Onimusha as a franchise is one that Capcom hasn’t really touched lately. With the announcement of games like Nioh 2, Ghosts of Tsushima and Sekiro, I’ve always felt the time for an Onimusha return has been righter than ever. Not enjoying a mainline release since 2006, I as a fan thought that the series had been long forgotten. Enter 2019, and Capcom has seen fit to remaster the game that started it all – Onimusha: Warlords.
The story of Onimusha is unfortunately not as interesting as its general premise. The series eventually became much more cinematic and narrative driven in later installments, but what’s on offer in Warlords is pretty simple fare. Princess Yuki writes a letter to reknowned swordsman Samanosuke Akechi, suspicious that her servants have been disappearing to a demonic threat. As Samanosuke and his ninja accomplice Kaede arrive at Yuki’s castle, the princess has already been kidnapped by the demons. Naturally, it’s up to Samanosuke to save her. Groundbreaking stuff.Released almost eighteen years ago, Onimusha: Warlords plays like a weird mix of Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. Borrowing elements from the former more so than the latter, the game features fixed camera angles, backtracking and puzzle solving though not to the same severity as the Resident Evil games did. Instead, the game places more of an emphasis on action with multiple weapons to wield and weird but gross demon enemies. It’s a unique kind of game whose style has probably since evolved to a style of game akin to Nioh or Ninja Gaiden, but Onimusha still plays well today.
Combat is simple, you have three different swords to work with that each have their own magic attacks. There is only one button used to attack, which means the combo potential isn’t all that great, but it’s all about the timing of your attacks that matters in Onimusha. Press the button at the right time, just as an enemy attacks, to perform a critical damage move called Issen which takes down most enemies with one strike. It’s a simple technique but one that’s incredibly satisfying to pull off, especially on multiple enemies in a row.Defeated enemies drop souls which can be absorbed by Samanosuke’s unique armour and then used as a currency to upgrade his weapons and magic essences. Upgrading the weapons themselves improves the damage you do with them (as well as their appearance) while upgrading the essence allows you to unlock magically sealed doors to progress. You can upgrade whatever you want at any point in time too.