Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny — 3Q2015 issue

Onimusha 2 has ele­ments of sat­is­fy­ing sequel

Pre­vi­ously, I reviewed the first game in Capcom’s crit­i­cally acclaimed series Onimusha, where his­toric fig­ures and moments in Japan­ese his­tory were mixed with action/adventure gam­ing, third-person com­bat and brief moments of puz­zle solv­ing. After play­ing the first game, I won­dered if the sec­ond install­ment would keep the suc­cess­ful for­mula and raise the bar for future install­ments. When I received Onimusha 2: Samu­rai Des­tiny, I put on my custom-made samu­rai armor and pre­pared to have my ques­tions answered.
Onimusha 2 con­tin­ues the plot of cho­sen war­riors work­ing to pre­vent Oda Nobunaga from uni­fy­ing Japan through the use of demons called genma. Set 10 years after the first game, Nobunaga has risen to power despite the defeat of his demonic bene­fac­tor Fort­in­bras, who was stopped by orig­i­nal pro­tag­o­nist Samanouske Akechi. With Samanouske in hid­ing to per­fect his new demon slay­ing abil­i­ties, it’s up to Jubei Yagu to take up the sword and acquire five leg­endary orbs and use them to stop Nobunaga before his dark plans of con­quest becomes real­ity and demons become the dom­i­nant species of Earth instead of man.
Game­play in Onimusha 2 remains the same but does have some new ele­ments. Dur­ing com­bat with ene­mies, you can still fight through ene­mies, but if timed cor­rectly, Jubei can per­form “Issen” (light­ing slash) on var­i­ous ene­mies, allow­ing him to con­tinue for­ward, giv­ing him a brief minute to defend him­self or retreat. Another ele­ment is the require­ment to solve cer­tain puz­zles to obtain cer­tain items or gain access to cer­tain areas. For these puz­zles, I highly advise uti­liz­ing patience and strong mem­o­riza­tion as they have a much stronger effect in Onimusha 2 than in the first game. The final new ele­ment is role play­ing that enhances the sto­ry­line. Jubei can not only inter­act with non-playable char­ac­ters, but also gain allies who will give infor­ma­tion or assist him in boss bat­tles pro­vided he is in con­stant con­tact with them or if his allies are not involved in their own plans to defeat Nobunaga.
In addi­tion to new allies, you will notice that Jubei is nor­mally equipped with his sword, but can acquire weapons such as bows and arrows, a matchlock gun and other weapons that use the power of nat­ural ele­ments. Jubei does have two other advan­tages to help as well: The abil­ity to tem­porar­ily trans­form into Onimusha with enhanced attack power; and, the power to acquire var­i­ous souls with­out the use of a ogre gaunt­let to upgrade his armor and weapons.
The con­trols will not present any level of dif­fi­culty espe­cially if the Dual Shock ana­log con­troller is used. You can appre­ci­ate the qual­ity of the char­ac­ters’ move­ments in game­play and in the cut-scenes which may make one won­der if they are play­ing a samu­rai adven­ture game or watch­ing a movie.
The music per­formed in this game is excel­lent as Capcom’s sound team always brings their best efforts, guar­an­tee­ing that the music will be a treat. If you enjoy instru­men­tal Japan­ese themes, you’ll prob­a­bly love the sound­track.
Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Des­tiny did exceeded my expec­ta­tions for a game to be con­sid­ered a true samu­rai mas­ter­piece. This not only shows that Cap­com can unleash their bril­liance if they really try, but also shows other devel­op­ers that in order to bring a superb gam­ing prod­uct involv­ing var­i­ous ele­ments of Japan­ese cul­ture, they must will­fully present his­tor­i­cal ele­ments prop­erly while craft­ing a high qual­ity sto­ry­line. I can not wait to start the next chap­ter of the Onimusha series where the next des­tined hero strikes another blow to Nobunaga’s ambitions.

Samurai Shodown Anthology — 2Q2015 issue

A com­plete clas­sic collection

The fight­ing game indus­try has always thrived on the very con­cept that makes a title in the genre: com­pe­ti­tion. There have been fabled rivals through­out the entire lifes­pan of the genre, with quite a few pre­tenders to throne. How­ever, SNK Play­more was one of the orig­i­na­tors and the pack­age of games within Samu­rai Shodown Anthol­ogy shows they weren’t play­ing around in the ‘90s in the slightest.

It’s pretty safe to say that Samu­rai Shodown was never a pre­tender. It’s got all the mark­ings of a mar­quee series, some­thing that could carry a com­pany far in the worst of times and keep eyes on the prod­uct. At its core, it’s a game about samu­rai and other war­riors fight­ing to the death. What sets it apart from the com­pe­ti­tion — even from within its own sta­ble with brethren King of Fight­ers — is its pro­duc­tion val­ues. The games have always been gor­geous and there’s a level of detail that hasn’t been seen in other series except for the likes of Tekken. Within the col­lec­tion of that is Anthol­ogy, all of the nat­u­rally gor­geous art­work and level of detail is on dis­play. It’s impor­tant that this be empha­sized because that’s what Samu­rai Shodown is about at the end of the day: Samu­rai fight­ing to the death while look­ing fantastic.

The level of detail extends to the sound­track as well. In all games in the pack­age, the sound­track is an excel­lent con­certo of Japan­ese bam­boo flute and shamisen. This may not float your boat, but for a pack­age that focuses on samu­rai, this is an excel­lent choice to make up the back­ing soundtrack.

Samu­rai Shodown Anthol­ogy is per­fect col­lec­tion of fight­ing games, mostly because it’s good to have the entire set of games on one disc with­out hav­ing to own infe­rior ver­sions of noto­ri­ously arcade-perfect games. These are exactly what you fell in love with in the arcade and they’re all in one place, lov­ingly included at the orig­i­nal def­i­n­i­tion. If you’ve never expe­ri­enced the hype that was Samu­rai Shodown, now’s an excel­lent chance to do so. Pre­pared to be wowed.

2UP EVALUATION

Finally, a clas­sic game that started the weapon-based fight­ing genre is back on the PlaySta­tion 2. For decades, SNK Play­more con­tin­ued this series with not one but six titles, empha­siz­ing Japan’s adap­tion of duels. Uti­liz­ing var­i­ous char­ac­ters and locales, Samu­rai Shodown gives gamers a break from the Tekken/Street Fighter clones on the mar­ket, and shows a brief slice of life in medieval Japan dur­ing which samu­rai fought under the code of Bushido.

I was allowed for a brief moment to not only act out a samu­rai fan­tasy, but also to release any anger in a healthy way. While the mechan­ics take some prac­tice to become famil­iar with, the music, char­ac­ters and graph­ics are top-notch and the story is sim­ple. My only com­plaint is that there’s one cheap-shot char­ac­ter that loves to pounce. For all of the Soul­Cal­ibur clones flood­ing the mar­ket these days, I proudly say Samu­rai Shodown Anthol­ogy has great replay value, and it DEMANDS a space in any gamer’s library. I’m glad that SNK Play­more had the wis­dom to keep this series alive from the begin­ning, instead of a com­pany that relies on milk­ing their cash cow to the bone. Well done, SNK Play­more. Well done.

Unreal Tournament — 3Q2014 issue

An unreal icon for consoles

As some­one who has never really got­ten into the Unreal series or PC shoot­ers in gen­eral, learn­ing to run and gun with one of the sem­i­nal shoot­ers of our time was and has been a chal­lenge. It’s a chal­lenge in patience and in equi­lib­rium, mostly because I can’t play older first-person shoot­ers with­out migraines and vom­it­ing. So, if a game could per­suade me to sit down and enjoy the fruits of its mur­der­ous labor, then more power to it. Unreal Tour­na­ment didn’t have to try to hard to work that mag­i­cal feat.

Unreal Tour­na­ment is a patch­work of ideas found com­monly in mod­ern shoot­ers. It’s arena-based play that requires you to hunt down and elim­i­nate the com­pe­ti­tion. That’s not that hard of a con­cept, actu­ally. You’re given an arse­nal with which to com­plete your reign of car­nage and help­ful items such as health and armor boosts. While the con­cept is easy, the num­ber of con­trol options offered can eas­ily over­whelm even a sea­soned shooter vet­eran. Mostly, you’re just look­ing for a way to aim and shoot, but there’s about 15 dif­fer­ent ways to set up your gun­ning exploits in UT. There’s a wealth of modes offered, too, and you can’t go wrong with pick­ing any of them. It’s nice to be able to prac­tice before jump­ing into the main story mode, or play a good Cap­ture The Flag match.

Despite the vari­ety of modes to run through, the char­ac­ter selec­tion isn’t all that var­ied. Stal­warts, like Mal­colm from the orig­i­nal Unreal, are avail­able but beyond that the char­ac­ter selec­tion is a lit­tle blah. There are some to be unlocked but the ques­tion remains: Do you want to go through the trou­ble of unlock­ing a char­ac­ter that you aren’t going to care about?

The sound­track is decent, with a few stand­out tracks so there’s some­thing to spice up the dis­ap­point­ment of the char­ac­ter selec­tion. The graph­ics are OK, but like that dearth of char­ac­ters, there isn’t much to get excited about. For the trans­la­tion to PlaySta­tion 2, the game plays and looks OK. It’s noth­ing spe­cial but it isn’t ter­ri­ble, either. Just don’t expect super impres­sive PC quality.

Unreal Tour­na­ment is an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment. It’s a PC jug­ger­naut that tries its hand at acces­si­bil­ity in the home mar­ket and doesn’t fail mis­er­ably yet doesn’t entirely inno­vate, either. If you were won­der­ing what the hype was all about for the PC dar­ling, the PS2 ver­sion is just the right ver­sion to intro­duce you to the world of Unreal.