In a recent interview, Street Fighter overlord Yoshinori Ono let slip that internal discussions at Capcom were occurring over which of the company’s many dormant classic series should be revived, with Onimusha being mentioned specifically by name. I’m a big Onimusha fan, so naturally this is good news to me, even if nothing may ever result of such early discussions. Beyond just Onimusha, I think Capcom of all publishers may very well sit on the largest vault of beloved series that have laid quiet for too long. Off the top of my head, I can immediately think of Onimusha, Dino Crisis, Darkstalkers, Maximo, Okami, Final Fight, Power Stone, Demon’s Crest…. the list goes on. It’s good to know that the door isn’t completely closed on some of these and indicates that Capcom still is in touch with what made the company a success in the first place…unlike certain other competitors of theirs.
Onimusha was the first game I got a chance to play when I first got ahold of the PS2 back in the day. I don’t know if other people have these, but there are certain games that in my mind sort of symbolize my experience with a console. These games aren’t necessarily the best or my favorite games for a particular system, but they sort of set the tone for how I remember my time spent playing the rest of the platform’s library. For NES, that would be Super Mario Bros. For PS1, it would be Final Fantasy VII. For PS2, it would probably be the original Onimusha: Warlords.
For those who have no familiarity with Onimusha, imagine it as a hack-and-slash samurai version of Resident Evil. The series is composed of four games, all of which were released during the lifespan of the PS2. (There was also a tactical RPG spinoff on the GBA, and some mobile and browser games which are best left unmentioned.) The series mainly features Japanese swordsmen as playable protagonists in an alternate history where humans are covertly hunted for food and ritual sacrifice by a race of extra-dimensional demons known as the Genma. Across history, the Genma have made blood pacts with great conquerors to lend their power in battle in exchange for a stable supply of human nourishment drawn from the defeated peoples. During the point in history that the series takes place, the Genma have allied with the ambitious Japanese warlord Nobunaga Oda. Nobunaga’s armies thus become a supernatural threat to the nation’s already war torn populace.
Similar to the Resident Evil series, Onimusha features a fixed camera system with polygonal character models overlaid on pre-rendered backgrounds. Movement comes in the form of RE-style tank controls, and combat is, of course, focused on sword fighting as opposed to gunplay. I wouldn’t call Onimusha a horror series, but especially in the first game you can sense the series’ survival horror forebears. The original Onimusha features a dark and sometimes macabre atmosphere, and the events of the game are entirely centered on a feudal Japanese castle overrun with monsters in the same way that RE1 and 2 are centered on the Spencer Mansion and RCPD HQ respectively.
In hearing of this news, I kind of have to wonder what a modern Onimusha game would look like. I very much doubt today’s audiences would be receptive to a game that closely follows the series roots with pre-rendered backgrounds and tank controls. I see a new Onimusha going one of two ways: Either it would focus on slow-paced, methodical swordplay like Dark Souls or fast-paced acrobatic and combo-driven combat like Devil May Cry. Of those two, I think the slower Dark Souls-inspired combat would be the preferable of the two, as that would be closer to the PS2 games. Also, a game that took cues from Dark Souls’ horror atmosphere would help it feel like one of the original PS2 games.
However, all of this dreaming may be for not, as Ono explained that there are going to be certain “battles” he’ll have to fight to get a new game made. But, whatever, it’s just good to know that someone is fighting for it.