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By Eric Qualls
Before the release of Onimusha 3, Capcom unleashed Onimusha Blade Warriors onto the unsuspecting public. Blade Warriors is a fighting game that has more in common with Super Smash Bros than the fighting games we usually see from Capcom. However, the cast of Onimusha isn't anywhere near as appealing as Nintendo's Smash Bros crew, and when you strip away the characters all you are left with is a so-so fighting game that is too easy and too simple for its own good. Blade Warriors isn't too bad, but its appeal is severely limited.
Blade Warriors allows you to fight it out using just about any character from the Onimusha series you could want. Main characters Samanosuke and Jube as well as secondary characters like Kaede and Kotaro are at your disposal. You'll also be able to use some demons such as the zombie warrior. There are many more characters to unlock, so Onimusha fans have a lot of work to do if they want to unlock everything. I say Onimusha fans have a lot of work to do because you probably won't want to spend too much time with this if you aren't already a fan.
Blade Warriors includes the same modes you would find in any fighting game. There is a story mode, but it isn't very interesting. You basically go from one fight to the next absorbing as many souls as possible so you can upgrade your character in between fights. What you do to advance in story mode is kill a certain number of enemies or absorb a specified number of souls. There are also boss fights here and there, but nothing in the story mode is too difficult. The actual story that is being told is pretty worthless and what happens in this game has nothing to do with the rest of the Onimusha series, so it seems like kind of a waste. The mode where you'll be spending most of your time is the versus mode. You can configure the matches in versus mode pretty much however you want, which is great if you don't like a certain soul or weapon and want to take it out. You can play with up to four human players and you can also play with three computer controlled opponents as well.
The fighting system in Blade Warriors is more complex than it initially seems, but it is still pretty simple. There is an attack and a kick button and you can also cast special attacks by pressing R1 and kick. You can also dash, jump to a different level in the multi-tiered environments, and quickly slip in behind your enemy for a surprise attack. Tapping the attack and kick buttons will string together combos. That sounds like every other fighting game, but in Blade Warriors the number of moves is severely limited. Each character has his or her small move set and that is it. The characters all have different styles and attacks, but the way you execute them are all pretty much the same across the board, so it is easy to move from one character to the next. The basic attacks are really all you need in order to compete in Blade Warriors, but there are some especially devastating special moves along with counters and other moves that you can learn if you are an obsessive Onimusha fan or a fighting game master with nothing better to do.
During a fight, lots of things are going on besides just you slicing into whatever enemy is closest to you. Treasure chests will appear in the arena and have things such as swords and guns inside. There are even some funny items such as a large fan and a baseball bat that you can use as a weapon. Also littering the arena are gems that affect your speed, power, and energy, and there are also souls from your fallen enemies that you have to absorb so you can upgrade your character. The environments you fight in have multiple levels, so while you are fighting on one level your enemies may be on another level absorbing souls or picking up powerups. Having to think about all of the treasure chests and other things as well as taking on enemies on multiple levels make the matches in Blade Warriors more interesting than they would have been otherwise, but it isn't enough to make the simple fighting engine any better. The characters are too similar and the game overall is too easy and too short. That is just too bad.
Graphically, Blade Warriors is a definite step down from previous Onimusha games. The characters look pretty good, but they are clearly not as detailed as they were in past games. The animation is smooth, but there just isn't enough of it. You'll be seeing the same punches and kicks a lot in this game. The environments are varied and look good overall, but nothing is quite as sharp looking as it probably should be.
The sound fares a little better, but not by much. The soundtrack is great and is very appropriate, and the sound effects for the fighting are excellent. Where the sound fails, though, is in the voice acting. Each character only has a handful of phrases and they repeat constantly throughout a match. The way the lines are delivered is so dry and just plain bad that it quickly becomes annoying.
Overall, Onimusha Blade Warriors is a game with a lot of potential, but it ultimately falls short due to its cast. The game plays exactly like Super Smash Bros, but the Onimusha characters lack the charm and universal appeal that Mario, Luigi, Link, and all the rest have in Smash Bros. The reason why Smash Bros works is because the characters are all so great and bring back so many memories for us that we overlook the fact that the gameplay isn't exactly the deepest the fighting genre has ever seen. You can't just insert another group of characters and expect that same kind of magic. Had the fighting been more satisfying, the cast wouldn't have been a problem, but when you try to insert them into a wacky beat-em-up it just doesn't work. In the end, Blade Warriors is too easy, too simple, and too short to be worth a purchase. If you are a huge Onimusha fan, you'll find something to like, but everyone else should rent it first because you'll get more than your fill in just a day or two.
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