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Onimusha: Warlords

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Onimusha: Warlords Game Poster Image
Classic samurai action with blood, gore, clunky gameplay.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Basic concepts of good and evil run throughout the story, along with themes of nobility, courage, sacrifice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character is a samurai. He isn't put off by violence -- which he sees and authors much of -- but he also doesn't appear to take pleasure in it. He engages in battle in order to help those he cares for.

Ease of Play

Little in the way of instruction, but controls are simple, and combat and upgrade systems should prove intuitive to many age-appropriate players. Combat can be challenging, but world's small and manual save points aren't too far apart.

Violence

Third-person combat involves melee weapons including swords, axes to defeat demonic enemies. Red blood spatters with most impacts. Non-interactive scenes show additional gore, including a slit throat, maggots crawling around a decomposing skull, and arrows and other weapons piercing through bodies.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Onimusha: Warlords is a remastered version of a PlayStation 2 third-person action game set in feudal Japan. It features multiple historical characters, battles, and locations. It's focused on brutal melee combat with bladed weapons that players use to slash and impale a variety of fantastical and demonic enemies, causing screams of pain and splashes of red blood. Violence is frequent (and, in narrative scenes, occasionally gory), but the aging graphics and fixed camera angles keep it from reaching the same levels of intensity found in modern action games. The protagonist, a noble samurai, has a strong moral compass and feels compelled to help those in need -- including his abducted cousin -- not just through combat but also by solving puzzles.

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What's it about?

ONIMUSHA: WARLORDS is a remastered version of a classic PlayStation 2 game that originally launched in 2001. Set in feudal Japan and featuring actual historical characters -- including the famous feudal lord Nobunaga Oda -- it reimagines the era as being overrun by demonic forces. Players take control of a warrior named Samanosuke Akechi, who uses his samurai training to do battle with these demons. He dons a special gauntlet that absorbs the souls of demons he defeats, which restore his health and can be used to upgrade weapons. The action's set on static painted backgrounds with fixed cameras that automatically change angles as the player moves through the environment. Players must battle demons as they move from room to room, collecting clues and items that will help them solve contextual puzzles and taking the opportunity to save progress at special shrines whenever possible. This updated version of the classic game isn't a remake, but rather a re-release that's been lightly polished for modern audiences, with enhanced character models and a few new options, such as the ability to turn off the English dubbing and listen to the original Japanese actors with subtitles.

Is it any good?

This is a fine example of what action gaming was like at the turn of the millennium, but whether it'll be interesting to anyone other than older players and game historians is up for debate. Many of Onimusha: Warlords' hallmarks -- the fixed camera, the simplistic weapon upgrading, the manual save points -- have evolved significantly over succeeding generations of hardware and software. People who've never played an Onimusha game before will probably become frustrated by suffering attacks from offscreen enemies they weren't aware were even there, or from realizing upon death that they haven't been saving as often as they should. And while there's a semblance of role-playing, the story's too shallow to be really compelling, and the character growth system too simple to satisfy.

All of this said, Onimusha: Warlords is likely to prove powerfully nostalgic for the right players. Its classic design -- which was inspired by Capcom's original Resident Evil games, landmarks in their own right -- will feel like slipping on a pair of comfy old shoes you've forgotten. And the small environments and linear path make for a surprisingly refreshing alternative to the enormous open-world action games currently popular. You definitely won't need to commit dozens upon dozens of hours to complete a playthrough. Plus, the action-oriented combat -- which involves a mix of strikes, well-timed blocks, and calculated risk-taking as you decide whether to take time to harvest some quickly evaporating souls or sacrifice them in order to eliminate remaining threats lurking nearby -- actually doesn't feel very dated at all. The controls are tight and the sense of power is apparent with each swipe, slash, and thrust. It can be a lot of fun. Playing Onimusha: Warlords is, in the end, a lot like watching a classic movie: Those who were around when it was originally released are much more likely to enjoy it than those who came along after.    

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in the media. Is the impact of violence in Onimusha: Warlords affected by the older visuals, which aren't as intense as in more recent games? Do you think the way we view violence in media changes over time as our society and standards evolve?

  • When we help friends and strangers, do we tend to act out of a sense of sympathy/empathy, or simply because it's expected of us?

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