Onimusha Dawn of Dreams ReviewCain Dornan
The fourth iteration in the hack n slash action RPG series, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams sees players once again assuming the role of a powerful and skilled warrior as you battle against the classic evil tyrant who is planning to gain control of the world. While the games core aspects do not differ greatly from the last installment, Dawn of Dreams offers another solid experience that will please fans of the series, and comfortably ushers in new players with its new, stand-alone storyline that doesnt require you to know the history of the series in order to understand it.
You take on the role of Soki, Oni of the Ash, who is well known for his strength and skill in battle. Sporting a blue, Soki has earned himself the nickname of The Blue Demon, a name that much of Japan has come to know and fear. Soki has taken it upon himself to battle against the latest evil ruler, Hideyoshi, who is attempting to turn all Japanese citizens into the perfect soldier: those who do not need to eat or sleep, have no feelings and obey every order that is issued by their master. From here, the evil dictator plans to take control of the world, sending humanity into a downward spiral of hopelessness unless Soki can prevent Hideyoshi from succeeding in his devious plans.
The game begins by equipping you with the bare basics of the storyline. Youll be introduced to a bunch of mysterious trees that, for whatever reason, Soki hates so much so that he is traveling across the country in an effort to burn them all. Its not immediately apparent why he is on such a quest, but as time passes, the storyline pans out to let you in on what is happening, bit by bit. This method manages to keep you intrigued and interested in the games storyline from start to finish, as youll be constantly hit with new, expanding information that changes your train of thought that you may have held earlier in the game.
Accompanying the engaging storyline is the inclusion of your allied friends, who each sport their own unique fighting style and personality. In addition to controlling Soki, youll regularly take on the roles of your sidekicks, giving you access to new abilities that allows you to reach new places or complete certain areas with greater ease. Although each character controls in a similar fluid style to Soki, each offers their own unique feel that adds a further level of variation to the game. Fighting characters with one of your feminine friends, for an example, puts you in control of an assault rifle, rather than a sword. Using this weapon, you are able to attack enemies from a distance, however, close-quarter combat becomes an issue due to her limited close vicinity attacks. Another character, a calm, intelligent Monk, is able to communicate with the dead, allowing him to leech useful information about his surroundings or obtain new items when conversing with the deceased.
Whilst not directly controlling your friends, you are able to select one of them to join you on your quest as a computer-controlled character. You can easily and quickly issue commands to your ally by tapping the appropriate directional button on the PS2s controller, in which the ally responds to well. Whenever they are running low on health, you can command them to take a break and regain some of the strength, which is a useful feature when you are running short on health.
Although a simple hack n slash title at heart, Dawn of Dreams battle system offers a surprisingly varied, satisfying experience that doesnt see you tiring from battling hordes of monsters quickly. Each of the monsters, referred to as the Genma in-game, offer a range of different strengths and strategies in order to defeat. Whilst the general enemies usually require little more than repeatedly slashing, others require some more tactics in order to beat. This is particularly relevant during the common boss battles, which sees you attacking specific body parts or patiently waiting until the boss reveals their certain weakness. The regular boss battles, with most being straightforward and capable of being beaten on the first attempt, keep the interest and action elements of the game high.
While a solid range of different enemies and regular boss fights aid in keeping the experience intense, the intelligence of these creatures is thoroughly disappointing. Yes, you will occasionally need to time your shots in order to inflict damage, however, the majority of the creatures are thoughtless, mindless drones who simply attack, recover, attack and then repeat over. Its very easy to learn the enemys maneuvers to a point where you know what move they will perform exactly as they do. For the most part, it doesnt subtract from the game, but for those who are expecting computer-controlled enemies that hold some intelligence, you will be sadly disappointed.
Mixing up the action are the regular puzzle elements, which range from simple colour matching combinations through to full environment-based puzzles to solve. Regular puzzle boxes appear throughout the level, requiring you to match a number of differently coloured orbs into a line of the same colour, similar to the Rubicks Cube. Youll also run across the occasional larger scale puzzle that sees you altering the environment to suit your needs, such as flicking the correct switches to cause double-sided doors to open when needed. Whenever you flick the switch, the doors affect two different levels of pathway, making it essential that you flick the right switch at the right time to ensure that you dont become trapped further down the line.
Dawn of Dreams also includes a touch of RPG goodness, allowing you to gather experience and points that are earned through fighting and then use them to increase your skill, armor or weapons. Upgrading your gear and skill is crucial in order to be able to compete against the increasingly difficult enemies.
The Onimusha series has a standing tradition of providing impressive visuals and sound, and this largely carries over to the latest title. Dawn of Dreams offers a range of pleasing visuals during both the detailed cinematics and whilst in-game, providing grahpcial beauties that satisfying on all fronts. While the graphics arent amazing, they do offer a great level of detail that is particularly noticeable with the high level of detail on characters, which sees every piece of armor and facial expressions being presented in great detail.
A range of sound effects have been pulled from previous titles, in particular the slashing and clinging sounds of the weapons. A library of great new music, however, has made its debuted, which is backed up with a mixed bag of voice work. While some characters sound great, others are downright annoying. There is also the issue of the English words not moving in time with the characters lip-synching and body movements, which were originally designed for the Japanese language.
While the latest title doesnt stray far from the norm, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams provides an engaging, length experience that should hold your interest for a fair period of time. The battle system offers a fair level of depth, and the ever-evolving storyline fails to become boring. Fans of previous titles in the series will be pleased with Capcoms latest offering, and new fans are urged to try out the series with this latest, pick-up-and-play styled game.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.