Your mate with the Xbox has probably been giving you stick about Ninja Gaiden lately.
Reminding you how you can't get that sort of thing on PS2, and look at them graffiks blah blah. Well, pretty soon you'll have Onimusha 3 to shove under his nose (that begs to be broken). That'll shut him up. He might even go a bit red.
We love the Capcom tradition of no expense spared on presentation, especially when it comes to action adventures. Perhaps we're starting at the shallow end before wading in deeper to what matters - how it plays - but in the case of Onimusha 3 you'll find the presentation really counts for a lot. Oni 3's luxuries are apparent from the second the PS2 logo dissolves into the greatest CG movie sequence outside of Clone Wars or Return Of The King at the flicks. You'll probably reset the PS2 to watch it again, before you start playing.
Strangers In Strange Lands
Your first encounter in Oni 3 is a grand-scale battle outside the Anshi Castle, in feudal Japan. Samanosuke makes a welcome return, and we quickly shake off our rustiness on all the old moves and discover others that are modified or completely new. Simple combos, whose nature of strikes is defined by the weapon, are now aided by sudden-death strikes that can fell an opponent in one dramatic blow. The struggle is once more against Oda Nobunaga's demon army, but this time around Nobby is not content with defiling one world, the ancient world that he loves to haunt, but wants command of the present day too. This is Capcom's cue to have a little fun with the Onimusha universe, and invite a major Hollywood talent to help fulfil the legend.
All The Big Guns
Capcom has enlisted gruff actor dude Jean Reno, who famously played the assassin in French movie Leon, and who you've probably seen in Mission Impossible or Godzilla. As elite soldier Jacques Blanc, he's as surprised as everyone else on the Champs Elysées to see winged demons appear through a magic portal and tear Parisians apart. Unlike the civilians who have become a screaming plat du jour for Nobunaga's demons, Jacques is armed with a machine gun and a will to fight.
I Don't Belong Here
At this point you may worry that your perfect Samurai epic has been ruined at the whim of a Capcom marketing exec, but don't worry, the contrast of ancient monsters invading modern Paris works fantastically. Present-day settings of skyscrapers and sewers are rendered with as much finesse as the ancient monuments and leafy pathways, while peppering ancient demons with Jacques' 21st Century weaponry feels well cool. We loved how the game has fun dropping Jacques and Sama into unfamiliar surroundings, often revealing how confused they are about what lies ahead. Seeing the two standing awkwardly side by side for the first time in Paris is a moment to savour!
A Good Whipping
Oni 3 works better than Oni 2 as the emphasis is now back on action rather than exploration - save the searching antics for platformers like Jak, we say. The return of the Samanosuke versus Nobunaga theme is also very welcome, after what was really a side-story in the weaker previous game.
Gameplay follows the tried-and-tested Oni formula of muchos battling punctuated with solving simple puzzles. Jacques has the slickest new feature - a magical whip that also functions as a lasso and a rope swing. He gets this quite early on, relegating his machine-gun to finishing foes while they lie on the ground - the equivalent of Samanosuke's downward-stab finisher.
Although we had hoped the gun theme would be more prominent, the whip really does add new gameplay to the mix, like lassoing rafters to evade attacks or to position Jacques to make more effective strikes. Meanwhile Sama champions the familiar and still satisfying ways of the sword, which he does as spectacularly as befits a legendary Samurai warrior.