Onimusha: Warlords was one of those cult-hit series that began during the early days of the PlayStation 2, and has since spawned off various sequels and spin-offs. While originally meant to be a parallel tale based on the Resident Evil universe, things eventually changed and Onimusha became its own series. But was it popular enough to revisit once again on modern consoles? Capcom seems to believe so with the rerelease of Onimusha: Warlords on multiple consoles, including the Nintendo Switch. While some aspects have aged gracefully for the game, not everything about Onimusha: Warlords has grown well with time.
For the uninitiated, Onimusha follows a feudal Japan era samurai named Samanosuke as he battles evil demons that invade our world under the leadership of the infamous Nobunaga Oda. While not the most fleshed out or detailed story around (it’s shallow on the same level as early Resident Evil stories) Onimusha has big focus on action. Slaying demons that appear is at the heart of this experience, much like the first Resident Evil game has you confronting zombies. The action here however is much faster paced rather than slow and subtle. Unfortunately, the plot of the game isn’t always as interesting as what you’re doing throughout. Some events and dialogue will be downright silly even though the fights that happen before and afterwards are great.
Onimusha: Warlords was another one of those Capcom games that utilized tank controls during its original release. This meant movement was much more restrictive and worked parallel to the fixed camera angles you would see on screen. For the rerelease however, you can use the analogue stick for much smoother movement. This is great for anyone who didn’t play the game on PlayStation 2 and is more accustomed to modern game controls, making some of the tougher sections in the game much easier to overcome. Fighting demons is good, despite a few instances where the hit detection can be off and work against you.
Some attacks from enemies will have a much wider range or are of effect than you can judge, especially with how some of the fixed camera angles can impede your line of sight. The fixed angles themselves still provide an extra layer of tension to the fights, but they may be a hindrance to anyone who didn’t play these types of games back then. You can still get hurt from enemies off-screen or around corners if you aren’t careful enough.
With the release of the game on Nintendo Switch, playing Onimusha: Warlords is exactly what you would expect. The game runs smoothly in portable mode and the visuals looks just as good as when playing with the console docked, in addition to the controls feeling pretty good on the Switch. Unfortunately because of the game’s age, not everything about Onimusha’s backgrounds and character models looks too good. Some of the lighting effects and shadows can look off and at times show many hard lines where they end, rather than smooth gradients of shadow and light.
A few instances during cutscenes also have some weird texture issues and clipping, particularly in Samanosuke’s facial expressions during close-ups. The higher quality cutscenes still look good for the era they were made in, even though some pixilation can be seen during some moments when playing portable on the Switch.
A weird omission, however, is the inability to skip over cutscenes. You have to watch through everything even though you may have already done so before loading up a recent save file, which can get annoying if you’re playing through the tougher areas of the game.
If you already liked Onimusha beforehand, then chances are you’ll be fine with the game regardless of its faults. It’s still the same game that you remember, only with a few new additions tacked onto it. The sharpened visuals, widescreen presentation, and additional voice tracks are good for what they are. The core game still remains the same, with all the good and bad that came with it beforehand. Is Onimusha: Warlords still worth diving into despite this? Yes if you want to play through something that was unique and special for its time. But if you were hoping for something truly spectacular to revisit, then you may want to temper your expectations beforehand.
This review was based on a digital review code for Onimusha: Warlords on the Nintendo Switch, provided by Capcom.