One of the most popular hack-and-slash titles from the early-2000s was Onimusha Warlords, a Resident Evil-inspired adventure set in feudal Japan that involved cutting up demons, cutting up more demons, solving a few puzzles, and saving a princess. It was a fantastic game, and the long-awaited Xbox One port has finally arrived today. However, does Onimusha Warlords hold up well by today's standards? Overall, I believe it does — though it's not perfect by any means.
Demons roaming on Xbox One
Onimusha Warlords was a cult-classic and this Xbox One port does the game justice, allowing current-gen gamers to experience the excellent design, gameplay, and combat.
Demons enter war-torn Japan
The premise behind Onimusha Warlords is that amidst the conflict and strife of feudal Japan, a power-hungry warlord called Nobunaga has captured a princess named Yuki and made a pact with demons to raise the dead, creating an army of monster-like warriors to serve at his command. The player takes control of Princess Yuki's cousin Samanosuke, a widely-recognized master samurai, as he arrives where he suspects she was taken. Samanosuke, with the help of his ninja sidekick Kaede, has to fight through Nobunaga's forces, save Princess Yuki, and attempt to stop Nobunaga.
This story isn't too interesting, but it opens the doors for some excellent gameplay. The plot is fairly straightforward and basic, but that's not really a big deal; Onimusha Warlords is a case where I would say the characters make the story. There isn't much depth to them, but they're charming and many of them have some funny moments as well. Overall, its not a narrative that will wow you, but it's not bad by any stretch.
Katana-sharp combat with magical gameplay
The best thing about Onimusha Warlords is, by far, the gameplay and combat. It was designed to play just like classic Resident Evil games, and that influence can heavily be seen from the start of the game to the point where the credits roll. The levels are three dimensional and linear, and static cameras are placed in every room. These give the player new perspectives in each space, which can make for some neat cinematic shots. Inside of each area, you'll find a wide array of different monster enemies to battle, ranging from the common zombie all the way up to undead master swordsmen. Sometimes, your foes will jump out at you from hiding spots or appear behind you, adding a slight horror element to the experience.
To take these foes on, you have both physical and magical attacks at your disposal. You can use your blade to either slash and stab opponents, or block enemy attacks. Magic attacks involve elemental powers and are significantly more powerful than your standard moveset, but they require magic energy and thus have to be used sparingly. As you kill monsters, you have the power to absorb their souls and then use them to upgrade your blades or your magic, which adds a simple type of leveling mechanic to the gameplay.
Overall, the gameplay is great, though there are some notable issues. For one, the static cameras can sometimes be in weird locations, which makes traversing the levels a confusing nightmare at times. Another problem is that enemies don't have health bars, which can make knowing how much damage you do to a foe in relation to their total health pool difficult, especially when fighting bosses. Lastly, at 4-5 hours long, Onimusha Warlords is just a bit shorter than I would have liked.
Classic design holds up on modern consoles
For a game that was simply ported to modern hardware, Onimusha Warlords looks pretty good. Something I was particularly impressed by was how colorful and vibrant it was — the game is very striking in this regard, even by the standards of today. In addition, the textures in-game look much sharper than they did in the 2000s thanks to the HD overhaul this port got, and the title is also compatible with 16:9 widescreens now as well.
The best thing about Onimusha Warlords' presentation, however, is the brand new soundtrack, which brings tons of energy and tone to the overall experience that I thought the original game lacked.
Should you buy Onimusha Warlords?
While the story isn't out-of-this-world and the gameplay experience has some annoying flaws, Onimusha Warlords is, at the end of the day, a great game and a true classic that deserved to be brought to Xbox One. I highly recommend buying it, especially if you're a fan of the older Resident Evil games.
- Fantastic gameplay.
- Excellent music.
- Awesome visual style.
- Charming characters.
- Some bad camera placement.
- Lack of enemy health bars.
- A little too short.
Onimusha Warlords is out now on Xbox One for $19.99. The game is also available on other platforms, including PC, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.