A review by Moz.
Onimusha 3: Demon Siege is Capcom's latest and final instalment in the epic samurai slash 'em up Onimusha series. But how does this final chapter in the Genma Wars compare with its predecessors?
The first Onimusha title was a huge success, becoming one of the best selling PS2 games on its initial release. The reason for this was mainly due to the games stunning graphics, which were like nothing else previously seen on a games console at that time. The samurai subject matter was also a refreshing departure from other action/adventure titles that were around. The second title in the series Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny was released in 2002, and although the graphics and game play had been improved on from the original title this was not radical enough. The backgrounds were still re-rendered and the game looked somewhat dated, needless to say the game was not a huge success. In an attempt to rectify the problem and win fans back Capcom released Onimusha: Blade Warriors which was a fighting game that did have the 3D backgrounds that gamers now demanded. However this instalment was a departure from the original concept and the game still did not sell. Now in 2004 Capcom have returned to the original storyline and have given us the third and final instalment Onimusha 3:Demon Siege and at last Capcom have got it right and have given the series the perfect end game it deserves.
Firstly be assured you need not have not played any other of the Onimusha titles to enjoy this final offering of the epic story.
The game is set in two time zones, Japan in the 1586 and Paris, France 2004. The beginning of the game unfolds showing with what I believe to be one of the best and most beautiful cut scenes I have ever seen on the PS2. It starts with a narrator telling of a rebellion at Honnoji temple in 1586's Japan and shows the leader of the Oda Clan, Nobunaga Oda calling for reinforcements from his evil demon genma soldiers. As the army goes forward in response to the call we are shown a masked warrior infiltrating an enormous walking Genma fighting machine. As he makes his way inside he is soon spotted and confronted by some vigilant genma soldiers who he quickly disposes of, during a fight, with his fire sword. As the warrior continues to make his way into heart of the machine he is again confronted by two huge genma demons. As he fights with them, one of the genma's spears rips off the mask of the warrior to reveal it's non other than our hero Samanosuke Akechi. At this point another genma appears and calls for the fight to stop. This genma is Gargant a powerful adversary that Samanosuke has fought in the past. After a brief verbal exchange Gargant and Samanosuke square up to each other once more. During this fight however Sananosuke seems to be the weaker of the two and finds himself thrown onto a high platform in the middle of the room. As he picks himself up he notices a pulsating green vein next to him. The vein is emanating from what appears to be the brain of the genma war machine below. Quick thinking Samanosuke then slices through the vein which causes the machine to explode and killing the genma army reinforcements marching underneath it. The only two living beings remaining are Gargant and Samanosuke and they are surrounded by the glowing souls of the dead genma army. Samanosuke wastes no time and absorbs all of the souls and transforms himself into the powerful onimusha. The two once again attack one another, this time however Samanosuke is the more powerful and Gargant is defeated. Gargants' death causes yet another explosion. Nobunaga who is waiting for his reinforcements at Honnoji temple seems to sense what has happened and understands that this must have been the work of Samanosuke.
The scene then cuts to present day France where we see Jacques Blanc a French policeman leaning up against his bike making phone call to his young son Henri. Jacques tells Henri to get out of bed and get himself off to school and he will meet up with him later. As he is talking to his son Jacques receives a distressed call for help on his radio from a fellow police officer Philippe. Philippe tells him that there is a huge problem in Paris town centre and needs Jacques help immediately. A scene then shows thousands of demon genma descending from the skies to slaughter the citizens in the streets of Paris.
Meanwhile back in 1586 Mitsuhide Akechi, Samanosuke's uncle, is outside Honnoji temple with his troops getting ready to attack. He notices Samanosuke standing among the troops and asks him to step forward. As he does so Samanosuke one of Mitsuhide's troops congratulates him and hand him some armour. The gate then flies open and the troops charge inside. This is where you take over...
The gameplay of Onimusha 3 is virtually no different from any of the other Onimusha titles. Killing demon genma enemies releases their souls which Samanosuke can absorb through his gauntlet. Absorbing souls replenishes your health and magic bars and absorbing enough special purple coloured souls, allows you to transform into the powerful Onimusha form for a short period of time. However collecting enough purple souls can take some time, so use Oni power wisely, if possible it is best left to use it when fighting Bosses or when being overpowered by numerous genma. Collecting enough pink souls also allows you to enhance your weapons and upgrade your armoury.
The control system, however, has been altered from its previous outings and the game has benefited from that. Previously the controls were similar to those of Resident Evil series, where up moves you forward, down moves you backwards and left and right merely turns the character in that direction. In Onimusha 3 Capcom have decided to amend the control system similar to those found in Devil May Cry. This makes the character feel more agile and manoeuvrable. However if you are having trouble getting to grips with the new controls the old control system has been retained and assigned to the directional buttons as opposed to the analogue stick.
Another big difference with this latest title compared to previous Onimusha titles is that the player has the opportunity of controlling the two main characters, Samanosuke and Jacques, switching between the characters at various set points in the game. At one point key items need to be passed from one character to another across the two time dimension to solve puzzles and gain access to previously inaccessible areas. This is done with the help of Ako who is a Tengu (a kind of fairy that looks remarkably like Tinkerbell from Peter Pan). As the game progresses Ako is given different coloured vests which give her other abilities. These abilities are activated by finding ecospirites.
Samanosuke's armoury is pretty much like any other character in the previous Onimusha series being made up of various types of sword and axe which are obtained as the game progresses. Jacques however has the more interesting and versatile whip-like weapons which not only allows him a far wider attack range but also gives him the ability to reach much higher areas that may not be accessible to Samanosuke. Jacques can cast his whip up to floating "fireflies" which turn green when he is within user range, he can then swing himself across large gaps or hoist himself up to otherwise inaccessible locations.
Graphically the game is superb. Although I have already mentioned the games' stunning intro once, I believe it is worth a second mention, lasting a full six minutes, it is the best I have ever seen on the PS2. The settings are rich, varied and colourful and the two main characters Samanosuke played by action hero Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jacques played by the mean and moody Jean Reno are startlingly lifelike.
If I have one criticism it is possibly that the game is a little short, lasting between 8 and 12 hours depending on your experience and difficulty level. However there are a number of different endings and mini games that become available after completion. And unlike previous Onimusha titles, this is a game that can be played again and again.