Up against the Resident Evils, Street Fighters, and Mega Men of the world, it can be easy to forget some of Capcom's other classic series. One of those is Onimusha, which got its start back on the PS2 (and later, the original Xbox) as Onimusha: Warlords.
Onimusha: Warlords is an interesting title if only for its history. It got its start as a somewhat formulaic Resident Evil clone, except you can replace zombie-shooting cops with Draugr-slashing samurai. Little did we know it'd be the start of a series which can rest on its own merits. The remastered version of the game is finally here, but is it worth your time and money?
About this review
This review was conducted on an Xbox One X console, using a review copy of the game provided to Windows Central.
What you'll love about Onimusha: Warlords: Nostalgia runs wild
Fans of the original Onimusha: Warlords release will find a very familiar game here. Where developers are often tempted to add layers of new content or swathing gameplay changes, Capcom was content with simply delivering a sharper version of the game you already know and love.
For the uninitiated, this game has you taking on the roles of Samanosuke Akechi and his ninja sidekick Kaede, who are to cut through waves of demon spawns to save Princess Yuki.
Onimusha: Warlords uses a mix of action RPG gameplay elements, including melee and ranged combat, as well as magic use, for slapping up foes. You can collect souls from enemies, which can then be used to upgrade your weapons and magical orbs, or craft items you need like medicine.
And to find your way to the princess, you're going to need to solve quite a few puzzles which gradually increase in complexity and difficulty. All of it is done from an isometric point of view much like the original Resident Evil games, which means you'll only ever see any given area from a single camera angle. This camera angle was more of a crutch for the time's technological limitations and it can be disorienting for some, but others will appreciate its reprisal for sheer nostalgia's sake.
Onimusha: Warlords' upgrades are mostly visual, naturally. The game's original polygonal art remains, but you'll now see the characters and scenery with much more clarity thanks to its upscaled HD resolution. Textures also seem to have gotten a once over. They're sharper and more vibrant than the original game appeared. It's not a dramatic transformation, but the effort makes playing one of the earliest PS2 titles much more palatable in 2019.
It doesn't hurt that the game already looked pretty good for its time, featuring a consistent helping of special effects and advanced lighting systems, including some pretty impressive shadow work. Capcom also seemingly redirected some cutscenes, making for tighter cinematics. All of that will come through with even more impact.
Capcom added a couple quality of life changes, including the ability to switch between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, as well as being able to use the analog stick for character movement. That last feature will be important for those who found it frustrating to navigate areas in the original game using a directional pad, especially considering the isometric camera angle that remains. Other niceties include a brand new soundtrack, a newly-recorded Japanese voice track, and Easy Mode from the start for those who aren't interested in engaging the game's natural difficulty.
What you might not love about Onimusha: Warlords: Annoyingly unforgiving
There wasn't much to take issue with in Onimusha: Warlords. It's a really well-done remaster that'll take you back to some of Capcom's better years.
The only gripe I had is that it's still not possible to skip cutscenes, important for an old-school game like this where death means you lose all progress since your last save point. This isn't a chronic issue in the grand scheme of things, but there will be certain stretches of puzzles to solve and fights to win with no break in between.
I had no problem having to do those sections over again, but having to be kicked all the way out to the main menu to reload them feels like an archaic remnant of early game development. That, on top of not being able to skip cutscenes I've seen several times in a row, got a bit tiring. Those familiar with Onimusha: Warlords won't have much of an issue here, but newcomers with patience issues beware.
If you happen to ace all these puzzles on your first try then congratulations, you're awesome! But you very well could beat the game in a quarter of a day at that pace. Its price tag is appropriately light, so we're merely mentioning this as an aside rather than a true knock on the game.
Should you buy Onimusha: Warlords?
Onimusha: Warlords is a game that was truly ahead of its time. Many people credit it with being the true predecessor to games like Dark Souls, while at the same time still offering action RPG gameplay from Capcom's signature camera perspective.
- Nice blend between action RPG and isometric puzzle solving.
- Engaging story with memorable characters.
- Updated soundtrack and Japanese voices.
- Analog stick controls, widescreen support, and more QoL changes.
- Missed chances to eliminate frustration.
- A bit short.
4 out of 5
For better or worse, Onimusha: Warlords delivers the exact game you were expecting. This backfires in one slightly annoying way, but overall we'd gladly deal with the quirks to experience this game again. It aged just as well as it needed to, and although it adds nothing of substance over the 2001 release, at a mere $20 the Onimusha universe just might be worth experiencing all over again.
A faithful remaster
Onimusha: Warlords brings one of Capcom's most underrated series back to modern consoles. Take on the role of Samanosuke as he looks to save feudal Japan's Princess Yuki from the threat of a demonic uprising.
Onimusha: Warlords is available today on Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch for $20.