Ever since Resident Evil 2 I’ve been a keen advocate for Capcom properties. This admiration extended to the likes of Devil May Cry, Street Fighter, Viewtiful Joe, Dino Crisis, Marvel vs Capcom and the biblically underestimated gem that is Okami. In recent years many of these endowed series have become peripheral or diminished in social stature, with the likes of Dino Crisis, Okami and Viewtiful Joe shifting towards total obscurity. And it hurts to see such respected games become so grievously renounced. But the one that wounds the most is Onimusha. You’ve probably never heard of this game, which is really indicative of just how spurned this series became, but it was a series of games I just couldn’t get enough of. Set primarily during a feudal Japan, at a documented period in Japanese history of political upheaval and constant military conflict, with the addition of supernatural elements just to compound the strife, you portray the role of a skilled warrior who is granted the ethereal powers of the “Oni”. Abilities that forge you’re already attuned sword skills with weapons that possess magical properties, enabling you to engage and defeat the scourge of demonic oppressors known as the “Genma”. As you battled you’re way through feudal Japan or celestial “hellish” realms teething with a various assortment of demons you were capable could of absorbing their souls, allowing you to regenerate health, magic or even enhance abilities. The absorption of their souls was so gratifying too! The distinctive setting and receptive combat elevated it above other Capcom games that possessed similar control functions. And then after the release of “Dawn Of Dreams” in 2006…..nothing.
It’s absence is curious if not entirely unexpected though. Onimusha’s most discerning obstacle was it’s conspicuous similarity to other more successful Capcom titles of that time. Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry and of course Resident Evil were all released at a time of incredible resurgence for Capcom. It hardly distinguished itself above these contemporaries on a technical front, with all of the above games utilising similar aesthetic designs, button configurations, inanimate environments and doors with elaborate mechanisms that required long and convoluted resources to unlock were all common features associate with them. Despite the striking Japanese design it never really generated the same public fandom with the same impetus as it’s other more distinguished colleagues. The popularised, hyper stylised combat and Gothic tone of DmC and the atmospheric isolation of Resident Evil seemingly hindered Onimusha as well as Dino Crisis as a desirable source of equity. Sure all of these titles contained interchangeable structures but it’s an irreverent comparison considering just how immersive Onimusha’s narrative, lore and characters were. Yet by far and away it’s biggest problem was that no one had heard of it. Even now you’re probably reading this and thinking “Hmm? It sounds familiar but I can’t really place it?”. Onimusha really wasn’t promoted to the same extent as Resident Evil for instance. Perhaps Capcom felt there was little necessity in promoting what was considered a Resident Evil clone, just with samurai’s or because there was little commercial viability to a western audience that possessed no knowledge nor interest in such a culturally contrasting story. In either case Onimusha never really garnered the respect it deserved.
Last December however Capcom applied for a trademark for the name Onimusha but have yet to indicate a desire to extend the series beyond its four entries. This could simply mean a re-release of the original titles with updated graphics, which I’d gladly take at this point and considering Capcoms penchant for revisiting older entries in a series, it’s probably more likely than a new interpretation. But considering the way Capcom has handled most of its notable content that’s probably not a bad thing. Capcoms complacency has been a substantial hindrance to any developing franchise as well as instilling a measurable decline in quality titles. A declination now extending to some of its most lucrative properties, most notably the Resident Evil and Street Fighter series. With the relative cost efficiency that it will take to finance the aesthetic improvements to the PS2 era of games, it would be far easier for Capcom to generate revenue for an existing series and establish just how popular the franchise still is before risking a new entry. But I wish they would at least consider bringing it back as I do miss it. Nothing in gaming is ever as powerful as nostalgia.
What forgotten games series do you wish they’d bring back? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.