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Review By: Alec Matias
Developer:   Capcom
Publisher:   Capcom
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Survival Horror
ESRB:   Mature
Date Posted:   4-8-01

Itís a no-brainer that Capcom is the undisputed king of the survival horror genre. Beginning with the game that started it all, Resident Evil, Capcom has successfully kept its crown secured, even when put up against such contenders as Silent Hill and Galerians, by releasing sequels and spin-offs to Resident Evil and starting a new series, Dino Crisis. Now that the PlayStation2 has arrived, Capcom has the opportunity to create that spectacular, jaw-dropping, adrenaline-rushing survival horror series thatíll leave keep you up at night for weeks. Their first attempt comes at us in the form of Onimusha: Warlords.

Onimusha is set in the 16th Century in Feudal Japan, when power hungry warlords fought for control of any amount of land. The game starts out with a beautifully rendered CG sequence that sets the story for whatís to come. Using history as the rough basis, the story weaves around Nobunaga Oda, the fearless warlord that paved the way for the total unification of Japan. After his victory against the Yoshimoto Imagawa clan, Nobunaga looks forward to an invasion of Inabayama Castle. Instead, he is assassinated. His soul is captured by a secret underground world of demons, and after making a deal with the lord of all demons, Fortinbras, he is resurrected to serve the creatures. In order to do so, the Princess Yuki is kidnapped to be sacrificed for the resurrection. Now it is up to a lone ninja, Samanosuke Akechi, and his sidekick Kaede, to rescue the princess of Inabayama Castle, Princess Yuki, and to stop the uprising demon underworld.

Lets set the record straight: Onimusha is its own game. Unlike how Dino Crisis was arguably "Resident Evil with dinosaurs," Onimusha is not just another rehash of the already popular story line. The whole puzzle aspect takes a backseat to the very involving action part of the game and thereís hardly any backtracking looking for an insane amount of keys. The integral part of Onimusha deals with the collection of souls and magical orbs. Throughout the early part of the game, youíll collect three orbs that each deal with a natural element (earth, fire, and wind). With these orbs comes along its own sword, each with their own distinctive qualities, that can use the magic within the orb.

In the beginning, youíll receive a gauntlet from a clan of Ogres that have been subverted by the demons that wish to help you. The gauntlet has the power to absorb the souls of slain demons to use as a sort of leveling system for your swords and magic orbs. The more "enhanced" a sword is, the more damage it does. However, orbs are also used to grant access to sealed doorways, so the higher level an orb, the farther you can progress. Fortunately, there are more than enough enemies to gain souls to reach the higher levels. This system of leveling keeps the game enjoyable as it offers rewards for your actions.

Now this isnít to say that a FEW things were borrowed from Resident Evil. For instance, RE veterans will feel comfortable with the controlling. The basics are there, such as on-guard position and the 180-turn button, but now you have techniques such as blocking and a very intuitive movement system. When in the guard position, youíre given the ability to strafe around enemies and quickly back out of or jump into attack situations and also to attack the closest enemy, whether heís in front of or behind you.

The analog stick is VERY responsive, providing much needed precision when battling four undead creatures at a time. Not only that, but the use of the Dual Shockís vibration effects was simply marvelous. Iíve never been much of an advocate of the vibrating devices in gaming as I see ample benefits of its use, but there were some parts of Onimusha where you can just really feel things happening. Youíll be walking down an ominous hallway, the music dead and only the sound of your footsteps is present, when BAM!, an ambush! The controller rumbled in perfect unison with the game that I nearly tossed it on the ground! It was scary holding something like that.

Graphically, Onimusha is a masterpiece, capturing you right from the start. The opening CG intro is hands down one of the most exhilarating weíve yet to see. So much emotion and passion is conveyed in the scant five minutes that youíre almost overwhelmed. You just canít beat a massive battle of thousands of soldiers, stabbing, hacking, and fighting for their lives on an overly muddy field with rain drenching everything in sight. Capcom took no chances and let an outside firm handle the intro and capture-motion techniques. The attention to detail is clearly visible, as youíll notice the most miniscule of muscles flinch on the faces of the characters, bringing forth the reality of the Emotion Engine.

To expand, in one instance, Kaede is hard at work picking a lock and you can see the strain and concentration she is in; her eyes are squinted, her brow folded, her mouth tightened, you just get the total effect that sheís determined to get that lock picked. As for the rest of the animation, itís slick as butter. Special attention was given to the motion-capture effects and it shows; all movements are extremely lifelike and quite fluid. Thereís no jerkiness in movement and animations flow seamlessly right into the next. You just canít ask for much better.

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