Onimusha: Warlords is available today on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. This entry is a re-release of the PlayStation 2 original, which launched way back in 2001. Capcom took the original game, cleaned up some of the textures, added a widescreen aspect ratio, a slightly improved control scheme, and a new soundtrack. It's not the most in-depth remaster, but the price is a cool $19.99.
Onimusha: Warlords does and does not hold up. The story is wonderfully small-scale, as samurai Samanosuke Akechi tries to save a princess from warlord Nobunaga Oda, who has made a pact with demons. He's not trying to save the world, just do his job. Capcom's efforts to clean up the game visually pay off and Onimusha looks pretty good, despite its 18 year lineage. The aesthetic, combining feudal Japanese architecture with the cancerous growth and decay of the demons, was fairly unique at the time.
Combat is probably where Onimusha: Warlords falters the most. The original was the halfway point between Capcom's own titles: it retains the tank controls and puzzle sections of Resident Evil, while flailing vaguely in the direction of Devil May Cry's slashing action gameplay. There's a high skill ceiling, with timed instant kills and a host of weapons exploiting opponent weakness, but it feels rather slow compared to some other games. Is it worth the asking price? I think so. Onimusha: Warlords is rather enjoyable despite its age and lack of significant improvements, acting as a look back at a different Capcom.
Over the past few years, Capcom has been mining its back catalog for re-releases, resulting in collections like the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, Mega Man Legacy Collection, Mega Man X Legacy Collection, Capcom Beat 'Em Up Bundle, and more. The Nintendo Switch especially has been a boon for Capcom, offering a chance to re-release and repackage games in a slightly different format for becoup sales, like Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers and Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. Like Disney releasing classics from the Vault, Capcom is giving you a glimpse of its past. At the same time, the publisher is standing on firm footing with modern releases. Monster Hunter: World, Mega Man 11, and Resident Evil 7 have seen success for the company, and Devil May Cry 5 looks to be a solid return-to-form for the franchise.
The halfway point between these two ideas is Resident Evil 2. With its upcoming release, Capcom has put far more into this remake than most other publishers would. It's a top-to-bottom recreation of the original game, using the technology Capcom developed for Resident Evil 7. It's a stunning looking game with new voice acting, improved combat, and a changed layout for Raccoon City, while seemingly retaining everything that made the original one of the best games in the franchise. If the E3 2018 and Gamescom demos are any indication, Resident Evil 2 is going to be a fantastic game and a signpost for the future of the franchise as whole.
Playing Onimusha: Warlords and Resident Evil 2's 1-Shot demo back-to-back makes me wonder if Capcom is willing to put a little more effort into reviving its extensive back catalog. Resident Evil is the franchise the publisher focuses on for good reason—the sales numbers are king—but there are Resident Evil-adjacent titles that could use a new lease on life.
Onimusha: Warlords and the fantastic sequel Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny sit right underneath Devil May Cry as Capcom's 31st and 33rd best-selling releases ever. I think it'd be worth taking the RE Engine, which powers Resident Evil 2 and Devil May Cry 5, and bringing Onimusha back to life. I admit that part of Onimusha's aesthetic leanings have already been co-opted in the modern era, with the Souls-like Nioh, From Software's own Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Nioh's own upcoming sequel, but there's still room for another game to differentiate itself.
A new Onimusha doesn't have to be a sprawling huge title like Resident Evil 2 or a combat-centric affair like the aforementioned games. Instead, it should drill down and focus on a smaller story like the first game: One samurai versus demon hordes in a single location. Similar to the Yakuza games, Capcom would want to trade on making the location feel real and adding significant depth. Beef up the combat to more modern standards, sure, but the focus should be on narrative and atmosphere.
That combat could trade more on accessibility. Nioh and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice are positioned as more hardcore action experiences for enthusiast players. A new Onimusha could retain the high skill ceiling of the original, while having a base experience that could be enjoyed by more folks. A gameplay floor aimed at more players, combined with an excellent narrative and a visual style powered by the RE Engine could be a winner.
And if I'm envisioning Onimusha getting a new lease on life, then I might as well aim for the stars and ask that Dino Crisis get the same treatment. This sister series to Resident Evil and Onimusha is all but forgotten these days; when I bought it up in the USgamer Slack channel, our youngest editors had no idea what the game was. Dino Crisis was roughly Resident Evil with dinosaurs instead of zombies. It was actually directed and produced by Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami, and despite being on the first PlayStation, it ditched the pre-rendered backgrounds of Resident Evil and Onimusha for fully 3D environments.
The original Dino Crisis actually climbed higher than Onimusha ever did. At 2.4 million copies sold, it's Capcom's 23rd best-selling game ever, right under Monster Hunter Freedom 2 and DmC: Devil May Cry. Unfortunately, the sequel saw a steep drop in sales and Dino Crisis 3 is... an experience, which ended up killing the franchise. It's 2018 though, and in a market where the decidedly average Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom can make $1.6 billion and $1.3 billion worldwide respectively, I think there's room for a new Dino Crisis. Hell, if you're getting bold Capcom, why not grab the Jurassic World license itself?
Bringing back Onimusha and Dino Crisis would only be scratching the surface though. Capcom is sitting on a great portfolio of intellectual property that could be repurposed in the modern era. Dragon's Dogma is getting a release on Switch, but still needs a sequel. Lost Planet had some solid ideas before the series lost its way. Simply typing "God Hand" has probably caused several fans to clutch at their chests. Octopath Traveler has shown there's a desire for classic-style RPGs on Switch, so why not revisit Breath of Fire? Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, and Street Fighter keep the lights on, but that's not all you have to be about Capcom. In the meantime, I'll keep enjoying Onimusha: Warlords for its little blast into the past.