Onimusha Tactics

In 2001, Capcom developed and released Onimusha: Warlords, which they turned into a franchise with its sequel the following year, Samurai’s Destiny. One year afterward they developed a tactical RPG spinoff, following in the heels of some other franchises such as Final Fantasy, with their attempt at a strategy game entitled Onimusha Tactics, which provides an experience on par with the action-based titles.

The spinoff features a rather methodical gameplay style where, in between story scenes, the player is on a map of Japan where they can save the game, proceed to the next story battle, or, eventually, attempt to conquer the Phantom Realm, with its lowermost levels unlocked as the main game progresses, and which the player must start from the beginning each time they enter it. After choosing the “Start” option on the map of Japan, the player views a cutscene (with all mercifully skippable) that precedes the next story battle.

Before each battle, the player can select up to eight playable characters to send into combat, with the player able to forge new equipment and items from stones that the primary antagonists, the Genma, occasionally drop when the player kills them in battle, with no standard system of currency of which to speak. Protagonist Onimaru also absorbs the souls of Genma anyone kills in battle, these he can use during the party setup screen to enhance certain weapons and armor, increasing their effectiveness.

Akin to the Disgaea games, the player and the enemy have separate phases in which they move their units to attack one another, with any action on the player’s side netting the character who acts experience, with these points proportional to the character’s level, and a hundred points necessary to level up, in which case their stats increase. Defeating all enemies on the battlefield and/or fulfilling a special objective to kill a specific foe or win within a certain number of turns naturally ends the battle and allows the player to advance the game.

Defeat, however, returns the player to the map of Japan with all experience and items earned kept intact, an anti-frustration feature that makes Onimusha Tactics more playable and a little easier than the average tactical RPG, although there are still some occasional tough battles, particularly those with certain turn limits. The battle system works well for the most part, although it will certainly disappoint those who think that strategy RPGs have to be overly-complex in order to be any good. Fights could have been a little faster, as well, but otherwise, combat helps the game more than hurts.

The game interface is solid for the most part, with easy character management between battles and “shopping” for new equipment using Genma stones, alongside a save-anywhere feature that’s present in and out of battle. The only real shortcoming here is the lack of an equip-best feature for the whole party or individual characters.

The story is one of the weaker aspects of the game, with a general lack of development for most playable characters, many who receive no further development after they join the player’s party, and the plot reflects the structure of the previous Onimusha games by featuring a goal of stopping Oda Nobunaga from taking over Japan, with mythological overtones as well. The translation is mostly adequate, aside from some awkward references to “the person of destiny,” and in the end, the narrative could have been better, but isn’t horrendous, either.

The soundtrack is the game’s strongest suit, with plenty of decent epic tracks, although their quality could have admittedly been better at times.

The visuals look nice as well, with the character portraits being their best area, although some of the colors of the environments are a little odd at times, and there is a bit of slowdown at points.

Finally, the game can be short or long depending upon whether the player decides repeatedly to conquer the Phantom Realm, somewhere from ten to forty hours, with little replayability.

All in all, Onimusha Tactics is for the most part a solid tactical RPG that hits many of the right notes with regards to its gameplay, control, soundtrack, and visuals, although there are a few aspects that could have been better, such as the pace of fights, the narrative, and the translation at times. Series enthusiasts will most likely like the spinoff, although those who yearn for complexity in strategy RPGs will definitely be disappointed.

The Good:
+Enjoyable straightforward game mechanics.
+Solid control.
+Nice soundtrack.
+Good graphics.

The Bad:
-Battles can be somewhat slow.
-Weak narrative.
-Some graphical slowdown.
-Not much replay value.

The Bottom Line:
A good straightforward tactical RPG.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: GameBoy Advance
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: 10-40 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License