While I don't entirely agree with Brad's review of Onimusha, I'm not exactly going to dispute much of it either. His points are for the most part valid. I just wasn't as annoyed or bored by Onimusha as he was (or at least not as quickly as he was).

The main thing that I liked about Onimusha was the sense of control and action, which is something that isn't usually characteristic of the survival horror genre. Like Vampire Hunter D for the PlayStation, Onimusha tries to put a different spin on the genre by focusing on hand-to-hand swordplay over gunplay. Both games demonstrated a good potential and presented some interesting possibilities. Onimusha one-ups Vampire Hunter D by taking the concept further and refining the control scheme with superior results. For once, this is a survival horror game that controls as good as it looks.

The other thing that I liked about Onimusha was the feudal Japanese setting. Like Brad mentions in his review, "The samurai theme isn't one, which has been especially overdone lately" and I appreciated the change of locale from the usual realistic-looking urban environments. While all the Resident Evil titles try to convey a sense of fear and desolation in its scenery, Onimusha goes for more of a Zen mystical and sublime natural feel. A horseback ride behind a dramatic sunset or rooftop showdown by glistening moonlight is a couple of effective examples of how Onimusha conveys its ambience differently.

Positives aside, Brad is still most correct in characterizing Onimusha as another attempt at crafting a "slimmer, faster and sexier" survival horror title with mixed results. It's almost as if the developers are hoping that if they are able to move the player through the game briskly enough, no one would notice the same old problems that have gone uncorrected after countless iterations. Tired non-sensible gameplay and cliché story conventions still prominently rear their ugly heads. To its credit, Capcom has finally got the quality of voice-acting up to barely passable (although the script is still terrible) and had enough sense to include the option of restoring the original Japanese vocal dialogue with English subtitles in keeping with the exotic foreign content.

My final conclusion is that fans of survival horror could do much worse. I know that's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but that's the best I can say about a title that plays pretty good, clearly underachieves in scope and sticks to what works as if innovation were a crime. Rating: 7 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui
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