18 years ago, Capcom brought Samurai based action horror game, Onimusha, to PS2 and XBox. It’s 2019 and the game has now been re-released in a remaster for Switch, XBox One, PS4 and PC. The original was a classic its era and when the remaster was announced, there was universal excitement from gamers who grew up in that generation. The only question though, is it as good now as it was then?
Taking place in feudal Japan, Onimusha plays out pretty much like Resident Evil with Samurai. The player is Samanosuke, a warrior who goes to the aid of his cousin, Princess Yuki, as a warlord once presumed dead makes a move for power. There follows the usual cheesy dialogue, battles with undead monsters, brain teasing puzzles and maybe just a little bit of magic!
Featuring a HD makeover, new widescreen visuals, re-recorded character voice overs and tighter controls, this new release of Onimusha retains pretty much everything else from the original. The fixed camera, a staple of Capcom games like Resident Evil, remains, giving the game that feel which made these titles so successful 18 years ago. Having said that, playing it in 2019, the fixed camera does feel a bit clunky, especially as you run from one angle into another and the direction of the analogue stick means you’re character goes from running forward to turning back around and heading back to in the direction you came. This is particularly frustrating when you are battling bosses, as I found myself having to run away after landing a few blows and sometimes ended up running back into the danger area so to speak. It does however retain the feeling of not knowing what is around every corner, a tactic that is admittedly more suited to Onimusha’s sister title Resident Evil and it’s survival horror genre. The controls have been adapted for modern controllers, however there are some questionable decisions, such as clicking in the R stick to fire a weapon. It feels clunky and unintuitive to have to push in the analogue stick rather than use a shoulder button like how almost every other game with shooting mechanics has adopted.
The art direction of the original holds up incredibly well… it’s such a beautiful game to look at
Those new HD graphics, though – for an 18 year old game, it really does looks fantastic! The art direction of the original holds up incredibly well and it’s such a beautiful game to look at after all this time. As well as this, the score is a joy to listen to. I do have some bias towards Japanese culture and the score to Onimusha has always been among my favourites. Overall the game is surprisingly aesthetically very pleasing and I forgot about the fact it was a remaster a fair few times. I do however believe that the fact I reviewed this title on the Switch (in handheld mode) and not on a more powerful machine/larger screen helps the older graphic models etc not feel like a detriment.
Running through the story, I did feel slightly confused at the start as I found myself struggling to remember the plot, but as the game goes on it does a good job of filling you in on what your aim as Samanosuke is and what you are fighting for. Obviously if you played the original then you may remember exactly what you’re in for, but newcomers are certainly in for a treat!
Solving the puzzles is easily one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game
One stand out gameplay mechanic from Onimusha, as well as other Capcom titles, are the puzzles. I loved these as a kid (even if I did end up looking for the answers on forums). There are so many puzzles, and they only get harder as you go along, but ultimately being able to solve the puzzles is easily one of the most enjoyable aspect of the game for me. The combat is simplistic but serves it’s place, and the movement may be clunky, but the puzzles are just so much damn fun! And these alone could have kept me coming back to the title for more until I finished the game.
The trouble with reviewing a remaster is that I don’t want to bore you with repeating unnecessary things about a game many know and love. However what I can say is, if you loved the original, you will adore the remaster. It is everything you knew but now even shiner and new again. If you’ve never touched the title before, it’s definitely worth checking out. An old look at what games used to be, but still a very enjoyable title to dive into, with a story that starts slow but ultimately ends up very compelling.