Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny
Oni is Japanese for demon. "Musha" is what you, as 16th-century samurai Jubei Vagyu, do to said demon's nuts in this sequel to Capcom's hit adventure game, due this summer. Assisting you are four sidekick characters (whom both you and the computer control at different times), and of course plenty of weapons, including swords, spears, a bow and guns. Controls feel identical to the last game--sidestep, block, slash and slice --but with added moves including special attacks activated with fighting-game-style motions (down, left, button). And we've already seen a few cool new graphical surprises, like heavy rain (pictured right) that causes ripples in all the puddles on the ground.
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Set 10 years after the conclusion of the first game, Onimusha 2 introduces a new sword-wielding hero to the world of feudal )apan to vanquish the undead forces of a revived and rejuvenated Nobunaga. Yagyu Jubei, the main character, is surrounded by an all-new supporting cast of fighters. O-yu (the obligatory babe) wields a sword, Magoichi is a lanky gunman, Kotaro is a boy ninja, and Eki is a fat, drunken spearsman. Depending on what decisions you make in the game and how friendly you are to certain characters, some will accompany you on your travels and assist you in battle. From time to time, you assume control of them (a la Kaede from O1) for certain quests. Thankfully, everyone can utilize the Ogre gauntlet now, allowing even these role-players the chance to regain health during battle.
The game is again controlled Resident evil-style (move forward, pivot right/left, etc.), but the controls feel much more responsive since the characters are swifter and more nimble. Unlike the first Onimusha, which was originally designed for the PSi, Onimusha 2 was developed with the PS2's power in mind--and it shows. The graphics are improved, with more realistic-looking high-res characters and sharper, animated backgrounds. Rain falls, grass bends in the wind, reflections appear in the water...these details create a convincing atmosphere that enrich the static 2D, prerendered backgrounds.
But Onimusha veterans probably want to know if the weapons still rock, and it's safe to say indeed they do. The Thunder, Wind and Lightning Orbs all return, but this time an Ice Spear and an Earth Hammer have been added. The results, predictably, are awesome, with the spear shattering frozen enemies and the hammer capable of sending a quake toward every enemy on screen. A secret Fire Sword completes the collection. Featuring a sizeable quest, more playable characters, plus a wealth of secrets and skill-based challenges, Onimusha 2 will likely appeal to those craving an intense and replayable action game.
Now that Resident Evil has up and plopped its decomposing carcass onto the GameCube, PS2 owners jonesing for undead action have their eyes set on Capcom's other zombie-infested adventure: Onimusha 2. And well they should. The first Onimusha took the Resident Evil formula and supercharged it with a slick, fast-paced combat system, all set within the mysticism of ancient Japan. It was, to put it bluntly, Resident Evil with samurai swords and rice paddies.
Series creator Kenji Inafune sees Onimusha 2 as the second game in a planned trilogy. "The plot from the first two games will wrap up in Onimusha 3," he explains. "But since we started the trilogy somewhere in the middle, there's a possibility that the series will continue with prequels, kind of like Star Wars." Sound convoluted? Not really. The storyline thus far is really pretty simple. Onimusha 2 continues the saga of brave samurai warriors who plumb the depths of hell to spank the demonic warlord Oda Nobunaga and put a stop to his merciless conquest of feudal Japan.
Veterans of the first game, however, won't find much familiarity in the sequel. For one, don't expect to see Samanoasuke, the protagonist from the first game. "For Onimusha, we used an actor named Takeshi Kaneshiro because he's very popular with females in Japan," Inafune admits.
But instead of reusing Kaneshiro this time out, Inafune cast the likeness of deceased actor Yusaku Matsuda, a legendary icon in Japanese cinema, for the role of Jubei Yagyu. "I chose Matsuda because I wanted someone who'd appeal not only to females, but movie fans in general," Inafune tells us. "Plus, no one's ever used a dead actor in a game before, so this was a challenge I wanted to take."
In addition to a new hero and a roster of fresh faces (see sidebar), Onimusha 2 sports some jaw-dropping environments. Similar to ones in the recent Resident Evil remake on the GC, these stunning 2D backgrounds look nearly photographic. Every location oozes with animation, both subtle and realistic. From the hypnotizing ripple of water in a pond and the gentle sway of grass bending in the wind to the no-holds-barred chaos of a rainstorm, the game truly looks next generation--even if the backgrounds are only prettied-up 2D wallpapers.
What hasn't changed a whole lot is Onimusha's focus on gameplay that has you spending the majority of time kicking booty. "We've added new combos and other features," says Inafune. "One of them is called the 'Issen' attack. By charging up your weapon, and with the right timing, you can slash a group of enemies on the screen with one hit."
The biggest addition to Onimusha 2's combat, however, is the friendship system that lets you partner up with, and occasionally play as, four new characters (see sidebar below). "For hardcore fans, you may choose not to befriend any of them and fight alone," Inafune explains. "But the game will definitely be a lot harder." As for some sort of "Genma Onimusha 2" upgrade on the Xbox or GC, Inafune and company are keeping an open mind. "We got feedback that Onimusha was too short and easy. If we get the same response from Onimusha 2, then we'll consider an upgrade version later on. I just can't say whether it'll be for Xbox or GC."
Onimusha 2, the long awaited sequel to the mega hit Onimusha Warlords starts out with what may possibly be the most disturbing intro to any video game. So compelling, it begs for you (as the player) to avenge the atrocities that are inflicted on the innocents.
Video game sequels are a funny lot, while many succeed on expanding franchises and introducing new elements to already established worlds, characters, etc. Many more simply do not. Either the same magic is not found or even worse, the game fails to innovate itself using new technology or gameplay. So it is with great pleasure that I report to you that Onimusha 2 has none of the problems and all of the innovations.
Taking place 10 years after the first Onimusha, the evil warlord Nobunaga Oda has taken command of the demon army and is blazing a trail of death and destruction across Japan. Into this destruction falls the Yagyu village. Its citizens murdered, its treasures pillaged and worse' Jubei Yagyu, the returning son of the village leader, swears vengeance against those who have killed his people and discovers that he possesses the one power that the demons truly fear.
Featuring an updated fighting engine that allows players to hack and slash with even greater ease, a modified magic system that allows players to use magic attacks with more frequency and as good a graphics you will find on the PS2. And with the exception of some bland voice acting (by the narrator), Onimusha 2 is a home run. More playable characters, upgradeable armor and weapons, and a fantastic story of revenge that begs this reviewer to keep playing. Get this game!