Played on: Playstation 2
Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams is the latest instalment in Capcom’s fantasy games set in an alternate fifteenth century Japan where everything seemed like it should be in a fantasy movie instead of a historical epic drama. The fourth installment takes place after the hero of the third game Onimusha: Battle Siege had eliminated Nobunaga Oda, in that game a demonic king with ties to the demons or oni (previously the game called the demons genma, hmm). Now, Hideyoshi Hashiba, the uniter of Japan, has fallen under the sway of the demons and all kinds of havoc are taking place, with giant robotic thingies trampling Japan, Godzilla-style. It’s up to a half-oni young man called Soki to save the day, and that’s who I will be playing as in this game. Along the way, Soki will find four allies to help him in his quest: the young samurai girl Jubei, the sage-monkish figure Tenkai, the French boxer guy Roberto, and the gun-totting young lady Ohatsu.
One nice thing about this game is the ability to play as any of the five characters to provide some much-needed variation in the gameplay. Soki is a standard swordsman character, for example, while Roberto has all kinds of punch combos that can really hurt provided one masters his gameplay. Ohatsu can be really cheap in how ridiculously large her range is and how some of her weapons have auto tracking missiles – I can just have Ohatsu stand at a corner and fire at will in order to take down a big boss. If you’re sick and tired of trying to get close to a big bad boss only to have it send you flying with a flick of its paw, play as Ohatsu, set Soki on the “distract enemy” mode to target the big bad monster’s attention on him, and have Ohatsu stand a safe distance away to fire at will.
The cutscenes are fantastic with two long and gorgeous introductory movies at the beginning of the game, a lush and amazing long closing movie at the end, and many cutscenes in between to give this game a very beautiful animated movie feel. Somewhat paradoxically, the animation of the characters can be at the same time awkward since the game makers repeat the same posture for each character whenever they speak. The lines the characters speak can be very cheesy and the storyline is a standard one, but the cutscenes are really too fantastic and have to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, there is no option to view the cutscenes, opening sequences, or endings. Even the Ayumi Hamasaki closing sequence track Rainy Day is haunting to listen to.
Unfortunately, despite the huge upgrade in visuals, the gameplay is still the same. The weapon and skill upgrade remain unchanged from previous games and battles are still best fought using reversal critical hits, in which the main character will stand and guard until the enemy hits him or her and then launch a critical reversal attack to gain more health and experience bonuses. And keeping guard and waiting to launch a reversal attack all the time become boring.
Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams is a really beautiful game. It’s also very playable but the gameplay is such that there isn’t much replayable value to it. Chalk this one as a game which is more gorgeous to watch than it is to play.