As odd moves for a game series go, this ranks alongside Doom 3 turning out to be a bubblegum platform game, or hey, Final Fantasy suddenly turning all girly pop (ahem). But in this case, the move looks pretty cool - Blade Warriors has swapped Onimusha's usual adventuring for four-player fighting.
Not as cool as Onimusha 3 looks, granted. But while we're busy wetting our pants waiting for Jean Reno to tackle samurai zombies in modern-day Paris (see our import review on p101), this could provide plenty of soul-sucking diversions.
The vampiric antics in the series up until now have resulted in your weapon gaining levels, and snaffling free-floating souls is still part of Blade Warriors. But this time, instead of levelling up a single weapon, the souls can be spent directly on your character's attributes like magic, attack and defence.
Also carried over from the Onimusha series are the characters. Both the feudal Japanese good guys and their undead enemies are playable, and each character has their own story arc to play through plus weapons to collect.
Whether you select a good guy or bad guy, multiplayer or single-player story mode, the fights play out in multi-level arenas. A double-jump up or duck down will move you from one level to the next and there are chests to open and grab items as well as spells from.
Power-ups mixed with the diverse arenas means gameplay does have more than a little in common with Super Smash Bros Melee and PowerStone. There's a lot of chasing, then hitting, then running away, but Blade Warrior's visuals are superior and more adult than its cartoony forefathers.
Combat is shaping up nicely too. Despite slightly dumb bosses at present, the fighting system, with its emphasis on counter-blows and timing plus a guard that is depleted by enemies' repeated attacks, means this spin-off could be the first in a slick series in its own right.
Solid beat 'em up that plays like an adult Smash Bros. Promises to up the four-way fighting ante with added soul-sucking power-ups and sexy grown-up visuals.