Warrior unleashed

Your eyes bleed. Your stomach churns. Your soul — battered by the claws of a rampant demon — demands rescue. Gripping your katana, you spur hard and precisely. Only “Onimusha” offers such unique convergence of blood-yielding action and horror show, the first PlayStation 2 disc to prove that a $300 scavenger hunt is well worth your energy.

Enter Samanosuke, a noble protagonist and eager volunteer in the war against feudal Japan’s worst nightmare: gut-splitting, bone-crunching devils. Your goal as this ancient samurai: Deliver princess Yukihime from kidnapping and untie the rest of the country from a hellish siege.

In “Onimusha” (“oni” meaning demon, while “musha” refers to warrior), gameplay is fast and furious. By utilizing role-playing elements — such as the ability to slaughter Hadean creatures, collect their souls and upgrade your weapons — the game oozes class. Then, combine that with a nearly flawless combat system (severing the heads of satanic basilisks and dicing their entrails is unparalleled in design, without a single glitch or criticism). The phrase “utterly captivating” pierces my mind.

While on the contrary, reluctant gaming publications argue that “Onimusha” features a putrid story line, specifically stating that the plot is “… far from complex or intriguing.” This concerns me. Being a game, “Onimusha” focuses on sincerely wicked gameplay — easy to learn, but challenging to master. Exit the need for an Oscar-worthy screenplay, since the concepts behind the action are presented as brief, uncluttered cinemas — just the way they should be. There is no compulsion for Kubrick-laden depth.

Essentially, it is almost impossible to unlock any faults in Capcom’s feudal masterpiece, following heavy in the footprints of its “Resident Evil” franchise. The survival-horror genre has never contained so much cinematic ingenuity. Rest guaranteed: Five hours of gameplay has never been so enthralling.

“Onimusha” is truly the first call-to-action for players to embrace PS2. Its vision is crisp. Its scope is undoubtedly magnificent. Finally, it’s engaging and taut — just as historic games should be.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at [email protected].

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