Many people looked away from Onimusha Tactics. They brushed it off as a title of mediocre quality; that it was just an attempt for Capcom to cash in on the temporary popularity surging in the tactical market. Well, Capcom proved them wrong! They didn’t make a dime off this one! Anyway, Onimusha Tactics really is a pretty mediocre tactical game, offering no major innovation in any aspect. However, its lack of innovation means it is left the tried-and-true aspects of classics like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics, and the more they borrow from them, the better. However, the dumbed-down, simplistic battle system really drags this game down, and what could’ve been a decent GBA RPG, is made into a mediocre, obscure title.
The game starts much like Onimusha 2. Onimaru, an orphan descended from the Oni (a clan of demon-like creatures, hated by humans and Genma), rushes home after hearing his hometown, the Iga Village, is under attack from the forces of Nobunaga Oda, lord of the Genma. Of course, to do this he must become more powerful, so he decides he must take full advantage of the Oni power in him, and must become the Onimusha. While he does this, Nobunaga comes up with a new evil plan to conquer Japan; he believes by destroying all the most known symbols of good, particularly places like Mt. Fuji (which is holy allegedly) and the Buddhist temples, he can destroy all happiness and hope in Japan and open the gates of Hell. Yes, it does sound lame, and he does succeed in destroying Mt. Fuji (how it exists today, I don’t know), but plot aside, the large cast of lovable characters is an excellent feature in this game. Unlike other Tactics games, Onimusha Tactics lets you really get to know each individual character, working them into the plot and also deeply developing all 20 of them.
The character arrangement is one of the better gameplay elements in this Tactical RPGs. The battle system uses the common grid; however, most of the maps offer little variety, and since almost all the battles have only the most basic objectives, the game can get boring for anyone but the most devoted fan. Turns are determined by team (all your soldiers go, then all the enemies go), which often makes battle rather linear, putting less emphasis on strategy and long-term planning. The game’s speed leaves more to be desired. Basic features, like toggling through menus, moving the curser, and battle animations are all unnecessarily slow, which becomes very annoying. Last but not least, we come to the skill system in all its shallow glory. Skills are learned by leveling up, that’s it, no weapon abilities, no shops, just leveling up. Also, by the end of the game your characters only have 3?maybe 4 skills, all of which are simply stock skills. Seriously, every single skill raises one of your stats, lowers an enemy’s stats, barrages an enemy or casts a simple five-block area magic. However, the game does offer over fifty hours of playtime, and the ending movie is very nice (yeah, I beat it despite all that bad stuff).
Now let’s talk about the game in relation to the Onimusha series as a whole. The game takes place somewhere between Onimusha 2 and 3. Ekei, Kotaro and Magoichi are all playable characters, who all play an important role in the plot and hang out together (they bond while taking a leak!), but Samanosuke, Jubei and Oyu are all left unmentioned. The game functions nicely as a sequel, and tells you what the Ekei, Kotaro and Magoichi did following Onimusha 2. However, it doesn’t tie in to the Onimusha 3 story at all; it doesn’t even mention the time travel or future evil plans of Nobunaga which causes all that trouble for Jacques and Samanosuke in the third installment. So, this one isn’t critical to the Onimusha series as a whole, and isn’t important in understanding Onimusha 3, so don’t buy it expecting is an important installment.
So, Onimusha Tactics probably won’t fill a gamer’s stomach. While the plot is alright, the overly-simplistic battles will leave a strategy-buff wanting more. The lack of Onimusha 3-related information may also leave an Onimusha fan feeling empty inside. So, this shouldn’t be at the top of your “to buy” list, but is an alright pickup for a desperate handheld fanatic, or a really?really big Onimusha fan.