Having set itself up as some sprawling conflict, with its setup and subtitle like ‘Warlords’, Onimusha quickly reveals itself as a much more intimate game. Pitched somewhere between survival horror and hack ‘n slash action, Onimusha is essentially Resident Evil with samurai swords.
It uses the same fixed angle and static backdrops that made the early Resident Evil games so effective, retaining that games smart use of a small, but tangled single location. Doors are locked with mysterious keys, puzzles are there to be solved, while any number of beasts may be lurking around the hidden corners.
Samanosuke is fully-equipped to deal with such threats, however. Starting with a single sword, you later infuse it with electrical power, before unlocking two more blades with fire and wind elemental powers. Each sword, while not vastly different, have their own variety in power and speed. You are able to swap out at will, slashing away at monsters or unleashing a powerful elemental attack. To power up your weapons, you absorb defeated demon’s souls through a magical gauntlet bequeathed to Samanosuke.
The combat is fairly basic stuff, choosing the most suitable weapon to hack away at demons and making judicious use of your limited elemental powers, but has a certain crunch as to be satisfying. Some quirks of age and design hold it back. While the updated movement is a lot more fluid than the original Resi-style ‘tank’ controls, the game flicking between camera angles in the heat of battle can be an irritation. Locking-on, dodging and blocking are also too capricious for you to feel like you have as much control over Samanosuke’s abilities as you would like.