The original Onimusha trilogy is held in high regard by almost every gamer. It combined horror, Japanese history, and beautiful combat to complete a unique and addicting series. In 2006, Capcom developed and published Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, a continuation of the universe but set 15 years later after Onimusha 3. Onimusha is one of my favorite series, but Dawn of Dreams felt different from the start. Would it be the best game in the series or would it cause the series to crash? Read my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review to find out!
Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Plot:
It’s been 15 years since the defeat of Nobunaga at the hands of Samanosuki. Japan has been united briefly under the leadership of a man named Hideyoshi who was previously a commander for Nobunaga. Genma begins to reappear ending peace as a giant star approaches Earth. This star is known as the “Omen Star” and it has caused natural disasters to ravage Asia. Hideyoshi becomes consumed by the Omen Star’s power but his son, Soki, refuses to be part of the Genma army and rebels against his father.
Hideyoshi begins to plant Genma trees across the land. These trees give birth to Genma allowing Hideyoshi’s army to grow and capture more cities. Soki does his best to burn these mammoth trees down but he can’t keep up. He teams up with a very strange creature that I can only describe as a “man baby”. If you’ve played previous entries in the Onimusha series, this is the same creature that allows you to enter the demon realm as they hang upside down in certain areas. Anyway, this man baby named Minokichi is very annoying and comes off more like a baby than a helpful companion. He constantly whines or cries and says very awkward things during my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review. Sometimes he even pisses himself.
Soki recruits the help of Jubei. (No, not that one from Onimusha 2) Jubei is the granddaughter of Jubei from Onimusha 2 and has taken the family name up in defeating the new Genma threat. She has a demon eye and is quite the nimble ninja. She is set on defeating a traitor from her clan after her grandfather instructs her to complete the mission.
After discovering the source of the Genma trees, Soki runs into his childhood friend and crush, Ohatsu. She’s a gun-wielding woman who clearly has feelings for Soki but was forced into a marriage to another man. She reveals some secrets to Soki about the Genma invasion but is forced to abide by Munenori who was the Jubei Clan’s traitor. It turns out he has poisoned her with the Genma and holds her life at his whim if she doesn’t obey his orders. Ohatsu under the influence of the Genma tries to fight Soki where he defeats her in battle but the poison courses through her veins. Soki goes into the demon realm to find the cure and barely escapes with his own life. Once Ohatsu is cured, she joins Soki and Jubei in the fight against the Genma. Jubei and Ohatsu both have crushes on Soki and sometimes they both flirt with Soki when he chats with them or makes jealous comments about each other.
Soki and his crew run into a white-haired mysterious monk who has been searching for the Black Oni for quite some time. This Black Oni is actually Soki as he has demon powers and has been prophesized as the one who will bring down the Omen Star. This monk named “Nankobo” joins up with Soki and the rest as his goal is to save the land from the Genma. The group runs into a man named Roberto Frois, who is a heavy hitter with his fists of steel. I’ll pause for a second in this Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review to recognize that Roberto Frois is a Christian missionary. Most Christians portrayed in video games are those who are involved in cults are extreme groups, Roberto was crafted as a well-rounded and humble man, a rarity to see Christian characters designed like that in games. It was refreshing to not see the “crazy Christian trope”.
Roberto is stubborn at first as he wants revenge on a former friend who has turned to the Genma but decides to help serve Soki and the others after he is rescued by them. The team discovers that there is a “dark stone” that is powering Hideyoshi and sets out to destroy it. With the powerful fists of Roberto, the stone is destroyed while the others encounter Claidus, a powerful Genma who tells them that the Omen Star will revive the Genma God once it reaches Earth and set a new era of Genma upon the land. After destroying the second dark stone that is power the Genma, the group has six days to reach Kyoto before the Star arrives which is an impossible task. Minokichi does perhaps the only useful thing in the game and transports the group closer to Kyoto to save the world but the process kills Minokichi. His sacrifice allows them to continue toward their mission of stopping the Genma.
As Soki and the group close in on Hideyoshi, each member of the group splits off to face their personal plot point in the game. Soki reaches Hideyoshi who is planning to be the vessel for the Genma God. Defeating his father, Hideyoshi has the Genma seed ripped from his body killing him in the process. The seed goes around like a hot potato before it finally is used releasing Fortinbras, the Genma God. Recognizing that this is Soki’s fight, Nankobo, gives him his Oni Gauntlet and confirms what everyone already thought, Nankobo is Samanoske from the original trilogy! Soki goes into an epic battle against Fortinbras and after defeating him, sacrifices himself to destroy the remaining Genma trees around the world.
In the credits, characters from the group are seen living normal lives again.
Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Gameplay:
During my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review, I was surprised at some of the aspects of the gameplay. There was a formula for the first three in the series and this formula worked. Onimusha Dawn of Dreams veers off this path and offers something different. Instead of giving the player the ability to explore areas on their own, the game pushes the player in a more linear path through chapters that are levels. These levels last anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes and the formula is a simple one. Kill all the enemies in the area, rescue a person or solve a puzzle, make your way through the area picking up useful items, and fight the boss at the end of the stage. It’s a familiar formula in gaming, but the previous entries allowed the player to explore more on their own and discover what the next move was. Onimusha Dawn of Dreams pushes the player in the direction they need to go instead of a natural progression.
Despite Onimusha Dawn of Dreams being the fourth game in the series, it arguably looks the worst. It feels cheap from the graphics, character design, and how the story is told. There are a few cut scenes, but the majority of the dialogue is told through cheap interactions with characters. When the characters speak their mouths don’t even move. I was disappointed at this cheap feeling during my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review. There were also the extremely enthusiastic movements of body parts during these interactions which led to very comical moments.
The camera angle is another gripe I have. Maybe I’m in the minority but I prefer fixed camera angles in my Capcom games. You get full control of the camera but it became more of a hassle to adjust it, especially during combat. You are constantly spinning the camera to view your surroundings whereas earlier entries had an overhead single camera angle that gave players a view of the area.
Once you complete a level, you are typically transported to a HUB area where you can save, talk to other characters, craft items, and enter the demon realm for training or treasure hunting. I didn’t mind this aspect during my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review. I liked the ability to talk to other characters and discuss why they were fighting the demons, their history, and their input on our adventure.
The soundtrack choice didn’t seem to fit in the game either. Usually, I only notice the soundtrack if it’s extremely well-done or poor choices. Unfortunately for my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review, it was a poor choice. It was weird techno mixes for some parts of the game that really pulled me away from the feeling of the ancient Japanese environments.
Combat is unique compared to the other Onimusha games where you will almost always have a partner. You can choose your partner before you play the level but there are areas where you will have to choose a certain person who has a special ability. There are doors that need to be destroyed, explosions that need to be set off, and little entryways that are too small for others, that require you to bring a specific character along to get passed the area. I think in that aspect, the game did a good job of forcing you to use all your partners. You can play as either Soki or your partner and you can command the other by inputting a simple style of play. You can have your partner be aggressive, mimick your movements, defend themselves or hang back while you take care of the enemy. There were instances where I chose all four styles but mainly had them mimic my movements. You can level them up with experience but you’ll gain experience with them regardless of whether you use them or not which was welcomed. I didn’t want to have someone sitting on the sidelines and then bring them out for five minutes and have them be completely useless in combat. I was able to accumulate experience with them whether they fought or not.
Upgrading weapons are not as important in this entry of the Onimusha series. Before, you’d find three to four weapons and slowly upgrade the power and magic behind them. In Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, the focus is on skills and combos. You’ll be able to upgrade a forceful kick or a certain type of sword attacks like a swing or counter. It will also unlock combo moves when you put the experience into an attack. All the characters have a unique style of fighting and it’s best to master all the styles because of the ending.
Do you like bosses? Great. You’re going to play a ridiculous amount at the end of the game. I love boss fights and even I thought the end was ridiculous. The team makes their way toward the final confrontation and slowly split off on their own. One member will stay behind and fight their final boss. This all sounds cool, and it is to a degree but it is tiresome. Soki needs to get to the final battle against Hideyoshi and the Genma so your team will do everything in their power to get Soki there. This means branching off and defeating large bosses who are attacking the group. For each character, you’ll need to master their combat. I saved up tons and tons of medicine and magic power-ups for the final battle and it really helped when I needed it.
Once Soki finally reaches the end, he will face NINE bosses in a row. You read that correctly. It was an insane amount of combat and I was frustrated by all the false endings. After defeating numerous bosses, the game will act like you did it and beat the finale just for the boss to regrow or some dumb revival where they are even more powerful. It took me two or three times to defeat the nine bosses. When I finally defeated him, I could barely believe it. Sometimes, the end of a game doesn’t need to be that complicated and Onimusha Dawn of Dreams pushed it.
Overall, while the combat and gameplay during my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams were adequate, the whole vibe of the game just felt “off” compared to the rest of the series. If the title of Onimusha wasn’t attached, I may have enjoyed it more. I think the game does some good things but it veered off the path a little too much for my taste and it did this all cheaply.
This was the first Onimusha game that I didn’t play right away after its release. I didn’t know Capcom released another Onimusha game until a few years after Dawn of Dreams was released, probably due to poor marketing and low budget. I really wanted it after loving the trilogy, so I sought it out, but it was always a little too pricey for me. My wife ended up buying it for me as a Christmas gift, and I was very thankful.
It certainly didn’t click like the other Onimusha games, but it was a solid experience and one that I’m happy that I was able to finally play. My curiosity has been satisfied.
Onimusha Dawn of Dreams Review Score:
From start to finish, my Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review felt like a budget playthrough. If the name Onimusha wasn’t attached to this game, it would have scored higher but certain franchises are held to high standards, and Onimusha is one of them. Dawn of Dreams feels cheap in just about every way. Besides the outdated graphics used, poor character dialogue, and annoying camera angles, there’s also the ridiculous ending that sees you defeating almost every character in the game. There is still plenty of good to Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, including some likable characters, unique enemies, and fun exploration. Titled something else, it would have a higher score but with Onimusha attached, it’s a longshot from the original trilogy.
Onimusha Dawn of Dreams scores a 6.9 out of 10.
What would you write in your Onimusha Dawn of Dreams review? Where does it rank for you in the Onimusha series? Who was your favorite character from it? Did you enjoy it more than I did? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, I’d love to read them.