Capcom has been filling the market with re-releases, remasters and remakes of their previous games lately, with no sign of stopping. The latest in franchise revivals is that of Onimusha, with the first in the series, Warlords, which originally released back in 2001, seeing a remaster developed for all major consoles and PC. I remember playing this game, back when I was a young child with so much spare time to die to demons over and over, so seeing this get announced and eventually released brought a wave of nostalgia. But will the improvements made allow this game to hold up in today’s game climate?
Onimusha: Warlords starts us off with a short intro cutscene and voice-over, telling us of the local period along with the turmoil of the lands. Set within the summer of 1560, a war rages between the Oda clan and the Saito clan, with Oda Nobunaga leading a charge against their forces, eventually leading to the keep of Saito. Through this conflict, we control Samanosuke, a travelling samurai who is tasked with saving princess Yuki from the clutches of Demons within the keep.
It is quickly revealed that demons have invaded earth, under the orders of Nobunaga, hoping to grasp further power by sacrificing the princess. Samanosuke is easily defeated, on his defeat he is instilled with the power of Ogres, a clan of hunters who kill demons and gain power through their slaughter. With this new found strength we will travel across the keep, underneath, in nearby gardens and caves to rid the land of evil and save the princess.
The main story will last between 4-6 hours depending on skill level and difficulty setting. There are 20 Fluorite to collect within the game, alongside several trophies for finding all chests, puzzles and more. As well as the collectables, you will also be given a ranking at the end of the game, akin to Devil May Cry or Resident Evil, with higher rankings unlocking new game modes and outfits. Several playthroughs can be quite rewarding with all the extra content on offer, and with such a short runtime it shouldn’t overstay its welcome.
Following in the footsteps of other Capcom games back in the ’90s and ’00s, Onimusha has a fixed camera and focuses heavily on combat and puzzles. You can move with the directional buttons, up to move forward or left and right to change your facing, with the remaster the game also includes analogue stick movement which is a huge improvement. You will also be using Square to attack, Triangle for magical attacks and X to interact with objects in the world.
As you progress through the game you will obtain new swords, each with their own element. These elements will be used to alter the environment slightly, with fire being used to light candles. You will need to level up the sealing power of these elements to open paths, ranging from 1 to 3 seals per door. To upgrade these weapons you will need to imbue them with souls, which are gathered through the killing of demons.
Onimusha has a rather straightforward combat system, with guarding, parrying and critical attacks all woven into the gameplay. While easy to get to grips with, it is hard to master, as parrying requires precise action and critical attacks also requiring precision. Making use of critical hits will make the game easier as enemies are killed with 1 hit in such a manner, on top of releasing health. Critical hits aren’t exactly necessary to complete the game, but they do make it easier.
As you make your way through the game you will swap between Samanosuke and Kaede, the kunoichi by your side. You will use both of these characters to solve puzzles, fight enemies and progress the story. However, in my opinion, the Kaede segments are some of the worst parts in comparison to the sheer power and versatility of Samanosuke. Kaede has no special powers, no elements, and no additional weapons besides her dagger, an improved dagger and throwing kunai. Kaede also gains no benefit from killing demons, aside from an empty hallway to progress through. She does have some flashy moves, but beyond flash she is just meant to run around.
The remaster brings with it a few new additions and touch-ups to the original. From improved graphics, which remove the fussy outlines, to better lighting and higher resolution textures. You can choose between widescreen or 4:3 aspect ratios. While moving around the fixed camera levels the camera will now scroll slightly to follow the protagonist. Analogue movement makes dodging, positioning and combat feel leagues better than the original, alongside an easy mode for newcomers. The soundtrack has been updated with Japanese voices being re-recorded.
Sadly the English VA was untouched from the original release, at least as far as I can tell. In doing so, English speakers and those who prefer dubs will have a hard time hearing past the poor acting for the majority of the game. Plenty of scenes are phoned in, with people displaying clearly fake emotions or lines full of breath. While I can look past the VA, since I am accustomed to poorly dubbed Japanese games, others may be off-put due to the quality.
Games of yesteryear were quite a deal “harder” than games are nowadays, with autosave not being a feature alongside death causing loss of progress leaning into hours long. Onimusha will punish you for not understanding a puzzle or deigning to fight a boss with no items used. While old-school gamers are used to this kind of design, new players might see this as unfair and poor design. I generally found there were plenty of save points and items to allow for a relatively straightforward normal difficulty run.
This remaster is one of the better ones to come out as of late, at least for those who wish for just a purely touched up game rather than a full rework. The graphics are improved, with some quality of life changes to the gameplay. It is as faithful to the original as it could be while also making it worth a purchase. If you’re looking for a completely new experience, you might not find it here, but if you want to relive your childhood it is worth a go.
Overall, Onimusha: Warlords gets a 9/10, it is fun, engaging and challenging without being infuriating. While it can be completed in 1 sitting, some gamers at my age are looking for just that, as not everyone has 60-120 hours to dump into a single game. All the improvements are welcome with none going overboard, though some fans may feel it deserved a harsher hand in the redevelopment. For around £16 this is a great purchase, as with extra challenge modes, trophies to hunt for and more you can easily get a few runs out of it.
Onimusha: Warlords is now available for PlayStation 4, Xbox one, PC and Nintendo Switch