North American PlayStation 2 cover art
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 2
|Genre(s)||Action-adventure, hack and slash, survival horror|
Onimusha: Warlords, released in Japan as Onimusha (鬼武者?), is the first action-adventure video game of the Onimusha series, released first for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. Later it was released in an updated form as Genma Onimusha (幻魔 鬼武者?) for the Xbox in 2002. The original Onimusha: Warlords version was also ported to Microsoft Windows, although this version was only released in Asia and Russia.
The game's plot is set in the Sengoku period and focuses on the samurai Samanosuke Akechi who fights against the forces of Nobunaga Oda. After Nobunaga's death in battle, Samanosuke goes on a quest to save Princess Yuki from demons working alongside Nobunaga's forces. The player controls Samanosuke and his partner, a female ninja Kaede, in their fight against demons.
While the game borrows elements from Capcom's own Resident Evil survival horror series, such as solving puzzles and a fixed camera, the game is focused more on the action genre with Samanosuke possessing multiple weapons that can be upgraded by defeating several enemies. Capcom originally wanted to release the game for the original PlayStation but the close release of its next generation version resulted in the project being scrapped.
Following its release, Onimusha: Warlords achieved high popularity becoming the first PlayStation 2 game to reach the one million sales. Its sales eventually surpassed the two million units worldwide. The game has been well received by video game publications and has been recognized as one of the best titles on the system. It also spanned two direct sequels for the same console and another three games within the franchise.
The game features prerendered backgrounds. The player primarily controls swordsman Samanosuke Akechi in his fight against demons. The game balances its action elements with puzzle games that involve interacting with the environments and obtaining items to make progress.
The player begins the game with a standard katana sword, and can also obtain long range weapons with limited supply. However, as the player progresses, the protagonist Samanosuke can gain three elemental weapons: Raizan, Enryuu and Shippuu, each with an elemental magic attack. As enemies are defeated, they release different coloured souls that are absorbed by using the demon gauntlet on Samanosuke's wrist: red souls act as "currency" which can be used to upgrade weaponry, yellow souls recover health, while blue souls recover magic power which is used to perform each weapon's elemental abilities.
During the Battle of Okehazama, Samanosuke of the Akechi clan watches but is attacked by Imagawa Yoshimoto's men. Though Nobunaga Oda was victorious against Yoshimoto, he is fatally wounded and assumed dead. A year later, Samanosuke receives a letter from his cousin Princess Yuki of the Saitō clan for his assistance as she fears monsters are behind the disappearances of her servants. Joined by Kaede, Samanosuke arrives too late to Inabayama Castle as Yuki is abducted as he and Kaede split up to cover ground. After being defeated by a monster while trying to rescue Yuki, Samanosuke is visited by the twelve oni who give Samanosuke the power to vanquish the monsters that abducted Yuki, the Genma, and seal their souls in a mystical gauntlet.
While searching for Yuki, Samanosuke finds a laboratory and encounters the Genma scientist Guildenstern, learning that the Genma have resurrected Nobunaga to serve them before slaying Guildenstern's creation Reynaldo. Samanosuke later enters Nobunaga's servant Tokichiro as he attempted to recruit him before reunited with Kaede as they follow the boy Yumemaru who Yuki took under her care. When Samanosuke finds Yumemaru spirited off, he learns from Tokichiro that Yuki is essential for a human sacrifice where the Genmas' god Fortinbras will bless her blood that Nobunaga will drink to gain the power to destroy the Saitō clan.
After saving Yumemaru from the Genma Marcellus, Samanosuke leaves him with Kaede as he looks for Yuki underground. But as Tokichiro traps Samanosuke, Kaede is knocked out by Genma resembling Samanosuke while Yumemaru is taken by a woman. When she awakens, Kaede is led to the prison and finds Yuki locked in a cell. Guildenstern arrives and leaves Kaede to die at the hand of a powerful Genma, only for her kill it while escaping. Samanosuke awakens and kills his doppelgänger in the underground passage. He makes his way back into the keep and finds Yumemaru with the woman who introduces herself as the Genma Hecuba as she assumes her true form while spiriting Yumemaru into the netherworld with Samanosuke in pursuit.
Joined by Kaede as he learns that her kin intent to kill Yumemaru before Yuki to heighten her sorrow to make her blood more potent for Nobunaga, Samanosuke kills Hecuba. As Samanosuke makes his way through the demon door, he encounters Guildenstern who summons an improved Marcellus. After defeating him, Samanosuke makes his way into Fortinbras' throne room, where he finds Yuki and Yumemaru trapped on the upper level. Before he can free them, Fortinbras enters the room and summons Nobunaga before the monster attacks Samanosuke. After Samanosuke defeats Fortinbras, he frees Yumemaru and Yuki as Kaede enters the room.
However, as they flee the collapsing chamber, Samanosuke is grabbed by Fortinbras as Kaede, Yumemaru and Yuki are forced to escape. Some of Samanosuke's blood falls on the gauntlet and activates it as it transforms him into an Onimusha. In his Onimusha state, Samanosuke kills Fortinbras by stabbing him through his central eye. As Samanosuke transforms back into a human, he encounters Nobunaga as the room continues to collapse.
During the ending sequence, Yuki and Yumemaru follow Samanosuke's advice and travel the world. After the end credits, Samanosuke is seen alive, viewing Inabayama Castle from afar before he departs to parts unknown.
The game originated in Yoshiki Okamoto's 1997 idea to create Sengoku Biohazard, a ninja version of Capcom's own 1996 Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan), set in the Sengoku period and featuring a "ninja house" filled with booby traps, similar to the mansion from Resident Evil, where battles would be fought using swords and shuriken: "The house will contain hidden doors behind walls, ceilings that fall down to you, scrolls and ninja magic, and many other ninja techniques." The project was originally intended for the Nintendo 64's 64DD.
Onimusha was planned by Capcom as a trilogy. Its first title was originally being developed for the PlayStation, but the project was eventually moved to the PlayStation 2. The PlayStation version was scrapped and never released. It was about 50% complete before it was cancelled. Onimusha team's excitement about the PlayStation 2's capabilities resulted in that change. They developed the game basing on the system from the Resident Evil series.
The game's plot was written by Noboru Sugimura and Flagship. The storyline was set in the Sengoku period due to how its multiple conflicts could provide an interesting background for the plot. While the historical Oda Nobunaga can be considered either a hero or a villain, Capcom chose to portray him as the latter one. Character movements were created using motion capture. Film actor and singer Takeshi Kaneshiro was the character model and voice actor for Samanosuke Akechi.
The game's orchestral music is credited in-game to composer Mamoru Samuragochi. According to TIME, "To record it, Samuragoch[i] browbeat the producers into employing a 200-piece orchestra, including musicians playing such traditional instruments as a Japanese flute and taiko drums. The result is both haunting and inspirational, reminiscent of majestic scores for films like Lawrence of Arabia." However, he admitted in 2014 that he directed his orchestrator Takashi Niigaki to ghostwrite the music for the game, for which Samuragochi took full credit for composition.
In the English localization of Onimusha: Warlords, the word oni was translated as ogre. However, in all subsequent games in the series the word oni has remained intact in the English scripts. It was the only game within the series that gives players the option of hearing the voice acting in either English or Japanese with subtitles (this option was not provided in the UK/EU PAL version) included until the fourth installment, which also had this feature.
Onimusha: Warlords was ported to the Xbox in 2002 under the title Genma Onimusha. It was announced by Capcom in May 2001 with the company expecting to be released by late 2001. The Xbox version contains many updates to the game including enhanced graphics, new 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, new explorable areas, a new boss, new costumes and body armor, changes in enemy placements, and a three-tier charge attack to each weapon.
Additionally, the inclusion of green souls adds a new dimension to the game. When five green souls are in the player's possession, the player can activate temporary invulnerability with a slow health recharge. Players frequently have to enter tug-of-war scenarios with the enemies over the possession of green souls; if a green soul is absorbed by a demon, the demon will gain new attacks and they will also see a dramatic increase in their defense. They will also release a greater number of souls upon death.
Onimusha: Warlords was a commercial success, selling over 2 million copies worldwide, with 1.04 million copies sold in Japan. The game went Platinum in just under a month in the region, quickly becoming the top-selling PlayStation 2 game ever at the time of its release. It also sold at least 400,000 copies in North America, earning it Sony's Greatest Hits status. Capcom VP of Strategic Planning and Business Development Christian Svensson referred to the first two Onimusha games as one of their most successful titles.
The game has received positive reviews. Critics praised the graphics, sound, and gameplay, but complained about the short length of the game. In Japan, Famitsu magazine scored the PlayStation 2 version of the game a 35 out of 40, and gave the Xbox version a 34 out of 40. As of 2010, the game has a GameRankings average score of 84% for the PlayStation 2 version and 81% for the Xbox port.
At the SIGGRAPH 2000 conference, Onimusha received the "Best of Show" award for its opening sequence. Complex listed it as one of the most beloved and missed PlayStation 2 games. In a 2010 retrospective, GamePro ranked it as the 28th best game for the PlayStation 2. In 2012, FHM included the game's Kaede among the nine "sexiest ninja babes in games".
The game spawned two direct sequels, Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny and Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, that followed Samanosuke and more warriors in their fight against Nobunaga Oda. While Demon Siege was the closing chapter of the story, Capcom developed Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams due to popular fan response. There have also been two spin-offs titled Onimusha Tactics and Onimusha Blade Warriors that focus on different genres. A bug within Warlords inspired game designer Hideki Kamiya in the making of the action game Devil May Cry.
- Music composition is credited in game and via the official soundtrack to Mamoru Samuragochi. However, Niigaki revealed in February 2014 that he had ghostwritten the music credited to Samuragochi throughout his career.
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