#11: Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny
Fantasy-horror sequel is more fantasy than horror
Initial release: 2002
Platform: Playstation 2
On the one hand, it’s a shame how quickly the Onimusha franchise went off the rails; on the other hand, the early 2000s were a time with no rails at all, both in gaming and in the wider world.
While at face value it’s indistinguishable from its predecessor (monsters to kill, weapons to collect, beautifully-rendered backgrounds a la Resident Evil) it very quickly distinguishes itself from the first game by abandoning the horror theme in favor of an action-adventure tone.
It’s probably a logical next step, given the deep roots in Japanese history and mythology. Nobunaga and Tokichiro return, of course; other historical figures abound as well: even the main character Jubei Yagyu is lifted, name intact, from the annals of real-world samurai legend.
But while it’s a “logical next step” for the franchise, it’s still a disappointing one. The horror tone was the biggest draw for most fans of the original — a samurai Resident Evil is a novel idea. The more light-hearted tone of the sequel makes the whole thing seem silly.
It’s hard to take things like a literally-demonic Nobunaga waging war with literal demons for soldiers to take over Japan seriously when the tone is so aggressively “two-fisted swashbuckler.” The “gift system” that you use to manipulate the supporting cast doesn’t help.
Basically if you want the four supporting characters (two of them based on historical figures in their own right) to help you out (or access their sidequests) you have to give them random gifts you can find in the game world or buy at the shop during your two visits in town.
This is pretty dumb on its face, but nothing is ever simple. Give one character a gift, another will dislike it. You have to balance your loyalties, while also being fucking psychic about which character will like which gift. A guide is mandatory for this.
Worse is the completely tacked-on romance subplot. not only is it completely extraneous, but Oyu, the previously-competent ninja girl, becomes a clueless ditz in the process. There’s also some dumb relevations about her relationship to the Oda clan that don’t matter.
About halfway through the game I realized I just didn’t care about the game or its gameplay anymore. It’s orders of magnitude more difficult and demanding than the original — health is hard to come by, and the bosses are brutal. The story just wasn’t worth struggling through it.
What pushed me to give up was this boss that took up all my scant few health items, and then when I pushed ahead, I was caught in a gas trap and died before i could escape, and I hadn’t saved. This was after fighting the boss four times already. Fuck it, I went to youtube.
I expect this to happen at least a few times as I work my way through my horror games list. Certainly I’ve had to let Youtube finish a few Medal of Honor games for me. Life is just too short to struggle through shit you don’t care about, and I didn’t care about Onimusha 2.
Almost forgot to add: the English dub is bad. Real bad. Mot quite “4kids’ One Piece dub” bad, but still bad.