The Onimusha series, with its various incarnations on the Playstation 2 and Xbox, has lured fans with solid action gameplay and kept them with strong stories and some minor RPG elements. Now, with Onimusha Tactics, Capcom is taking advantage of the series' setting to experiment with the tactical RPG genre. They've already shown a knack for the basics in Breath of Fire V, but is this too much of a step?
There are no real surprises as far as the gameplay mechanics are concerned. The player's main hub of activity is the world map, where they can access the status menus and do all the equipping and customization of their characters. Once satisfied that the team is battle worthy, the TRPGamer can choose a location to do battle. Apparently, there will be a decent amount of choice of where to go. Narrow down the army to eight fighters, and itís clobberin' time.
Battles in Onimusha Tactics almost always begin with an exchange of dialogue. Itís only after everyone has had the chance to put in their two cents that the turn-based antics to begin. Units (those are party members for you uninitiated) are moved along a three-quarter view, square based grid. As with sex, position is key in tactical RPGs. The range of the unit's attack must be considered, and there are the ever-present topographical concerns as well. Depending on where the unit is placed in the field, they might have a distinct advantage or disadvantage based on the terrain. One thing that players will find unique about Onimusha Tactics' battles are the enemies. The majority of foes are monsters, as opposed to evil versions of the player's own character classes. This should help shake things up a bit: not only is it more interesting aesthetically, but if the library of monsters is large enough, then the player will be required to devise new strategies as play proceeds. After all, once you've seen one Knight, you've seen them all.
In addition to powering up through normal experience, Onimaru (our hero) can use his special sword to collect the souls of enemies, just like in the action games. Another source of strength is found in the Genma stones. There are nine types in all, and they're used to create equipment and enhance abilities. When it comes to character customization, they're the player's main commodity.
Onimusha Tactics is part of the Onimusha 2 storyline, and even has the same characters. The game begins when Onimaru, swordsman from the Ogre clan, receives a message to cease his training and return to his country immediately. One of the big cheeses of the underworld, Genma, is out to invade the land and cause chaos in general. And then there's that shadowy figure Nobunaga, who certainly has no good intentions. Undoubtedly, there will be great drama in the playing out of this tale. The gameís cutscenes, for the most part, use the same sprites and engine as the battles, but there are some art-based scenes as well.
The console Onimusha games have used the realistic and dark graphics fitting for a survival-horror game, but it goes without saying that this would not be an appropriate route for this GBA title. Instead, the developers have elected to use a lighter, almost cartoony aesthetic, while retaining the integrity of the setting with the stylized characters and locales. The pastel palette looks otherworldly, and is in fact reminiscent of other samurai versus demon games, such as Otogi. On the battleground, characters move with fluidity and smoothness not often associated with sprites this small. Of course, this being a Capcom game and all, these characters will be extra smooth in performing their wondrous-looking special abilities. The console Onimushas have left high expectations as far as music goes, and at this stage, Tactics is on track to meeting the challenge.
At the final tally, Onimusha Tactics just doesnít have that much to set it apart, especially when it is being released so close to its stiff competition. Its place in the hearts of TRPG fans will be dependent on its gameplay. Please keep tabs on the gameís release date below.