to play through lengthy battles again and again and the lack of any sort of decent plot doesn’t do this mode any favours, it’s just a shame that it’s a necessity if you want to unlock all the game has to offer. At least there’s a sense of reward with earning those characters as well as upgrading your own and later using him or her in the custom vs. mode. The multi-player mode (for 2-4 players) is a totally different thing from the single player and is always a lot more enjoyable whether you are fighting to the death or getting involved in power struggles to reel in floating victory souls, it all depends on your set victory conditions you see.

Don’t go into Onimusha: Blade Warriors expecting a game offering a great deal of depth, as you’ll be disappointed. The only depth that the game has to offer is in the tactical side of things, not forgetting to take note that it was never meant to be on a par with the likes of the Tekken series for complexity as it has definitely been designed with those who like a quick stress-free session in mind. The single player mode is definitely one of the games main ruptures, although that is easily combated by the fact that the game shines so brightly in multi-player mode. Not only a nice appetiser for the meaty main course of Onimusha 3 but also an underrated gem of a game.