Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny
Genre: Action Adventure
|FIMP: Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny [PS2]|
In all honesty, thus far the only resemblances to the Resident Evil games that Onimusha 2 has are the movement scheme, the smattering of puzzle-solving and the combination of pre-rendered backdrops with 3D character models. The most easily noticeable one when you pick up the controller is that damned movement scheme, and this is perhaps the only blight on what is a finely produced and fun slasher.
The tank-controls from RE legend are often debated. While many have explained to the naysayers that such a control scheme - one in which UP is to move forward, BACK is to step backwards, and LEFT and RIGHT turn your character with precision - heightens the challenge, sense of fear and need for survival in a game such as Resident Evil, I have two issues with that insistence with one pertaining specifically to Onimusha.
First, I have never believed in artificially increasing challenge in a videogame by limiting the gamer with a poorly designed control scheme. Playing a game from a distant third person perspective is fundamentally different than playing it from a first person perspective or behind-the-back; to take the control setup from one perspective and apply it to the core mechanics of another just doesn't make sense. It makes gameplay feel "non-native", and I won't ever budge from the assertion that a game's challenge should come from the game world design and not the interface between the player and the game. As for the insinuation that it makes RE feel scarier? That's bollocks, it just makes it feel more frustrating.
But we're not talking about RE here, we're talking about Onimusha 2 - which leads me to my second issue. Onimusha 2 has thus far been a heavily combat oriented affair, with lots of attacking, timed counterattacks and evasion. Coupled with the clunky tank controls, an action game played from the distant third person perspective can quickly turn heinously frustrating. No good, period.
Thankfully, as this game fits into a Samurai theme, combat isn't necessarily "run everywhere and stabbity stab stab" (although it can be if you decide to be reckless). Enemies run up to you and begin to approach with more deliberation as they close in, and soon you've got three or four demons with their swords at the ready, pacing around you whie your sword is raised and ready for blood. These combat situations seem straight out of a samurai movie and really end up fitting with the theme. Another thing that mitigates the stench of Tank Control is the automatic targeting of the closest enemy to you when you are in the ready position, such that changing direction at the drop of a dime isn't such a chaotic and clunky affair.
The conventions put into place that lessen the blow from Tank Control - whether intentionally or not - are really appreciated because the combat really is the essence of what makes Onimusha 2 really fun to me. There's an "Issen Strike" system where if you dodge or block, then counterattack, just as your character is about to be sliced, you down lesser enemies in a single hit and are awarded more power-up souls than normal. The same effect takes place when you simply attack right before you're hit, but blocking/dodging first is much safer for the unskilled such as myself.
The power-up soul concept is another thing that further distances this game from its RE distant second cousins. When you down enemies, they drop gold and/or release souls of various color which either replenish your health, fill up an "experience point" meter of sorts, or replenish your special attack bar. There's also another type of soul that, if you collect five of them, turn you into a spooky, glowing white overpowered samurai that can down anything in a couple of blows. It's pretty cool but it also serves to remove the "survival" element from this game. Given that the "horror" element in this game is all but nonexistent (there is a little bit of that spooky Japanese demon motif in here), and I'm somewhat puzzled that some people still call this series a Survival Horror series.
The puzzling element is in a similar vein to the Resident Evil series, but it never gets too smart. In fact, most of it's about as dumb as the lower tier of puzzling in Resident Evil. Similar to Killer 7 and the most recent Resident Evil game, to me this only serves to break up the pacing a bit and provide the gamer with some rest between the bloody swordfights you'll find yourself in. That's just fine with me, because rather than be stumped, I can have fun with the combat, take a breather with a puzzle, and fight some more in almost an instant. Even better, the puzzles require far less backtracking and looping around than in a Survival Horror game.
Let me briefly touch upon the visuals and sound. Graphically, this game is very pretty, as with many games using pre-rendered backgrounds. You should know what to expect now; beautiful still-life accompanied by moving parts to make the scenes feel more alive. Such backdrops rarely emulate the liveliness of true 3D environments but most of the time they still look gorgeous, and Onimusha 2 is no exception. The music is pretty good as well, though not earth-shattering. Unfortunately, the English voice acting - and there is no option for Japanese - is triple-A, that is to say awful, atrocious and abhorrent. I'll leave it at that before I start to cry.
I'm about a third or so through the game. There're many more things to talk about, namely the "friend" system and its level structure, but for the most part Onimusha 2 is thus far simply a fun experience. I would hardly drool and froth about how this is a "must own" but it's been a regret-free ride up to this point. Considering how old the game is and how cheap it must be right now, if you're bored and haven't played any of the games in this series, why not give it a whirl? After all, there aren't a great many games about samurai demonslaying. Full review to come if I can survive this non-horror.
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