Onimusha (鬼武者, literally "Oni Warrior") is a series of historical fantasy themed action adventure games developed by Capcom. The series centers on the historic figures that shaped Japan's history, retelling their stories with supernatural elements. All the mainline games, which so far have all been released only for the PlayStation 2, are of the action-adventure genre, a combination of third person combat and puzzle solving, where the protagonist wields the power of the Oni enabling them to fight the Genma, the main enemy of the series.
As of December 31, 2022, the series has sold a total of 8.5 million units worldwide, making it Capcom's ninth best-selling franchise.
A high-definition remaster of the first game, Onimusha: Warlords, was released in January 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.
The gameplay in most of the Onimusha games is roughly based off of the mechanics from Capcom's survival horror franchise, Resident Evil. Even though the protagonist changes in every Onimusha title, he is always a skilled swordsman who embarks on a set mission and journey, which involves slaying demons and fearsome enemies during the waning years of the Warring States period in feudal Japan. In each game, the protagonist has the ability to absorb Genma souls from defeated enemies, which helps to restore health, infuse power within weapons and armor, and provide power for the elemental attacks of special weapons.
The control scheme of Onimusha resembles that found in the Resident Evil series. The player controls their character using the D-Pad (although later games such as Onimusha 3: Demon Siege and Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams introduced analog stick control) and travels in a fairly linear method, able to rotate slowly with the input of an opposing direction. Characters tend to move slowly and can only slightly increase their speed with the dash maneuver by tapping twice in any direction. What may frustrate some gamers is that Onimusha's characters cannot perform basic actions that have been taken for granted in most other action-oriented titles, such as jumping, grabbing, and climbing over obstacles.
Unlike most of the mainline Resident Evil games, Onimusha is very action-oriented with a heavy emphasis on combat. The player uses a various arsenal of destructive weaponry, ranging from regular katana to elemental-based broadswords. The player does, however, possess a limited supply of spiritual energy which can be used for magical attacks. These magical attacks, which vary depending on what weapon is equipped and other offensive attributes, can be raised throughout the game by accumulation of souls from defeated enemies or certain items or trinkets.
List of games
- Onimusha: Warlords - (2001)
- Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny - (2002)
- Onimusha 3: Demon Siege - (2004)
- Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams - (2006)
- Onimusha Tactics - (2003)
- Onimusha Blade Warriors - (2003)
- Jissen Pachi-Slot Hisshouhou! Onimusha 3 - (2005 - Japan only) - a pachislot game based on Onimusha 3 developed by Sammy Studios and published by Sega.
- Onimusha Soul - (2012)
The series originated in 1997 when Yoshiki Okamoto had an idea to create Sengoku Biohazard, a ninja version of Capcom's 1996 survival horror game Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan), set in the Sengoku period and featuring a "ninja house" filled with booby traps, similar to the mansion from Resident Evil, where battles would be fought using swords and shuriken. According to Okamoto, the house would contain "hidden doors behind walls, ceilings that fall down to [the player], scrolls and ninja magic, and many other ninja techniques". The project was originally intended for the Nintendo 64's 64DD.
Onimusha: Warlords was originally being developed for the original PlayStation, but the project was eventually moved to the PlayStation 2. The half-finished original PlayStation version of Onimusha was then scrapped and never released.
The central character of the series, Samanosuke Akechi, is modeled after Takeshi Kaneshiro, who also voiced the character. Real people were used as models for other characters in the series, including the late Yūsaku Matsuda in Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny and Jean Reno (alongside Takeshi Kaneshiro) in Onimusha 3: Demon Siege. Character movements throughout the series were created using motion capture.
The series was initially planned to be only a trilogy, but a fourth installment, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams was released in 2006. In 2012, Capcom announced a browser-based game Onimusha Soul, which was also scheduled to be released for the PlayStation 3 in Japan in 2014.
The titles have also influenced other games from Capcom including Devil May Cry, Shadow of Rome and Resident Evil 4. The samurai game Genji: Dawn of the Samurai was cited by Inafune as an "Onimusha clone" although Okamoto (who was the game's designer) denied such statement.
On April 2018, Capcom filed trademarks for Onimusha across several countries. A remaster of the first game was released in 2019.
Based primarily throughout the Japanese Sengoku period, Onimusha: Warlords starts with the feudal lord Nobunaga Oda being killed during a battle. One of the prominent fighters, Hidemitsu Samanosuke Akechi, receives a letter from his cousin Princess Yuki who is concerned about servants from her castle disappearing. Samanosuke joins with the kunoichi Kaede to rescue Yuki and discover demonic creatures known as Genma are the culprits. In order to defeat the Genma, the Oni clan grant Samanosuke powers from their kind. Across his fights Samanosuke discovers the Genma have resurrected Nobunaga and that they are serving him. The Genma plan to sacrifice Yuki and an orphan named Yumemaru to grant Nobunaga more powers. Samanosuke manages to save Yuki and Yumemaru and kills the Genma Lord, Fortinbras. Samanosuke's group then takes different paths.
The sequel, Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny, has Nobunaga replacing Fortinbras as the new Genma Lord and using his new forces in order to unify Japan. One of his targets is the Yagyu village whose clans are in charge of eliminating the Genma. The clan's only survivor, Jubei Yagyu, goes on a quest to avenge his clan. Jubei discovers that he inherited Oni powers from his mother and uses them alongside the Oni's five orbs to battle Nobunaga's soldiers. Across his journey, Jubei meets several allies who also seek the defeat of the new Genma Lord. Jubei manages to infiltrate Gifu castle and confronts Nobunaga alone. Although Jubei kills Nobunaga, the warlord's soul escapes and later reconstitutes himself. The spin-off Onimusha: Blade Warriors has the cast from Warlords and Samurai's Destiny in a new battle against Nobunaga's forces.
The third game, Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, has Samanosuke's clan attacking the Oda forces again. Before confronting Nobunaga, Samanosuke is transported to Modern Paris as a result of an experiment made by Genma scientist Guildernstern in order to let the Genma conquer more lands. In the meantime, service agent Jacques Blanc is a victim of Guildernstern and is transported to Japan in the Sengoku period. There, Jacques is granted oni powers by an oni who tells him to join forces with this timeline's Samanosuke and defeat Nobunaga if he wishes to return home. While Jacques aids Samanosuke in the past, in the future Samanosuke is helped by Jacques' family to investigate the Genma. In the end the two oni warriors are successful in stopping the invasion and return to their respective times. In the past Samanosuke slays Nobunaga and seals his soul within the Oni Gauntlet to avoid another resurrection.
The fourth and currently final chapter of the series, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, had Nobunaga's servant Hideyoshi Toyotomi unified Japan with the Genma whom he supported in their actions. His illegitimate son, Hideyasu "Soki" Yuki, goes on a quest to defeat Hideyoshi and stop the Genma. He is aided by several other warriors including an elder Samanosuke who recognizes him as the Black Oni, the God of Darkness. After mastering his oni powers, Soki joins with his friends to defeat Hideyoshi's army. In the aftermath it is revealed that Hideyoshi was a puppet of the Genma Triumvirate who wish to resurrect the Genma Lord Fortinbras, the God of Light. Although the Genma Triumvirate and Hideyoshi are defeated, Fortinbras resurrects. Soki manages to kill Fortinbras using the Oni Gauntlet, restoring country's peace at the cost of his life. Soon after, Samanosuke embarks on a quest to seal away the Oni Gauntlet to prevent Nobunaga from being released.
Central to the first three major chapters of the Onimusha franchise (and to a lesser extent, the fourth chapter) is what is known as the Oni Gauntlet. This is the Gauntlet that was given to Samanosuke in Onimusha: Warlords and was created by the power of the council of the twelve Oni Gods. It absorbs souls (see Nature of Souls), gives power to Samanosuke's weapons and changes the color of the orb in its center to match with that of the corresponding weapon, allows him to achieve an Oni Awakening, and is capable of functioning with other Oni items such as the Oni Army Orb.
Jubei Yagyu's mystical parentage through Takajou enabled him to use Oni power without the need for the Gauntlet. This was also repeated with Sōki, who was revealed to be the reincarnated Oni God of Darkness. On the other hand, while Samanosuke and Jacques both had Oni Gauntlets, only Samanosuke could become the Ultimate Onimusha. It is likely that Samanosuke was chosen by the twelve Oni gods enabling this, while Jacques was granted power by only one of them, because of this he was only able to transform into one form. Additionally, Jacques' gauntlet began with a red sheen, turning to gold as it gained more power.
In the third game, Samanosuke had been sent to modern Paris and thus his Gauntlet had reverted back to its original bluish color and all of his previous weapons (Raizan, Enryuu and Shippu) were lost since he was in a different timeline. However, he was able to restore his Gauntlet to its true potential by reabsorbing more souls, regaining new weapons (namely Tenso, Kuga and Chigo). Later, he was able to fuse the power of his Gauntlet with the Gauntlet of his alternate deceased self when he returned to a slightly alternate timeline. This gave him two gauntlets, thus allowing him to achieve his Ultimate Onimusha form.
After defeating Nobunaga, he absorbed the Genma Lord's souls. Unlike the souls of other Genma, these were a dark-hollow, green color that gave the Gauntlet and its gem a dark red sheen. This symbolized that the gauntlet had sealed away the essence of the Genma Lord. This was also the reason he had to seal the Gauntlet away. Years later, as the God of Darkness was reincarnated as Sōki, Samanosuke lost most of his power as the Onimusha and thus the Oni Gauntlet lost all its potential, turning his hair grey within a short period of time after losing part of the Oni Mystic Power. The only power that remained in the Oni Gauntlet was the sole power of the Genma Lord retained from Nobunaga.
In the fourth game, Tenkai, later to be revealed as Samanosuke, utilized this power against the Genma Army and even achieved an Oni Awakening with it, before it was transferred to Sōki. At that point, Nobunaga's power was unsealed in the final duel against the resurrected Fortinbras. This Oni Awakening was a result of the Genma Lord's power since that was the only power left in the Gauntlet, explaining why he wasn't able to use the same moves or the same weapons that he did in the previous games.
Onimusha vs. the Genma Lord
Another central theme to the series involves the main protagonist as the Onimusha fighting against the forces of the Genma Lord. Both personages are polar opposites of each other and represent the unending struggle between the Genma and the Oni Clan.
In the fourth game, it was revealed that the God of Light had created the Genma and the God of Darkness for the Oni. The God of Light, Fortinbras, was the Genma Lord and the main villain of Onimusha: Warlords, with Nobunaga playing a more peripheral role. After Fortinbras' defeat, his essence was passed to Nobunaga, becoming the new Genma Lord. After Nobunaga's defeat, Hideyoshi was used as a vessel for the reincarnation of Fortinbras. The God of Darkness was the first Onimusha and each subsequent Onimusha is a being who channels his power.
In the second game, Jubei Yagyu was able to use five special orbs created by the Oni to transform himself into the next Onimusha. When Jubei underwent an Oni Awakening, he was able to shoot beams of light. These abilities were transferred to his Onimusha form as Jubei used the arm cannon formed on his left hand.
In the third game, it was revealed that two gauntlets were needed for Samanosuke to become the next Onimusha. This is why a second gauntlet was given to Jacques. However, Jacques' gauntlet was consumed as it was used to resurrect Jacques' son who died during the events of Onimusha 3: Demon Siege. However, Samanosuke was spirited away by the Oni following the death of his alternate self at the hands of Nobunaga. By combining the gauntlet of his alternate self from the other timeline, he was able to become the next Onimusha. This version of the Onimusha had a gauntlet on each of his hands and absorbed souls through an orb on his chest.
In the fourth game, it is revealed that Sōki, unlike the other Onimusha, was a reincarnation of the Omnipotent God of Darkness. Hence his title "Black Oni". In order for him to achieve his Ultimate Onimusha Mode, he awakened the sealed power of Nobunaga, the deceased Genma Lord’s power which was held within Tenkai's Oni Gauntlet. In his Onimusha Mode, Sōki wears shining armor with dark colors beneath it while flying in combat to attack Fortinbras (who in his true form has a human appearance and wears merely a white Western suit).
- Several Genma from the Onimusha series are named after characters from the plays of William Shakespeare: Marcellus, Osric, Guildenstern and Fortinbras, to name a few.
- CAPCOM | Game Series Sales
- Electronic Gaming Monthly, December 2001 issue, pg. 56
- Official series site (Japanese)