jaykho's Shin Onimusha Dawn of Dreams (PlayStation 2) review

Rise above humanity.. Rise above the oni.. Become the onimusha..

Onimusha is one of those really enjoyable games that's now been left behind and seems content to be stuck in a rut. In isolation - and compared to the other games in the series - it's a game you can get really engrossed with, but also one you can get quite tired of. The combat's fluid, relatively deep and involving once it gets going, but it's also a wholly repetitive game that's been surpassed in so many meaningful ways that you can't simply be content with 'more of the same' anymore. By all means rent it; die-hard genre fans won't complain, but if you're looking for the next big hack and slash epic that does something new, there are more exciting options around than Dawn of Dreams right now.

One major new addition in Dawn of Dreams is the new command system, allowing you to deliver basic orders to your cohorts via the d-pad, such as all-out attack, attack and follow, wait, as well as a character-specific skill. As useful as it sounds, it merely shows up the limitations of the buddy AI, with characters either far too gung-ho for their own good or not effective enough. To get around these limitations, downed buddies never actually 'die' no matter what, meaning that they'll wake up and rejoin the battle after while. Not only that, ordering them to wait recharges their health halfway (which is a bit of a cheating fudge) or you can go the whole hog and take full control of them and take advantage of whatever special abilities they might have.

the game is an incredibly formulaic grind that settles into an immediately identifiable pattern right from the beginning - just like the previous games in the series. The carrot of all those upgrades, new skills, new characters and the end-of-level boss encounters always seems within reach.Unlike the previous sprawling adventures, Dawn of Dreams is divided very specifically into 17 stages (which you can revisit between levels with the newly unlocked characters), spread over 2 DVDs, making it (by some distance) the biggest in the series to date. As gratifying as it is to level up all your characters abilities and weapons, the fact that you can keep switching between characters to get around your failing health is a ruinous mechanic that you can't resist using. As a consequence, nothing's ever that much of a challenge, and getting through the game feels less satisfying than it used to. Onimusha Dawn of Dreams is a great game!


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