It is sometimes difficult to determine what constitutes a role-playing game, with some titles, such as the Zelda series, blurring the line between RPG and action/adventure; in some instances, an RPG is what a videogame company actually says in an RPG. Among the titles that blur the line between the genres is Capcom's Onimusha series, with its first installment, Onimusha: Warlords, combining RPG elements with survival horror exploration.
One thing that somewhat mars the experience, however, is the movement system, similar to that in some of the Resident Evil games, where pressing the D-pad left and right turns around the protagonist, Samanosuke Akechi, while pressing up and down moves him respectively forward and backward. This system really interferes with combat, and adds a semblance of Fake Difficulty to the game.
That aside, combat isn't that bad, with Sam able to hack away at enemies with the different swords he acquires throughout the game, which also have MP-consuming magical attacks that can be effective in clearing multiple enemies. Upon defeating enemies, they emit souls of three different colors that Sam can absorb with his gauntlet: yellow souls that heal his HP, blue souls that heal his MP, and red souls that he can use at save points to empower his swords and their respective elemental swords up to three levels and consequentially make them more powerful. The player can also use souls to empower healing items, arrows for Sam's bow, and bullets for his gun.
Aside from the movement system, healing items, arrows, and bullets come in limited quantities throughout the game, so the player has to make them last to be successful in the game, although the game is beatable nonetheless, but the final boss, for instance, may take multiple tries. Ultimately, given the decent RPG elements, combat is enjoyable in spite of its flaws.
The controls are mostly adequate, with easy menus, automaps for each part of the keep, and occasional puzzles that one can solve without help from a guide, although again, the movement system mars the game and cutscenes are unskippable.
The story could have used more development, what with the lack of backstory for most of the main characters, although the epilogue ties up most loose ends, and some documents Sam finds throughout the keep add a little backstory.
The soundtrack is decent, in spite of the lack of music in some areas, as are the sound effects, and the voice acting is okay.
The graphics use 2-D character prerendered scenery with 3-D character models, a combination that looks mostly pleasant, with rare FMVs thrown into the mix. There is some slightly blandness in the textures when seen close-up, but otherwise, the visuals are the best part of the game.
Finally, the game is short, taking less than ten hours to complete, with the goal of finding Fluorites to unlock additional content in the keep, not to mention that the game grades your performance in the end, adding some replay value. Ultimately, Onimusha: Warlords is a decent beginning to the series, what with enjoyable hack-and-slash gameplay alongside solid music and graphics, but there are some flaws such as the movement system and the lack of significant development in the story. Nonetheless, those that can look past its flaws, not to mention find it at a decent price, will likely find the game to be a worthwhile experience.
+Decent hack-and-slash gameplay.
+Good soundtrack and graphics.
-The movement system.
-Healing items are scarce.
-Story could have used more development.
The Bottom Line:
Good if you can look past the movement system.
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours