Capcom had been creating classic upon classic, both with new titles like killer7 and with sequels such as Resident evil 4 and Devil May Cry 3. With the company in such a rich vein of form we had nothing but high hopes when the next game in the long running Onimusha series appeared. However, it seems cuts had to be made somewhere along the line and while Capcom's other much loved franchises had been lavished with time and love this fourth instalment of samurai and zombies seems to have suffered as a result.
It all starts promisingly with several minutes of highly energetic cut scenes showing our new hero cutting through demons of all shapes and sizes. Once the real game starts though it is clear very little has changed from the first Onimusha title released at the dawn of the PS2 (and originally set for the PSone). Pretty much nothing has altered with movement and combat remaining near identical and as clunky as ever.
For the first time the title has a camera capable of being moved. This sounds like a great idea until you realise that levels are still the same static maps as before, only now you can move the camera around. It seems a half hearted and somewhat pointless addition, something underlined through the fact that the game always looks at its best in sections where the camera is fixed.
The movable camera also means that combat can turn into a complete farce as it refuses to move from behind your character often leaving you looking at a wall while various assortments of demon hordes happily hack away. The act of fighting still consists of pressing attack three times, block and repeat, though as your character gains experience new moves can be bought leading to some mildly impressive combo ceilings.
Due to the new camera the game now needs a lock on function, which again sounds like a great idea. However, locking on to a target is a little clumsy, for instance if the target you are locked onto is behind you, you will still need to move around a 180 degree movement arc before you can hit them. Why (as with Devil May Cry), you simply cannot point the controller towards the enemy and strike remains a mystery and of course adds to the game being clunky that little bit more.
Combat and movement are made even more galling by the highly impressive cut scenes that feature throughout- seeing your character leaping, spinning and striking with ease during the cut scenes only for the game to then throw you back to the laborious control system begins to seem like a bad joke very quickly.
During the course of the adventure you will get the chance to play as a number of different characters, each having their own weapons and abilities. While some are interesting the inclusion often seems like an excuse to have players do a stupid amount of backtracking around the levels. When accompanied by a support character the AI is for the most part decent. They do have a habit of charging in against any foe without fear for their own safety though. Stupid as this is, injured or knocked out characters do recover in time so it is rarely of major concern when they are taken out by a demon three times their size.
Graphically, at least the title is fitting of a Capcom game. Presentation is of a high standard with detailed levels and characters that help set the tone and time period well. It seems an odd juxtaposition of such lush visuals with such a jaded and ageing control schematic.
What seemingly comes across is that there was not either time or money to give Dawn of Dreams the complete overhaul that titles like Resident Evil 4 received and so in order to avoid a release delay some pretty visuals were stuck onto the tried and tested formula of previous titles. This in itself would not be a major problem if it were not for the camera being so seemingly unfit for the games environments.
Overall, we are left with a clunky and outdated release. Those wanting the survival horror feel will be drawn to Resident Evil 4 and those wishing for high adrenaline action would be better served with Devil May Cry 3. Seemingly in this form the Onimusha series has very little left to offer, in future instead of treating it like a low grade cast off it would be better if Capcom approached it with the care and vision of one of its more high profile franchises. Maybe then Onimusha will finally stop being a visually visceral series with 32-bit gameplay.