Full Review: All your souls are belong to me!
Let me get one thing out of the way. I own the PS2 version of this game, and have played through it several times. Let me be the first to say that Genma Onimusha is more than just a mere port of a PS2 game. Genma Onimusha has been tweaked, revamped, has a few gameplay twists and turns added in for good measure, and so much good stuff added that it could almost pass as a new game altogether. This is what a ?port? should be. Way to go Capcom!
At its core, Genma Onimusha is essentially the same game as Onimusha: Warlords. At least the storyline is. As a brief summary, a battle ensues in which during the fight, Nobunaga gets an arrow right through his throat? ouch. Prior to the battle, however, Samanosuke (that's you) receives a letter from Princess Yuki, asking him for his help. Apparently, strange occurrences have been taking place around the castle. Some people are missing. Stories of strange monsters eating humans alive. So, answering her highness' letter, Samanosuke races to the castle just in time to see her get abducted by a couple of demon ninjas.
This is where the game begins, as you go on your quest to rescue the Princess. After a short trip you catch up with the ninjas that kidnapped her. That was way too easy wasn't it? Yup. Just when you think all is safe, this big ugly dude comes up out of nowhere, and in one blow, knocks you senseless. To help combat the demons, the clan of Ogres grants you the use of a magical gauntlet that feeds off the souls of the demons you kill. This is key, and one of the most significant improvements of Genma Onimusha over the original, which I'll touch on in a bit.
Fans of the Resident Evil games will feel right at home here. Unlike the RE games, though, our hero isn't just running away from his enemies and unloading ammo on them till they fall down. Instead, Samanosuke is, for lack of a better term, a badass Samurai. You start out the game as a weakling in comparison, but as time goes on you gain new armor, weapons, and items that make your life a lot easier. The control is the same, with a few tweaks. Up is always forward, down retreats, and left or right pivot those directions respectively. The attack button will unleash a combo attack on your opponents when pressed in succession. Holding down the right trigger will ?lock? onto the nearest enemy. In this mode, up and down still move forward and back, however left and right causes you to strafe side to side all the while keeping an aim trained on your foe. This just feels so much better, as now you have the option to actually DODGE attacks and counter attack. What a concept, eh? Oh, and another concept here, is the ability to block/parry attacks. Pulling the left trigger will activate block mode for as long as it is depressed. Don't get too cocky though, as a powerful attack will stagger you, in which you will be wide open to attack for a few seconds. Additionally, strong overhead smash attacks cannot be blocked.
If you push up on the control stick and block just before you get hit, you will shove their blade out of the way, leaving them at your mercy for an attack. A downed enemy isn't safe from you either, as the attack button pressed over a fallen demon will cause you to thrust your sword straight though them. And lastly, while I am on combat, pressing the attack button at just the right time, usually while they are attacking you; will cause a one-hit-kill counter attack. All in all, the combat system is really well done. A lot of people are complaining about the control scheme not being the ?push which way you want to go?. I myself, though, prefer a system of relativity. With the lock feature, and the ability to dodge side-to-side while still keeping an eye on your next kill, the total 3D control system as in DMC isn't really a necessity.
All of the things I just described are from the PS2 version of the game. So, what's different? Well, aside from the obvious leap in visuals, there are several gameplay tweaks that enhance the overall package. In short, though, it's a whole lot harder. I'll go through each of the enhancements one by one. Here we go.
First up, the normal attacks. In this version of the game, you can charge up your attack by holding the attack button down. Doing so will cause your sword to glow. The longer you hold the attack down, the more you will do damage wise to your opponent. There are 3 distinct levels of attack power. This adds a new dimension to the game, as harder enemies will make you prepare a bit more before you just attack.
Speaking of harder enemies, a lot of the harder enemies in the game show up sooner in the story than they did in the PS2 version. Also, there will be enemies to fight where before there was none. One of these enemies is a little girl doll in a kimono. She seems like just a doll, until you get close to her that is. Then you hear this maniacal laugh, her face looks like a zombie, and she grows blades for arms. This little nuisance will fly around the room, spinning her blades around like a flying lawn mower. What's worse is that she appears in places when you least expect her to after that, and I have yet to be able to kill her. There are only 2 ways to touch her it would seem. Either use a magic attack, or you must activate the gauntlet after you have acquired 5 green souls (I still need to touch on this soul thing, bear with me). If you attempt to hit her any other way, she just disappears on you, and then reappears after. Since I have yet to kill her, best course of action in my opinion is that if you hear the bell and her laugh, RUN!
Ok, now on to probably the most significant enhancement -- the souls. The way you power up to break seals is through souls. After an enemy dies, it releases its soul energy into the air for you to suck up using the gauntlet. Some refill your magic bar, others give you health, and some give you the power of invincibility. To enhance your weapons and orbs, find a magic mirror (this also dubs as a save point) to use the souls you have acquired to upgrade your equipment. There is one last gameplay tweak I need to make mention of while I am here.
On the PS2 version, your weapons and orbs were upgraded separately. There are 3 orbs in the game -- fire, wind, and thunder. Each orb comes along with a sword of that type. During the game, certain doors are locked with an elemental bond of a certain orb. It could be locked up with a level 1, 2, or 3 seal. To unlock the seals, your orb needs to be the corresponding level or higher. So, in this respect, it is possible to have a level 3 weapon (more physical damage) along with a level 1 orb. Not so in Genma. The level of the orbs and weapons are linked together. The level of the orb also determines the level of magical attacks you can do. On the original version, using a magic attack would just automatically use whatever level your orb was. So, if it was a level 3, you always did a level 3 magic attack. Fine I suppose, except when your enemy could be taken care of with a level 1 attack, and a level 3 takes a lot more MP to pull off. So, Capcom have gone and changed this too. Now, like the physical attacks, you ?charge? your magic attacks up to the level you want, provided you have the MP and the orb level to pull it off. This in my opinion grants you, the user, more control over what attack gets done. Excellent.
Now for the fun part. Green soul explanation. At certain times enemies during a fight will release a green soul. I'm going to say this just once. MAKE SURE YOU GRAB THESE ASAP! If you collect 5 of these bad boys, you can unleash the gauntlet's power. This not only makes you impervious to attack, but also slowly refills your life bar while it is activated. Much like the Devil Trigger state in DMC, except you can't turn it off, nor can you be hit at all while it's active. There is a downside to this though. If you haven't activated your gauntlet yet, enemies can actually knock green souls from you. Ok, I'll say it again. GRAB THEM! See, enemies can absorb these souls as well as you. If that happens, they will go into berserk mode. They will become faster, stronger, and basically can cause a lot of trouble for you. Believe me, the only thing worse than a big ugly demon, is a big ugly demon on a green soul high. At times enemies will try to attract green souls at the same time as you. So what happens is that a tug-of-war follows for the soul. Now, remember, while absorbing souls, you are vulnerable to attack. This isn't a big concern if you are only facing one enemy. However, most often than not, you aren't. At times, you are actually forced to give up the soul to the demon in the interest of blocking. It will happen. Just be prepared to take out the berserk guy as soon as you can.
Whew, that's a heck of a lot of changes just on a ?port? isn't it? One little last improvement is the sound. The sound in Onimusha has always been great. However, Capcom have actually gone and included a DD 5.1 soundtrack in Genma Onimusha for the Xbox. So now you can hack and slash your way through Japan in true surround sound. Crickets chirping, waterfalls flowing, all sound superb. I'll say one thing. Capcom sure knows how to do an upgrade right.
Genma Onimusha is an excellent example of what a port SHOULD be like. Onimusha on Xbox just simply isn't the same game with pretty graphics, but new features and enhancements that take advantage of the hardware make it a whole new experience. EA Sports, are you taking notes over there? The addition of more enemies, new armaments, tweaked gameplay features and undoubtedly superior visuals, Genma Onimusha is proof once again of what can be achieved on Xbox. Unfortunately, as with all games of this genre, replay ability isn't really high. There isn't all that much in the way of extras once you play through the game a few times. Nonetheless, Genma Onimusha is a fun game that is almost worth the price of the game even if you already own the original on the PS2. If you haven't experienced this game for whatever reason (no PS2, or just never picked it up), this is the version you want!