Does the series swan song take the series out on a high note or lay an egg?
Capcom’s Onimusha series started as a cousin of the Resident Evil games and has gradually distanced itself from its origins. The similarities between the two series were readily apparent initially. They both shared the same clunky control scheme, pre-rendered backgrounds and same type of goofy puzzles. Now for the third and supposedly final installment of the Onimusha games, Capcom has finally done away with two of those antiques. Demon Siege features fully 3D backgrounds and true analog control, but still has the same type of silly puzzles that Capcom seems so fond of.
When it was first announced that Onimusha 3 would forego the pre-rendered backgrounds that had become standard in the series, many wondered if the graphics would suffer. Would the environments still look as jaw-dropping? Would the characters become less detailed? Fortunately, everyone who was worried can rest easily, this game looks great. There are a few instances of slow down which can be annoying but are rare enough that they aren’t much of a problem. Character models are fantastic, as are the environments and particle effects. The character based on actor Jean Reno (Jacques) looks particularly great. The biggest graphical problem with the game is during the cutscenes. During the speech-heavy cutscenes, the lip-synching is simply not done very well. Capcom probably just didn’t redo the animations to match the English script. This isn’t a big deal, but it is annoying because it just seems lazy.
This leads directly into my biggest problem with this game: the voice acting. Simply put, the voices in this game are horrible. It’s never good, sometimes laughably bad, and at times it is so bad you can’t do anything but shake your head. The acting is so over-the-top that it robs every scene of its appropriate emotion. Jacques’ English voice is particularly bad. This is further insulting because Jean Reno provides the voice for Jacques’ few lines in French but a different actor assumes the role when the script changes to all English. This is another problem I had with the voices: why do the characters from ancient Japan speak English but the characters from current day France speak their appropriate language? Also, why has Capcom decided not to include an option to have the voices be in their appropriate languages? The game is subtitled anyway so I don’t see why they didn’t give players this option. As bad as the voice work is, the music does an admirable job of making up for it. All the background music fits very well with the mood and setting of the game and really helps draw the player into the world. There is also support for Dolby Pro Logic II for anyone that has a system to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, the only time I ever noticed any real surround effects was during cutscenes.
The story told through these cutscenes is fairly entertaining, though nothing really special either. The gist of the story is that demons (or genma as they’re called) are invading present-day France from Japan, year 1582. The genma are having some troubles with their time travel process though, and the samurai Samanosuke (from the first Onimusha) and French Special Forces agent Jacques are accidentally hurled through time. They each then set out to foil the genma’s plan of world domination. Jacques’ son and fianc?e are both pulled into the conflict along the way also. The story is entertaining enough that it provides a nice break between the gameplay action and provides context for the game, but it doesn’t really do anything new or different and is ultimately quite predictable.
While the cutscenes tell the story, the gameplay is all about action. Whether players are in control of Samanosuke or Jacques, they’ll be hacking their way through countless genma. There are a few simplistic puzzles throughout the game to give players a more tangible reason to slice through all the baddies, but as I mentioned earlier, these puzzles are often the ridiculous type of puzzles that Capcom loves to put in their games (finding the missing eye of some animal statue to open some hidden door, for example). While these are getting somewhat tiresome in the Resident Evil universe, they seem much more plausible in the demonic world of Onimusha. Besides, this game is all about the fighting anyway. Both playable characters control basically the same, the only difference is that Jacques’ weapons are more versatile but weaker than Samanosuke’s. Players will find a few different weapons for each character but will probably pick a favorite and use it almost exclusively. Each weapon has its own magic attack, unleashing an extra powerful (and very pretty) attack with a simple press of the triangle button. Other than that, combat is pretty much a matter of mashing the square button or trying to block and counter enemy attacks. This isn’t the deepest fighting system but it gets the job done and has more depth than it initially appears.
Overall, Onimusha 3 is an entertaining experience which will provide both Onimusha veterans and newcomers alike with a good time. Demon Siege successfully retains the feel of the series despite the switch to fully 3D environments. This switch also has improved the camera, though the decision to stick with fixed camera angles makes it so that there are still instances where players will be attacked from off-screen enemies or their view of their character will be blocked. For an action game, this is a fairly lengthy adventure, clocking in around 15 hours from start to finish. There is also a bevy of special features to unlock that can extend the play time. Fans of the previous games in the series should definitely pick this one up. Anyone else should at least check it out, though someone looking for a game like the recently released Ninja Gaiden should be forewarned that though the games have some minimal similarities, the slower pace of this game could potentially be disappointing. This is a worthwhile “end” to this series (the ending sure seems to set the stage for a sequel.) If Capcom does decide to resurrect the series, some changes will definitely need to be made to prevent it from getting stale.