As the forces of good rise up to defend themselves against the evil Nobunaga Oda and his invading army, the master-less samurai Samanosuke answers the call for help from the forgotten Princess Yuki. Demons who have been watching the human world for some time stand poised to make their move as the human warriors bicker amongst themselves.
Rise up to defend humankind and save Princess Yuki from a fate most dreadful. As the Ronin Samanosuke you will ally yourself with a long forgotten Ogre clan who bestow upon you the one weapon that may be able to stop the Demon horde from laying waste to humankind. Sword fights, intrigue, action and split second escapes are yours to be had, should you answer Yuki's plea for help.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
I have a confession to make, I like zombies. Whether it is movies, books and especially games, the undead will always hold a dear place in my imagination. The mere idea of zombies rising up from the ground and doing battle with the living must invoke memories of a misspent youth watching cheesy B movies on Showtime in the 80's at all hours of the night. Couple this with one of the 80's other B-movie genres, the Ninja flick, and you've got the ingredients to one fine videogame. However in this game, there is no horrible dialogue and the entire mood is pointed towards the serious side.
Genma Onimusha is not much more then a port from the very impressive PS2 game Onimusha: Warlords. I beat the original PS2 game Onimusha: Warlords, and while the game itself wasn't terribly long or difficult, the game was done exceptionally well on all fronts. So, while the old adage "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind, gamers who purchased the Xbox were promised a version of the game that had increased gameplay, new features, and all sorts of other goodies, including a game that was dramatically more difficult then it's PS2 cousin. Well, this is both true and false. So let me start off by saying that this game is tough. And I don't mean tough in the sense that the puzzles are too complicated or the bosses are impossible to beat. I mean tough as in the first time you even draw your sword to fight the very first bad guys you encounter, you will probably get your ass kicked. Now, fellow reviewer Rob Madison (who never played the PS2 version) had this very thing happen to him and was fairly surprised. I mean, if you get whipped quite handily by the very first enemy you encounter one of two things has occurred: 1) you are either very bad at videogames, (which is not the case with Rob), or 2) the games difficulty has been jacked up through the roof, which is exactly what has happened. So what happened when I first tried fighting the first bad guys? I turned them both into bloody giblets with out hardly breaking a sweat. Not to put down Rob for his obvious inability to do battle with the undead, but again, I have played and beaten this game when it was on the PS2. So here is my point, in order to experience some sort of initial success, you must have some experience playing the game. So that in itself makes the game a double edged sword. Now, I'm sure with enough patience and practice you would eventually become proficient enough with the games fighting that you could beat the game, but expect a whole lot of dying on your part to occur. The game does open up an easier mode if you die too many times in a short amount of time, but the level of difficulty only appears to barely scale down. This game is a tough one.
In Genma Onimusha, the whole point of the game is to not only rescue Princess Yuki, but to defeat the insidious plot that is currently being hatched by the demon horde. Part of this plot involves the human General Nobunaga Oda who has apparently entered into a truce with the demons. Being an action game, Genma Onimusha also has clever puzzles and traps to figure out. I liken the game to Resident Evil but only in presence, as the whole game clearly has a more styled approach in its locations and visuals.
Samanosuke and his ninja partner Kaede (the character you'll play during various parts of the game) are viewed in a fixed 3/4 view camera view. Each time you enter a new room the view is changed to some sort of wacky camera angle with the only consistency being the controls. Pushing up on the d-pad will always move the character forward regardless of what direction he is facing. The same is said for the turning and other movements the characters can perform. The controls can seem a bit clunky to those who aren't familiar with the Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark series' and the fact that it appears that Samanosuke turns too slowly will find that if you get into the habit of pressing the attack button vigorously, Samanosuke or Kaede will quickly turn and attack whatever monster is nearest to them. This is a time tested and effective way of dealing with the numerous times your character will be surrounded by monsters.
In reference to the "upgrades" this game has over the PS2 version: during the game as you defeat enemies, various magical orbs float away from the recently deceased. Now in an earlier cut scene, Samanosuke is given a magical gauntlet by the last group of mystic ogres. Ogres typically are viewed as evil, vile creatures, but in this case they are sworn enemies of the demon race that has existed for eons. The ogres, sensing their end is near, focus their remaining magic onto this gauntlet. The gauntlet allows Samanosuke the ability to absorb the floating orbs and convert them to magic in the gauntlet itself. Originally, there were orbs that replenished magic (white), orbs that added health (yellow), and orbs that captured the monsters spirit (pinkish-red), which could be later used to upgrade Samanosuke's weapons. In this version, a fourth green orb is released during the battle. The importance of the green orb is three-fold; first, if 5 green orbs are captured by Samanosuke, he can activate them in his gauntlet and become invincible for a short period of time. Second, additional temporary magic is bestowed on Samanosuke's sword allowing for one slice of boosted power. Third, the green orb can be captured by the monsters in this game, and if they do catch a green orb; they grow red with increased power and ferocity. I found that the introduction of powered up monsters to be the game's most significant change as this not only increases the game's difficulty but also dramatically challenges the player to augment their fighting style. While in the first one, you could basically hack, slash and dodge the bad guys quite easily, in this version you must really learn how to choose your battles since many times a type of tug-of-war will occur as both you and the monster battle for an exposed green orb while other monsters attack you. Additionally, the use of the block button will greatly increase your survival chances.
As far as weapons go, the Ogre gauntlet is really an interesting weapon. First off, if you find one of the three magical spheres that are hidden throughout the game, Samanosuke will automatically fuse the sphere to his gauntlet. These spheres each have an elemental type magic connected to them; blue for lightning, red for fire, and green for wind. When these orbs are activated, Samanosuke's swords blaze with magic and obviously his attacks become much more powerful.
With regard to the monsters, there are several different types of demons; the standard zombie samurai, an undead shogun, short-horned demons, giant bull-headed demons and strange energy-sapping entities that look like floating brain matter. There are several other monsters and demons in the game including some really incredible boss monsters. This is a true rogue's gallery complete with an arch-enemy element.
Other "upgrades" to this version also include the introduction of a strange marionette-type ghost and new items like the life talisman, which automatically kicks in if you happen to be on the receiving end of a fatal blow. Others changes include the new armor and outfits you can put Samanosuke in provided you achieve certain goals. There are also a couple of monster/bad guys I didn't recognize from the original as well. All in all, I honestly feel that I didn't need to play this game again since I had played the earlier version and realized that while the changes were numerous, they weren't enough to justify playing this second iteration of the game.
Single player game.
The graphics have been fine-tuned in order to take advantage of the Xbox's increased power, with incredibly bright light sourcing and shadowing effects along with accurately detailed locations. The lion's share of the game takes place in a 14th century Japanese keep and its surrounding area. Being a fan of Japanese culture, I was really impressed with the little details that the designers added to give the game weight.
Samanosuke, Kaede and the other humans look remarkably lifelike and move as gracefully as you would expect proficient swordsmen to. As I stated above, there is a real cabal of monsters and I feel they were designed and executed beautifully. Look carefully for the results of non-fatal strikes. Smacking a zombie samurai usually knocks his hat off exposing a decayed skull. Really cool looking monsters are always a bonus in my book and this game has tons.
Japanese dialogue, the swoosh of a blade slicing through the air'the audio was exemplary. There is a demon doctor that makes a couple of appearances in the game, and I couldn't help but think his voice didn't quite fit what he looked like. Trust me, you will know what I'm talking about when you first here it. I would have rather liked a more hissing voice since he reminded me of a serpent anyway.
The accompanying music was dialed in quite well and had an epic feel to it. Watching and listening to the intro/demo that runs at the beginning of the game reminded me of a movie preview with the music building to a climactic ending.
Xbox owners take heed: this game is tough, especially if you have not played the PS2 version. If you have, my recommendation is to take a pass, as the changes in the game aren't worth the expense. If you have not, then the challenge is in front of you, and what a challenge it is. With an engaging story, action packed pace, superb graphics and a surprise ending, Genma Onimusha is one of the finest games in the survival/horror genre.