PS2 REVIEW: ONIMUSHA: DAWN OF DREAMS

Don't fix it if it ain't broke, says the house of Mega Man fame. by Cole Smith

Please click here to read our other Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams Review

March 27, 2006 - Or, don't kill off a series until you've completely milked your cash cow. Capcom has decided to bring the Onimusha series back from the pasture.

So do we begin the game by finding all the inhabitants of Nobunaga taking a shower, and realizing that it was all just a dream? Did it just "dawn" on them that it was all just a "dream?" No. That would be mental. This story is all new and features all new characters. It takes place 15 years after the fall of Nobunaga. Since the story begins anew, you don't have to have any prior knowledge of the series. For true believers, it's time once again to take up arms and enjoy one of the best Onimusha games ever.

In the beginning we see a peaceful Japan enjoying its prosperity when a strange planet approaches bringing with it devastation in the form of earthquakes and volcanoes. The benevolent ruler, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, begins to go mad and seizes absolute power over the country as he becomes a brutal dictator. With all the strange happening the return of the wicked Genma is near. Chaos, destruction and evil are once again threatening to destroy the stability of Japan and the lives of its inhabitants as demons begin to walk the earth. But then appears a savior known as the Blue Demon. His real name is Soki and he's a power to be reckoned with.

The story is well told through cinematic cutscenes that are some of the best in the series. The plot is thick but not thick enough that it can't twist and turn. The writing is good but there are some translation issues. There are lots of characters involved but they aren't all thrown at you in the first cutscene. They come in at various stages and even though you may hear their names beforehand, you won't have to deal with them until later in the game. The premise and the role of the characters in the story is similar to the trilogy but with new characters that are successors to the previous ones. Unlike the trilogy, there is some levity in the story which makes it seem a little more fun and not so damn somber.

Not only is combat system more fluid, flexible and deep, but some of the problems that plagued the trilogy have been addressed. The camera is not fixed to specific angles. Most of the time you can move it 350-degrees so that you can see enemies that would otherwise take shots at you off screen. There are plenty of environmental puzzles where you will have to see clear to the other side of a drop or another platform to make the appropriate move to get to the other side. Moves such as these are so much easier with the manual camera.

Offering five different playable characters with different abilities makes the combat system deeper but without resorting to tons of button combo commands. You will use the same button commands for the different characters but you will access exclusive moves. Unlike so many games with multiple playable characters, you are actually going to see a need to use them all to get through the numerous obstacles throughout the stages. Whether fighting specific enemies or confronted by the various puzzles, you will have to find the right man (or woman) for the job. There isn't one particular character that you can use to get through the entire game although most of the time you will be playing as Soli most of the time.

You can issue commands to the AI characters, but there are only four commands. One tells them to lay low while they regenerate their health. It's funny how the enemy seems to help them out by not attacking them too aggressively. All your party members seem to do is block them as they are never provoked into battle. Another old strategy is to switch party members when one character is low on health. There are plenty of health potions available but when the demons get bigger and badder, they deplete your heath quicker.

Playing as the different characters you will use different skills, powers and weapons. Huge swords, projectiles, blades, magic, psychic powers and superhuman strength are some of the weapons and abilities that you will employ against the demons. As the demons increase in power and size, so you and your party members will also be able to gain more moves and upgrade your powers and weapons.

There are two distinct ways to level-up. One is with the capturing of souls which will increase your weapons and upgrade your armor while experience points, which you will receive for success in combat, will increase your powers and abilities. There is plenty of fighting in Dawn of Dreams but it's offset with some interesting puzzles and side quests. The gameplay is open-ended in that you don't have to perform all of the side quests but some will definitely be to your benefit in terms of upgrading. The map will open up in the areas that you explore. There is a sense of freedom to the game but there is some backtracking that you will be forced into. Thankfully you have a little buddy that lives in a vase named Minokichi, that will help you warp to other levels. Some of the bosses can be really tough and can send you back a long, long way. You'll encounter some of these bosses more than once. By completing the game you can go back and encounter more difficult enemies, as well as find new unlockables and more challenging puzzles.

There is a two-player co-op mode but it's not easy to find. I don't know if I should spoil it and tell you where it is but I can tell you this, don't get your hopes up. It's not that exciting. There is a two-player arena battle mode that you will unlock when you complete the game the first time through.

The graphics are incredibly smooth. Characters display their personalities through their walk, whether it's the plodding gait of an evil zombie demon or the cocky swagger of the hero. All of the environments are richly detailed. This adventure will take you indoors and outside both day and night through fog, rain and sunny skies. The voiceovers are good and you can select from both Japanese and English. Expect some out-of-synch lip movements.

Dawn of Dreams is a long game. It's full of surprises, in terms of gameplay, storyline and unlockables. It's a little more complicated than any of the games in the trilogy but consider this a bonus for die-hard fans.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams (PS2)
5.0
Graphics
Absolutely amazing graphics. The cutscenes are movie quality and the in-game graphics are richly detailed with incredibly smooth animation.
4.2
Control
There are five different characters to control, each with different weapons and fighting styles. If that isn't enough, you can upgrade weapons and abilities for a huge variety of combat moves.
4.2
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some bad translation makes the story seem a little wacky but the acting is good and the music and sound effects are top shelf.
4.5
Play Value
If you look for everything in this game and play all of the difficulty settings and the multi-player games, you'll be busy until next winter.
4.5
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Preview By Gooseberry

Capcom announced Shin Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams for PlayStation 2, the 4th installment of the popular samurai action adventure series. This time the game will have a new setting, the story takes place in 1598, 16 years after the battles between Samanosuke and Nobunaga in Onimusha 3.

The world is in peace until one day, suddenly a red star appears from the sky, and causing natural disasters at various places over the country, and the genma monsters reappear on the land, and the ruler of the land - Toyotomi Hideyoshi also became berserk.

The producer is Inafune, the cherry blossoms is the theme of the game. The protagonist is an original character, instead of modeled after an actor like the previous games. Let's hope there aren't any real actors that look like the main guy in Dawn of Dreams, since all of the real actors used as digitized heroes in Onimusha have been deceased. Aside from Jean Reno in Onimusha 3. As far as weapons, our protagonist will wield two long blades as weapon, one is red and one is blue. I wonder if it's like Smarties....you should always kill with the red one last.

The game is currently 20% completed, Capcom is aiming to push out the game sometimes in spring 2006.

By Gooseberry
CCC Freelance Writer

Click For Media
System: PS2
Dev: Capcom
Pub: Capcom
Release: Mar 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review By Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best