Review: Oyu apparently means ?big chested female warrior with big-ass sword? in Japanese.
Back during the days of the Great PlayStation 2 Game Drought of early 2001, there was one single game that finally gave the PS2 something to shout about; Onimusha: Warlords. As Capcom's newest big budget adventure/horror game, Onimusha had a lot to live up to ? and somehow managed to live up to it. While the game was still stuck in it's PlayStation roots with 2D backgrounds, the PS2 enhancements were very evident in the detail of the graphics, as well as the solid, Resident Evil-ish gameplay & controls. Onimusha was the 1st million selling PS2 game in Japan, and now here in America, one of the initial set of Greatest Hits. With the sequel teased after beating the original, the anticipation for a sequel was fairly high, especially with the news of all the enhancements along the way.
Yet it seems the release of Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny has been largely ignored and overlooked. Unfortunately, that's what you get when your anticipated sequel is released the same day as the even-more-anticipated SOCOM, as well as the long time coming Network Adaptor. However, even if Onimusha 2 perhaps is overlooked by a majority of PS2 gamers, it doesn't detract from the quality of this game. Fans of the original Onimusha will find tons to like here, and adventure gamers in general will find a well-built game that takes all that was good about the original and improves upon it ? as well as sneak some new tricks into the bag. If you were blinded by the SOCOM and NA hype, don't forget to give Onimusha 2 a try ? because you're missing a heck of a game.
Onimusha 2 takes place 10 years following the original. Demon Lord Nobunaga Oda (replacing the now dead Fortinbras) is on his reign of terror in Japan, looking to rule the country completely, one clan at a time. His newest stop is Yagyu village, home of the Yagyu clan. An amazing cutscene begins in the game at this point, vividly showing the occasionally horrifying pillaging of the village. When our hero, Jubei Yagyu, returns home, he sees his home in ruins and taken over by Nobunaga's demon army. From here, Jubei vows not only revenge against the evil Nobunaga ? he plans to just outright kill him. The story is much more fleshed out than the original ? but that's not hard since ?saving the princess? is pretty much the low point in gaming storylines.
Those who played the original Onimusha will be right at home with the controls of the game ? basically everything is the same ? right down to the lack of analog control for moving Jubei (the analog stick is used for aiming the bow & arrow). The one main difference is the effect of ?Ogre Power? ? like Genma Onimusha on Xbox, collecting special purple souls will enable Jubei to be invincible for a short time, giving him an ass-kicking quotient not unlike Dante of Devil May Cry. Unfortunately, the game doesn't contain the tug of wars as originally expected ? that is, the battle for the purple souls that could make the enemy the ultimate in undead badasses is not there. It reduces the difficulty level a tad, which was absolutely killer in Genma, even on the wimpy Easy level.
The big major change in Onimusha 2 is the RPG-ish elements that you encounter early in the game. When you arrive in the first city, a mining town, you'll find many people inhabiting the area, going about their business, from shopkeepers, miners, warriors, and of course, everyone's favorite prostitutes (who naturally proposition you, because apparently Jubei is one hot Japanese badass warrior guy). A few particular characters will come into play and actually effect the rest of the game ? Ekei, Magoichi, Kotaro, and Oyu. Oyu is a constant character, so she doesn't make much of a difference (but damn, she is one hot momma?for a video game character that is), but how you treat the other three will affect what happens down the line. This is all done through a trading system ? gift giving, like a Secret Santa. If you give them something they like, they'll be pleased with you and they are more apt to help you out in a bad situation. Give them something they dislike, and most likely they won't care about you either way. For instance, I built up a good rapport with Magoichi, but Ekei didn't really like that I gave him a warm beer, even if giving his drunken ass some vodka gained some brownie points. Kotaro I never traded with, so he never bothers with you ? I thought he was a lamer anyway. Basically, if you're in a big battle (as in a boss), and your health goes down, one of your cohorts will help you out as best they can, and then disappear once the battle is over. Also, they may be dispatched on a sub-quest that you'll control, if you've kissed their ass good enough. The problem is, there's only one little place and a sliver of time to do all this, because once you get to a certain point, the RPG elements go away (wasting the gold hunts that you go on to buy stuff in the shops) and the game becomes full-on adventure. It gives the game a slightly disjointed feel, because it can seem pretty mish-mashed.
But besides all that, the game is pretty much the same. A scenario meter shows what parts of the story you've seen and completed, requiring you to play through more than once for 100% completion. Thus you'll have to trade with other people and piss off the rest to get different parts of the story unlocked.
Jubei has 4 different weapons now ? unlike the original, you don't have to enhance the orb, then the sword; they're combined into one. The lightning and whirlwind weapons return from the original; an ice weapon replaces fire from that game, and a new hammer that causes minor earthquakes is completely new. Each weapon handles differently and leaves you open for different things, so be sure to test out each one and their magic as well. Like before, having a certain weapon effect is a requirement to open some doors and areas ? you need a lightning sword to open doors sealed by that color element in front of it.
Naturally, there's plenty of enemies to destroy with your weapons ? some new, some old. The rolling spiked guys make a return, as do the giant Ox guys, in both brown and red varieties. The new enemies include basic Nobunaga Demon Soldiers, these froggy demon guys who are way more harmless than they look, as well as a couple huge enemies that are rather disgusting and deformed. There's tons of them too ? keep on killing, and they'll keep on respawning until you completely decimate an entire room. However, given that the enemies give you important souls for killing them, it's a wise idea to pull a Metallica and Kill ?Em All.
The bosses are all brand-new in Onimusha 2, and all are rather interesting, as well as bizarrely named. First off, there's this big guy with 4 legs and a giant Axe named Gingafatsu (emphasis on fat, I guess) ? in the right light he looks like Papa Smurf got into some mutation mix and out came this guy. Next up we have Jujudoma, a rather hideous demon woman who looks like she has the never-ending chicken pox. Her goal is actually to get Jubei in the sack with her ugly ass (reference the hot Japanese warrior dude comment), but Jubei tells her to get over to Jenny Craig and lose some weight, and get rid of those damn spots before you ask me to do the nasty with a demon. Actually, he just says something derogatory to set her off and you have to kill her. No problem. Finally there's Gogandanitsu, a prissy little demon swordsman who uses far too many big words and sounds way too feminine to be a demon swordsman. He's the toughest of the bunch, since you can't kill him the first couple times you face him, and he's also the most annoying because his taunting is so annoying that you'd just prefer to slice his voice box instead.
Of course, since this is a Capcom horror/adventure game, there's plenty of puzzles to solve. Most of the puzzles are very straightforward and just require a bit of backtracking, but the backtracking is eased by the various warp portals the Nobunaga's servants placed around the country. It's possible to pull a Mario and warp to different levels at will, and usually it all connects anyway. The real tricky puzzles are the trick boxes, the warp-portal-opening thingys and the little ?card? game ? both have things you need, so don't live without them. The trick boxes are a lot different this time around ? instead of lining up numbers, you need to play with the pieces on the box to line up a bullseye. Some are very hard and require up to 6 steps, while others just require 2 steps. The card game is just a test of math skills. Basically, the game will have a number at the top and a bunch of cards already on the board, with 4 cards to play. In order to beat it, you have to match up so the number up top is represented on every direction of the board ? so if you add up the 1st row vertically it matches that number, then the 1st row horizontally and it matches, and so on, the game is beat and the prize unlocked. It sounds more complicated than it really is, so don't worry too much ? as long as you know basic math and can add, its pretty easy and fun.
The portal things are easily the most challenging, as well as annoying, puzzles. Basically, there's diamond blocks and circle blocks. On the puzzle is the right answer, but it's your job to move the pieces around to solve it. And it's a bitch. These puzzles take a lot of thinking and tinkering, but it's a necessary evil, so do what you can to solve them, even if it means consulting an FAQ for the right answer. After all, there's always some wacko who's figured it out.
That puzzle is still an indication of this game ? Onimusha 2 is hard. Not cheap hard, but challenging hard. Unless you're mega-gamer-skillz, you'll get whipped more than once against those evil bosses. Unless you take the easy route and smash all kinds of enemies before it gets really tough, and beef up your weapons so they're way too powerful, that is. Thankfully, like the original, the game unlocks an Easy mode to help you along, and you now can even implement it into the current game you're playing, so you don't have to start over. Either way, beating the game is a must for fans ? it unlocks a bunch of new modes including a new Oni Spirits-ish game, as well as the cool Man In Black mode, letting you play as Yakuza-Gangsta Jubei. It also unlocks an Onimusha 3 teaser, letting you know that a 3rd (and apparently final) game in the series is on the way (and will be in full 3D no less).
Onimusha 2's visuals are beefed up in every way, creating a game even more beautiful than the original. The pre-rendered backgrounds are loaded with detail, helping the items in the game blend with the background almost perfectly. Effects like water and lighting are also done well, creating great atmosphere. Character detail is incredible, with completely moving eyes and mouths. When Jubei listens to conversations, you can see his eyes move to follow the speaker. The enemies are also nice, with good animation and some really sick detail. The giant bosses are indeed giant, and slowdown is non-existent despite their presence. While the 2D effect of the backgrounds is kinda cheating, the game still looks amazing, one of the PlayStation 2's best.
The audio is classic Capcom ? great music, great effects, cheesy acting. Jubei sounds like one of those stereotypical fat Japanese dudes who sound like barbarians, even when talking quietly. The rest of the game is loaded with cheesy dialogue and some really awkward spots where the acting is forced and clich?d. It's not as bad as the campy dialogue of the original Onimusha, but it's still not exactly stellar either.
The music is fantastic ? and classic Capcom. The music that plays sounds like it was taken out of Resident Evil, with a very creepy tone to it at all times. The original had some great music, but Onimusha 2 has even better tunes to listen to. It's nowhere near as repetitive this time as well.
The sound effects are largely the same as the original ? the clanging of swords and the noises of the demons are fairly simple, but well done and subdued. Distant noises can be heard at times, and the sound of a spawning enemy is a nice touch.
While the game may not be a total overhaul over the original, Onimusha 2 is a well crafted game that might feel a little disjointed at times, but satisfying in the end. Fans of the original will definitely get into the game ? while those who disliked the game probably won't find anything worth changing their minds about. The new touches are nice, and definitely should be fleshed out for the 3rd game, because it's definitely a step in the right direction. All told, Onimusha 2 is an excellent game that's well worth your time, despite the possibly short length ? though that's eradicated by the multiple paths that the story presents. Given the little attention given to this game in the wake of SOCOM and PS2's online play, you're looking at what could be one of the PlayStation 2's sleepers of 2002.