The Onimusha: Warlords HD remaster is upon us, and while we love that the game is back in the spotlight, I can’t help but think it might deserve even more. Maybe, just maybe, Capcom should go the Resident Evil 2 route and remake the game with current technology instead of just giving it a snazzy HD facelift.
So, here’s Onimusha: Warlords’ dirty little secret: it was originally imagined as Resident Evil: Feudal Japan Edition. If that sounds familiar, you are probably thinking of the original Devil May Cry since that game began life as a prototype of Resident Evil 4.
But, while Devil May Cry and Resident Evil survived into the current console generation, Onimusha was almost forgotten. Heck, before the Onimusha: Warlords HD remaster announcement, we assumed Capcom had forgotten the franchise, and it would join the likes of Dino Crisis and Power Stone in the graveyard of abandoned franchises.
In a fair and just world, Capcom would have released Onimusha 8 to rave reviews last year. Instead, the company is releasing an HD remaster, which isn’t bad but not as good as a full remake.
Before I continue, I would like to go on a tangent and share a personal experience.
When I was in college, I liked to visit the local arcade after exams and spend a few bucks. One day, I noticed an arcade cabinet that stood out from the rest. It featured a first-person perspective but set itself apart from on-rail shooters like House of the Dead thanks to one detail: instead of a gun, this game featured a sword.
Rather than shooting zombies from afar, this game forced me to parry enemies who were about to reshape my face with rusty pikes. I sucked at the game, but it sucked me in. I wanted to perfect my virtual sword swinging skills because the game was unlike anything I experienced.
This game was Mazan: Flash of the Blade, and I view it the same way I view Onimusha: Warlords.
Both Onimusha and Mazan took an existing genre (survival horror and on-rail shooters, respectively) and created novel experiences by replacing guns with the sword. No longer could players safely snipe zombie heads from afar. Instead, players had to get in close and wait until the very last second to knock enemies off balance and deliver devastating blows.
Granted, prior survival horror games occasionally included a few melee weapons, but they were always inferior to firearms. Moreover, players were limited to wildly flailing melee weapons around like angry monkeys, hoping to stun lock opponents to death.
Parries and blocks were a bit of a novelty when they were included in Onimusha: Warlords.
Even though Onimusha never became a huge, sprawling franchise, you can see shades of its combat mechanics in many modern games. The series deserves to be remembered… simple as that.
Since Onimusha: Warlords began life as a feudal take on Resident Evil, you’d think it would be big on scares. Regrettably, the Onimusha franchise is more about slicing up zombie samurai than scaring players with them.
A remake would be an excellent opportunity for the developers to take a second stab at creating a scary game with sword combat, pun intended.
The point of most remakes is to tell the same story a different way, which usually reflects the sensibilities of the time. Remakes can also take advantage of new technology and techniques.
With everything Capcom has made and learned over the years since Onimusha: Warlords’ first release, it could easily sculpt a remake that is closer to the original scary Resident Evil-esque vision.
The upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake, for instance, is a marriage of the original Resident Evil 2’s story (with a few creative liberties), Resident Evil 4’s over-the-shoulder shooting/camera, and Resident Evil 7’s graphical fidelity and atmosphere.
An Onimusha: Warlords remake could, if not should, be in the vein of Resident Evil 2’s remake. It would borrow the standout aspects from Capcom’s best games to create a new, horrifying experience.
The story of the original game could combine with the tense atmosphere/scares of Resident Evil 7, the combat of Devil May Cry 5 (or Dragon’s Dogma), and the RE Engine to produce a game that is just as scary as it is as action-packed —as was originally intended.
Let’s be honest here: the modern gaming landscape looks bleak. The latest entries in long-running franchises are the subject of controversy and sell well under projections.
Quite frankly, I find myself drawn more towards older titles, and I’m hardly alone. A seemingly overwhelming desire for classic games with new graphics led to Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Oh, and the upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake.
People gravitate towards what they know, and gamers know that slicing up enemies with a sword is fun. They know that even tiny alterations to established norms can set a game apart. More importantly, people know that feudal Japan will always be fascinating.
Onimusha: Warlords is the perfect microcosm of all these aspects and more, and it deserves to be remembered and preserved, especially with smooth character meshes and 4K HD resolution.