Onimusha: Warlords first saw release in 2001 as a PlayStation 2 exclusive; but, as luck would have it, Capcom brought the game to Microsoft’s Xbox the following year with new content and enhancements with the release of Genma Onimusha. After having placed the franchise in retirement for the last decade, Capcom has resurrected the series with the new HD enhanced Onimusha: Warlords for Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. Featuring superior visuals, a new soundtrack, and improved controls, Onimusha: Warlords is a thrill to revisit on modern home consoles – though it may fall just short of being considered the definitive edition.
The premise of Onimusha is that Nobunaga Oda has been resurrected by demons, princess Yuki has been kidnapped by the demons, and Samanosuke must save her before she is sacrificed. To aid in his quest, Samanosuke is bestowed a gauntlet that allows him to absorb the souls of the demons he defeats in battle. These souls can be used to upgrade swords and better prepare Samanosuke for the threats that await.
If you are unfamiliar with Onimusha: Warlords, the easiest way to describe the title is as a Resident Evil game with samurai and demons. Onimusha is structured in a similar manner to that of the original Resident Evil – as both titles are linear in progression, yet emphasize exploration and rely on environmental puzzles to obstruct player advancement. Onimusha challenges the player to locate keys, solve puzzles, discover equipment/weapons, and upgrade skills to grant access to bosses or other regions of importance.
The similarities with Resident Evil extend to the game’s visual presentation, fixed camera angles, and control scheme. Featuring pre-rendered backgrounds, Onimusha’s presentation is very much a relic of its early PS2 origins. With this new release, Capcom has enhanced the visual quality of the backgrounds and allows the player to select between 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio. Considering the game was originally designed with a 4:3 aspect ratio in mind, the 16:9 support is a case of simply stretching and zooming the image. Nevertheless, the 16:9 aspect ratio is a fine way to play the game; but for those wanting an authentic Onimusha experience can always opt for the 4:3 option.
Fixed camera angles aren’t a common design choice used by developers these days, but they were quite common during the PS1 and early PS2 era. Often times, fixed camera angles were used to heighten the ambiance of the scene, create tension and suspense, or a sense of claustrophobia as you feel trapped in a tiny area of space. In the case of Onimusha, the game uses fixed camera angles to convey all the aforementioned effects. Feeling trapped in a narrow corridor may instill a sense of panic as several enemies begin to populate the room.
As much as fixed camera angles may heighten the experience, some players may find them disjointed and perplexing. Moving between areas can cause the angle to shift and you may find yourself confused about the direction the character is moving. The awkward camera angles may also position enemies out of your line of view and you’ll be left confused as to where a projectile attack is coming from, though such instances are rare. Concerns with the camera should pass for most players after completing the first boss battle – or within the first half hour or so.
New to this release is the inclusion of full analog control. The original release was limited to D-pad tank controls, but Capcom has included full 360-degree movement ala Resident Evil Remake. Either control scheme works well and neither feels compromised when compared to the other.
Even the combat of Onimusha is reminiscent to that of Resident Evil, as it is slow and will task the player with conserving ammunition and use healing items sparingly. This isn’t a combo-driven combat system. You have a projectile weapon – either a bow and arrow or gun and three sword types, each having an elemental attribute assigned to them: lightning, fire, and wind. You can block enemy attacks, counter and parry to defeat them in a single slash, or dodge and counter. It is a simple combat system that most will master with little effort. Onimusha’s combat system certainly shows its age, but it remains entertaining.
However, new to this version is the ability to swap weapons by using the Switch trigger button. Now you can quickly cycle between your sword/projectile weapons without having to manually select them from the equipment menu. It’s a minor change but one that speeds up the game’s pacing by a considerable margin
Onimusha: Warlords is a pleasure to play on the Nintendo Switch in both handheld and docked. Running at a brisk 60 frames per second and native resolution of 720p while undocked and 1080p docked, the game performs admirably no matter your preference of play.
The English voiceovers remain laughable, thankfully you can play with the Japanese dub and English subtitles. Capcom redid the game’s soundtrack and the new musical compositions are more than sufficient.
What keeps this HD version of Onimusha: Warlords from being the definitive version is the lack of Genma Onimusha content. What Genma Onimusha offered was: new areas to explore, new boss, new armor, a new charge attack for weapons, and other quality of life/difficulty settings. It seems like an odd oversight to ignore Genma Onimusha or to at least offer it as an unlockable option upon successfully completing the vanilla version of the game. Had Capcom included Genma Onimusha as a side-mode or unlockable to this new release, it would have given the game more replay value and provided the customer with the full Onimusha experience.
Onimusha: Warlords for Nintendo Switch is a delight. It looks and plays well, it’s fun, and the in-game achievement system – aptly named Honors – motivates the player to replay the game several times. On average, most will be able to complete the game in around four hours. Despite the short duration, the journey is a quality one and something you’ll want to replay. Hopefully, Capcom has plans to bring the rest of the Onimusha series to the Nintendo Switch in the near future.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Capcom