It's not hard to see where Onimusha's inspiration lies. Maybe you've heard of a little franchise called Resident Evil, or perhaps you've even played the other Capcom franchise known as Devil May Cry.
Subtitle: Samurai's Destiny
Multimedia: Onimusha 2
Platforms: PlayStation 2
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Mature
US release date: 2007-07
Yes, I know it's an old game. But two things transpired the past week that give me cause to write this review. The first was simply that I found this title for a cheap at a local shop. Having remembered the massive ad campaign Capcom did up for Onimusha 2 at the time of its release and not being able to escape all the TV ads for it, I figured that a few bucks was worth risking on a game that had me curious but not curious enough to plunk down the original $50 asking price when it was released.
The second event that inspires me to write this review is that I finally got around to renting and watching Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol.1. Again, this was something I was mildly curious about, but not enough that I wanted to see it in the theatre during its initial release. Yes, there was one point where I too was swept up with the hipster style of Tarantino (this would be when Pulp Fiction arrived). However, as I got older, and better, hipper movies eclipsed Quentin's patented style (I'm still not sure anything tops The Big Lebowski for sheer coolness), my interest in his work severely waned.
So did I enjoy Kill Bill? Well, I found it better than the yawn fest that was Jackie Brown, but I also thought it was too damn cartoony for its own good. Perhaps this was part of Tarantino's plan, but I had friends excited about how hyper-violent the film supposedly was. I couldn't help but feel I was merely watching a bad anime movie the whole time -- even the parts of the film that were not literally a bad anime movie. The ridiculous and silly amount of deaths Uma Thurman racked up as The Bride; the over the top fountains of blood that shot out of bad guys as they had limbs severed and intestines hacked; the cheap dialogue that once seemed uber-cool coming from Tarantino, but now sounded like nothing more than a third-rate comic book writer's repartee all culminated in one cheesy affair that was hardly even wroth the price of a rental.
So, like Kill Bill Vol. 1, Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny also wound up feeling watered down, done-to-death, and barely worth spending even a few bucks on. In this sequel, gamers find themselves in the shoes of one Jubei Yagyu, seeking revenge on the evil Nobubaga who raped and pillaged Jubei's home village. Yep, also like Kill Bill's central theme of revenge-driven fantasy, Onimusha 2 stacks up a ridiculous body count through sword slashing and crimson gutting that we've seen and played too many times before.
It's not hard to see where the inspirations for the film and the game lie. In Kill Bill's case, it's any number of B-grade samurai kung fu flicks. In Onimusha's case, it's Capcom itself. Maybe you've heard of a little franchise called Resident Evil. Perhaps you've even played the other Capcom franchise known as Devil May Cry. Hey, wait a minute. Does this mean that the once reliable Capcom has been reduced to nothing but repeating its own patented formulas these past few years?
It would certainly seem to be the case. I remember when I was an avid original PlayStation gamer and got my hands on Resident Evil 2 and was ecstatic over the story, the violence, and the overall "scary" atmosphere. Kind of reminds me of how I originally loved Pulp Fiction and its story, its violence, and the overall "original" atmosphere. Funny, that. But as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and nothing could be truer about Onimusha 2 and its fellow game partners also spat out by Capcom. Hell, even Konami's Silent Hill has done this thing to death.
It's not that the gameplay is terrible, it's just that it's nothing new. Like Devil May Cry and Resident Evil, Onimusha 2 is mired in an endless supply of bad guys to plow through and simplistic puzzles to solve to offer a break from all the hacking and slashing. But once you've seen Jubei work through all his "impressive" killing techniques with a variety of weapons, and also bust it out Onimusha style once he's collected enough souls of the dead by sucking them through his right hand, you're left with nothing more but basically a limp, button mashing experience with a handful of coma-inducing puzzles that would probably only captivate a ten-year-old in an accelerated math class.
I've yet to see Kill Bill Vol. 2. After seeing the first half, I'm not jazzed to see how it ends, nor do I really care if I ever do. Likewise, I'm not at all inspired to go back and check out the first Onimusha after slogging through its sequel. Both Capcom and Tarantino can do better, but of course there are fans of both corporations' current work that think they're right on track. Well, it takes a lot more than cheap, overplayed violence and cheesy dialogue to get this gamer and movie fan excited. Hopefully, if anything, Capcom can drag itself away from this style of gaming long enough to get some original thoughts going again. As for Quentin Tarantino, he may be too long gone.