Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams PS2 Review

Since Resident Evil 4 reinvented Capcom’s seminal horror series, reinvention has since then became almost like a fashion with developers, with Splinter Cell and to a lesser degree, Tomb Raider both jumping on the bandwagon. This process can be quite a risky business, with a possibility that long-time fans are going to be alienated by the radical departure. Capcom’s own Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams is a reinvention of the series so to speak, but is still recognisable as an Onimusha title.

You’ll still being doing a serious amount of demon battling, amassing orbs to power up your weapons and armour, opening fiendish puzzle boxes (which can now be thankfully smashed open) and transforming in to an invincible demon, all of which are elements that the series has-since its inception-become synonymous for. Dawn of Dreams is unmistakeably an Onimusha game alright.

But the once rigid camera, can generally be now manipulated. So taking a battering from a Genma off the screen is for the most part a thing of the past, a welcome alteration. You’ll soon come to realize that this is just the first of many changes to the game, but are all of them so welcome?

Since the stunning Onimusha 3 was the conclusion of that particular trilogy‘s plotline, both the narrative and characters are generally fresh here. New protagonist and purists choice: Soki is on a mysterious quest to chop down cherry trees and he’s joined by four other playable characters, consisting of Jubei, granddaughter of the hero of Onimusha 2 and a nimble sword fighter, the mysterious spear wielding Tenkai, a monk with great knowledge, and perhaps the biggest departure- as far as fighting styles goes- the series has ever seen is Ohatsu who is proficient with firearms, lastly there’s Roberto, a missionary who battles with his fists and is the son of a Spanish father and Japanese mother.

Along with Soki, you’ll usually be able to take another character with you for backup. Not only can you use pretty cooperative attacks, but the two can also be switched between at will, allowing- just in case you happen to become bored of Soki- for a fresh fighting style.

The AI of your comrades is over zealous to say the least and as a result they can be more of a hindrance then a help, often kicking the bucket to even the less challenging of Genma. You can bark simple orders to them, but hardly any commands are useful. It’s tempting to just have them constantly on standby, so you can get on with demon bashing rather than having to keep a watch over the supposedly skilled warrior at your side.

Many of the areas too can be only accessed by particular characters, for example Jubei with her petit frame can crawl in to holes, whilst the powerfully built Roberto can break down certain doors and push heavy objects out of the way. This extends the lifespan of an already vast game, especially if you’re a completist, who just can’t pull yourself from a game until you possess every item.

With the story being new, no previous knowledge of any Onimusha games is requisite to fully enjoy the storyline. Although as is expected, series fans will-because of the many links to previous games in the series-get a bit more out of it. On the downside, the voice-acting, whilst not quite cringe worthy is disappointedly average at best and makes us long for the Japanese language voice option that was included in the US version and has mysteriously disappeared for this PAL version. The many links too are so ample in number, that as a result they just end up feeling contrived.

Whilst previous games have flirted with RPG elements, Dawn of Dreams more or less steps in to action RPG territory. As always, you can enhance your weapons and armour with the red orbs you obtain by defeating Genma, but this time you also level up as you fight enemies, gain new skills and equip accessories to receive stat bonuses and protect against certain negative effects and concoct items to create new ones. All of these are elements which RPG fans have became familiar with over the years and some series fans will welcome this increased depth with open arms, whilst others will inevitably not.

Dawn of Dreams is the biggest Onimusha by a significant margin, but we think such games are actually better suited as shorter experiences as on admittedly rare occasions we just wanted the game to reach its conclusion and we‘d rather have a game that‘s great for the entire duration rather than a lengthier one that can’t always keep up a consistent quality. The level design is simply not interesting enough and the game is a bit too repetitive for its length to be the classic that it oftentimes appears to be, however it always remains a good game.

Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, whilst not quite as good as the marvellous Onimusha 3- which remains the series apex- is, despite its many niggles this is still another quality entry in a consistently great series. The results are a mostly successful reinvention, although it still has room for improvement.