Capcom has created some of the most memorable action-horror series with Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, and Devil May Cry. One series that flies under the radar is Onimusha and that’s too bad because it’s terrific. Combining ancient Japan wars with a demon-infested setting made for one of the best games on the PlayStation 2. In 2001, Capcom developed and published Onimusha to both critical and commercial success. The game would spawn numerous sequels and spin-offs. Zombie demons in ancient Japan are around the corner in this Onimusha review!
Onimusha has to have one of the most unique settings and combinations in the story. What other video game, let alone movie or book gives you Japan centuries ago with demons and zombies playing politics in war. It’s so good!
In the opening video (and much more on that later,) the Battle of Okehazama is starting with Nobunaga Oda leading the way. Both the battle and Nobunaga are real-life events and people which makes this Onimusha review even cooler. Nobunaga’s army is victorious but he is killed by an arrow that goes through his throat. His body is then given to the demons of the underworld. They perform rituals on him and revive him as a demon warlord to do their bidding. From hidden journals in the game, you discover that other famous warlords like Alexader the Great and Genghis Khan also went through this.
Nobunaga’s army continues its invasion of Japan and invades the Inabayama Castle capturing Princess Yuki and chooses to sacrifice her in an ancient ritual to grant Nobunaga more power to take over Japan. You play as Samanosuke a samurai for a neighboring clan that is at war with Nobunaga. After receiving a letter asking for help from his cousin Princess Yuki, Samanosuke and his sidekick ninja Kaede set out for the castle to investigate. After being defeated by a large demon, Samanosuke receives help from the Ogre Clan spirits that were defeated by the demons some time ago. They gift him a gauntlet to seal the demon souls away.
Upon investigating the castle, Samanosuke discovers that the castle has been overrun by demons and zombie soldiers of Nobunaga. He and Kaede make their way through the castle grounds and the castle itself collecting three legendary swords to help fight off the demons. Samanosuke enters the demon realm just in time to find Princess Yuki and her brother chained to a wall about to be sacrificed to the demon God Fortinbras who will give more power to the zombie Nobunaga. Samanosuke defeats Fortinbras using his arm gauntlet that temporarily transforms him into an Onimusha. – (a powerful god-like warrior)
Princess Yuki is set free with her brother as Samanosuke mysteriously disappears afterword viewing the castle from a distance.
Like other Capcom franchises that combine action and horror, you’ll be thrown into a large area to explore full of puzzles and secrets with enemies scattered throughout. During my Onimusha review there were three swords to collect each with different powers and elements. The first sword you get is a lightning sword that has decent power and speed. There’s a fire sword that is very powerful but slow, and a wind sword that is very quick but not as powerful. Each sword comes with a magical attack too that is crucial to use throughout the game to defeat opponents.
The setting in Onimusha captures your imagination. The prerendered graphics are beautiful with blood splattered on the walls, bodies of impaled soldiers littered about and detailed rooms filled with curious objects. I loved exploring each room during my Onimusha review and never lost my sense of awe throughout the experience. Samanosuke can block with his sword and pull off critical attacks but you’ll hack-n-slash your way through most demons. There’s a finishing move that you can perform on downed enemies where Samanosuke stabs downward with his sword in one smooth motion. I love doing it and it’s very satisfying. You’ll also get a bow and arrow and even a matchlock gun to use on enemies that fly or are located on higher grounds.
Each sword is upgradable using the souls you collect after killing demons. There are magic mirrors throughout the game that let you save and enhance your weapons which you need to do to advance and unlock rooms. I loved watching the soul meter fill up after each demon I killed during my Onimusha review. There’s a demon realm that you can gain access to about halfway through the game. If you defeat all twenty floors you’re rewarded with a musical instrument that will give you a legendary sword right before the final boss. This sword almost guarantees victory as it is incredibly powerful but it’s no easy task making your way down twenty demon realm floors to get it.
Puzzles are critical to advancing throughout the game as you’ll collect plot-driven items and keys to advance further into the castle. The puzzles range from easy to mild difficulty. There’s a puzzle you need to complete to save Samanosuke from drowning in a room filling with water that will give you plenty of anxiety but just keep your head cool and you’ll figure it out. You’ll play as both Samanosuke and his cute sidekick Kaede who fights with her long daggers and throwing ninja blades. It was refreshing to use someone else in my Onimusha review for different parts of the game who controlled nothing like Samanosuke. With Kaede, it was best to dodge and avoid all opponents rather than face them.
There are numerous boss fights throughout Onimusha. I didn’t struggle with any of them during my Onimusha review but I remember as a kid they were pretty tough. You’ll have to have plenty of magic stored up to and a few herbs or medicine to defeat them. The final boss is Fortinbras who I found as a letdown. He’s a snakelike demon and a bit lame. I was hoping to fight Nobunaga but instead, the real demon god came out. He was very easy to beat but then again I had the legendary sword. If you fight him without that sword, you may have a much longer battle. Another small mark against Onimusha is the voice acting. It plays just like an Asian dubbed film. Sometimes their mouths move and nothing comes out while other times they are talking but their mouths aren’t moving. It’s comical but I wish they would have gotten it more accurate with the English voices.
When I was a kid it took me months to get to the end. I fought so hard just to beat some demons and puzzles took some time for me to figure out. After not playing Onimusha for over 15 years, I set aside two weeks to devote to beating it and completing my Onimusha review. I beat the game in less than five hours. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe how short the game was! I know that the puzzles were easier now and I knew all the objectives of the game but I still expected a longer playthrough.
It was my sixth-grade birthday party and it was the first time that instead of gifts from my friends they gave me money. I came out with a pretty good haul that year, about $80 total from my friends. My dad took me to Walmart that week and I spent my money on a GameShark (that was dumb of me) and Onimusha for the PS2. I don’t remember why I bought it but I remember it was my third game for the PS2 with NCAA Football 2002 being the first.
The intro video consumed me. I was so blown away by how amazing it looked and the action it packed into it. It was a giant war scene set in ancient Japan with samurais and zombies. It was not going to get any cooler for a 12-year old. I lived close to the middle-school and used to bring all my friends over just to show them the intro video and how awesome it was. They thought it was pretty rad too but probably not as cool as I did.
I spent hours on the demon realm trying to reach the 20th floor. I didn’t know why treasure awaited me but I just had to reach it. One day an older neighborhood kid came over and just watched me fight my way in the demon realm for hours. It sucked because no matter how many times I tried I just couldn’t beat it. It wouldn’t be until ninth grade that I finally beat Onimusha after popping it back in after a few years.
Onimusha Review Score:
Onimusha is tremendous with the atmosphere, unique story and combination of action and weapon upgrades. You’ll find yourself transported to another world that has you begging to explore more lore and kill more demons. You’ll love every moment of Onimusha but you better savor it because it’s a very short game if you know what you are doing. Onimusha is a must-have if you own a PS2.
Onimusha scores a 9.4 out of 10.
What would you write in your Onimusha review? Do you remember when Onimusha first came out? What was your favorite sword to use? Did you beat the demon realm and use the legendary sword to defeat Fortinbras? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!