Review by MalachiX
"An interesting but flawed sequel that takes the series in a new direciton"
If there's one thing about Capcom that one can be sure of, it's that if a game shows signs of anything that can be remotely considered success, there will be a sequel (most likely several) to that game in the blink of an eye. No company in recent memory has had such a passion for milking their games and the results have often been tons of derivative rehashes that end up being little more than upgrades to their predecessors. It's for this reason that a game like Onimusha 2 comes as such a surprise.
Onimusha 2 takes place 10 years after the first game. Once again, the evil warlord Nobunaga has risen from the dead with a host of demon servants and has set out to conquer Japan. The game opens as Jubei, our new hero and master swordsman, returns home to find his village burned by the demon lord. As is the thing to do in these kinds of games, he vows revenge and sets out on a quest that will lead him to Nobunaga and the truth about himself. As in the first game, the story isn't very deep but at least there is more here than the ho-hum save the princess plotline of the first. Also like the first game, Onimusha 2 sports some very impressive CGI cinemas except there are far more of them this time around and they look even better than in the last game. The opening cinema of Jubei's village being burned is particularly impressive. Basically, if you expect a strong story, you'll once again be disappointed but the plot is at least serviceable this time.
On the surface, Onimusha 2 seems similar to the original. As with the first game, the player takes control of a Samurai warrior and combats hordes of monsters and demons in hack and slash fashion. Also as with its predecessor, the player can absorb defeated enemies' souls to upgrade their weapons and armor in an RPG like fashion. However, despite these similarities, Onimusha 2 has a very different feel to it than its predecessor. In many ways, it makes the same kind of departure that Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest made to the original Castlevania. Just like CV2, Onimusha 2 ditches the dreary castle setting of the original for the much more expansive setting of a town and its surrounding countryside The player is now free to talk to villagers, buy items from the shop (using money taken off defeated foes), and go on quests in a slightly non-linear fashion. This new format gives the game a much more open ended feel that its predecessor had. Onimusha 2 also introduces the gift system. During the game the player will encounter a number of secondary characters who can function as sidekicks. The player can give gifts to these sidekicks that will improve the player's friendship to them. Based on what sidekicks you befriend, the game ends up changing slightly providing quite a bit of incentive to play it again and see how things would have gone differently if you'd befriended someone else.
Perhaps the biggest improvement over the original is the amount of playtime. At roughly ten hours, Onimusha 2 is about twice as long as the first game (though still not that big). As mentioned above, after that there is much replay value to be found from playing through the game again and choosing a different path with different sidekicks. There are also a couple of minigames to unlock.
Unfortunately, despite the improvements, Onimusha 2 also has its fair share of flaws that detract from the experience. For one thing, the irritating RE control and unfortunate static camera that plagued the first game are back here and are just as annoying as ever. Another irritation comes from upgrading one's equipment. Weapons and armor this time take FAR more souls to upgrade than the original. Perhaps it was a bit too easy in the first game but it's defiantly too hard this time with the player being forced to spend hours trying to get everything to its peak. Finally, about halfway into the adventure, the player leaves the town and the game suddenly becomes far more linear. While the sidekicks still mix things up somewhat at this point (though even their interaction is limited as the player can't really buy gifts anymore), the game begins to feel a lot more like the first Onimusha with the player now required to journey through the castle in a very linear path. It's really quite a shame that Capcom forced us to leave the town so early because the first half of Onimusha 2 was one of my favorite experiences on the PS2 up to that point.
Graphically, there's little to complain about. The characters are even higher polygon than before and now have much better anti-aliasing that gets rid of the rough look of the original. The backgrounds are also immensely detailed and have far more variety and color than before. The only downside is that the backgrounds still remain almost completely static and don't blend nearly as well with the characters as the ones in Resident Evil: Remake on the Gamecube did.
The sound once again doesn't fair so well. Like the first game, the music is very competent with all the songs fitting quite well and providing the appropriate mood. Also as before, the English voice acting is pretty awful. Unfortunately, Capcom decided not to let the player play the game with the original Japanese voices and subtitles and the result is that there is no way to escape the awful English cast this time.
Rent or Buy-For $20 you might as well buy it.
Onimusha 2 was quite a pleasant surprise for me. While I wish they'd improved some more things from the original (camera and controls) the game has a very refreshing feel to it do to the gift system and the non-linearity found in earlier portions. If only Capcom hadn't pulled the plug on the fun new gameplay half way into the game, this would have been a real classic.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/07/04
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