Japanese classic comeback

There has been a lot of focus on Monster Hunter, Resident Evil and Street Fighter from Capcom. Even Devil May Cry is getting a sequel this year, which makes sense; all of these are fan favourite franchises. One series that has been notably absent from Capcom’s roadmap is Onimusha — up until now. Onimusha Warlords has got that same remastered love as we saw happen with Okami, and it makes its way to all consoles, PC and the Nintendo Switch. The question on everyone’s mind is, does it hold up today.

What’s it about?

The 2000s were incredible for video games. The PlayStation 2 saw a slew of hits and Onimusha Warlords was one of them. The story surrounds a master swordsman Samanosuke Akechi, played by famed Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro, who receives a letter from Princess Yuki to come to investigate a series of odd disappearances at the castle. When Samanosuke arrives, he finds himself up against a whole lot of demons. To counter this supernatural threat, Samanosuke has got to get himself some powers, as his master swordsman degree is just not enough.

How does it play?

The success of Onimusha Warlords spawned three incredible sequels on the PS2, making it a phenomenon at that time. Almost 20 years later, the game still holds up pretty well. Back then, the life-like capture of Kaneshiro’s face, complete with facial movements, was a feat of technology, and it’s a marvel today too, seeing how they managed to get so much detail back then.

Think of Onimusha as classic Resident Evil with a samurai. Take out the zombies and add in demons, take out the guns and add in swords and supernatural magic, take out the uniform-clad protagonists and add appropriately-dressed samurai. The graphical improvements are welcome and so is the 16:9 widescreen, though you can switch to 4:3 if you wanted to. Where Onimusha Warlords gets divisive is the fixed camera angles.

With pre-rendered backgrounds and 3D characters moving on them in the foreground, the camera stays in certain places to give you the best view of the action. It takes getting used to, as you can’t pan the camera around, which makes combat difficult. The combat itself is excellent, but it’s hard to judge when enemies are behind you, waiting to get those cheap slashes in.

Should you get it?

Onimusha Warlords is a good game to take with you on the Nintendo Switch if you don’t mind the fixed camera angles. That, along with the dated graphics could put you off, but if you missed the original way back then, then now could be your chance to give it a whirl.

You’ve most definitely heard of the Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy series as well as Persona or the Shin Megami Tensei series when you think of Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs). You may not have heard of the Tales series from Namco Bandai, but it has gained some considerable ground over the years. Tales of Vesperia first came out in 2008 as an Xbox 360 exclusive, to make the console more appealing to the lucrative Japanese market. An excellent game that has spawned several games, which all started with ‘Tales of’. Now, we get a fully-remastered version of Tales of Vesperia.

What’s it about?

It was a simple mission for Yuri Lowell — find the ‘blastia core’ which was stolen from their village. Which is essentially a lifeline which provides them with clean water. The search for the blastia leads Yuri to Estelle, a noblewoman on the lam, as well as a cast of colourful characters that join the party and fight alongside Yuri. With the new re-released Definitive Edition, you get a new character, a young pirate Patty Fleur. The other character you get to play as is Flynn Scifo, Yuri’s stoic frenemy whose righteous ways find him always locking horns with the main character. He was a non-playable character in the original game but is now fully playable.

The chemistry between all the characters is the best part of Tales of Vesperia. Story and world-building aside, it’s these bunch of misfits that break most RPG tropes with complex characterisations, excellently written. All of these characters are constantly in disagreement with each other, and the game is not afraid to take their personalities into morally grey areas. While the story is excellent, some of the narrative elements and scenes feel dated, and the voice acting a little patchy.

How does it play?

Tales of Vesperia was a beautiful game, to begin with, the cel-shaded cartoon style holds up quite well today, especially on the powerful PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The environments are beautiful, and while it may feel dated, it gives that authentic JRPG feel. The game’s biggest selling point is its excellent fighting system, that lets you control a character, out of the four allowed into combat, in real-time combat. With a Final Fantasy XII-like gambit system that lets you tweak the AI of the other characters to assist you in battle. With simple controls and a lot of skills, called Artes, to learn, you will find yourself jumping into battle just to see flashy combos being pulled off. If you want, you can grab family members or friends to join in.

Should you get it?

As expected from a JRPG, the game is quite long and it will take you some time to warm up to, and it’s a chunky game too. There are a few dated mechanics that don’t hold up, but this is an excellent and under-appreciated game that you have to experience, especially if you’re into JRPGs.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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