Onimusha: Warlords Review (PS4)

Who in the world watch horror movies and play horror games during the pandemic? Isn’t real life like a horror story? Well that is okay, I won’t judge. My life was never normal to begin with so this is actually normal to me. I’m not phased by the pandemic that much. Welcome to the club, world.

I want to do something a bit different for this blog post, why? No one seems to enjoy reading critical essays beside weirdos like me. So I will talk about games casually and show off my gaming skills: I mean my average gaming skills.

I completed Onimusha: Warlords on easy mode and got a B score. Not so bad for playing the game blindly. Now I know how to beat game faster as I know what to expect. Going to attempt to beat game in 3 hours so I can get a shiny trophy. I’m playing on normal mode without consuming any medicine or herbs. Sounds like a challenge? For me it is–that is why I didn’t mind how short the game is. Typically, I play game twice anyway. One for the story, and two for the gameplay.

One thing that drew me into games in the first place was actually the artistic nature of the game. Onimusha:Warlords is charmingly beautiful. I feel like a little girl again sitting in my coffin-like bedroom playing games with my brother. My brother and I enjoy playing surivival horror games together. Onimusha: Warlords feels like Resident Evil 2 in terms of music placement and stage layout. Instead of killing infected zombies, you kill ninja demons. Because of good game design and the correct usage of colors (lighting in the game is well balanced), I didn’t feel forced to complete a game for the sake of completing the game. Onimusha: Warlords felt smooth and it was pretty to look at. However, this doesn’t make the game perfect. There was one aspect of the game I didn’t enjoy: I had to level up my weapons to unlock certain area to proceed in the game (I hate grinding). Luckily there are only three weapons: blue, red, and green that you can max up to 3 times. Simplicity in weapon choices and upgrades is not a bad thing in game design. In fact, it helps players like me stay focused. Players want to feel that they are progressing. This makes us want to finish the game.

When it comes to story, there is nothing mind blowing about it. The male lead saved the princess. The game follows the same footstep as Resident Evil games in terms of unraveling its tale: You uncover the mystery behind the manor by reading journals left behind. In fact, I had a good laugh reading the journals. It sounds crazy. I didn’t know demons are divided into social class just like we humans. It is a good metaphor to describe selfish evil people. The history of humanity has always fought against darkness and Japan is no exception despite it being so isolated.

Overall, I enjoyed the game, especially the cinematic scenes and well design characters. They were pleasing to my eyes. It’s a shame that PS2 survival horror game-style no longer exists. I am quite fond of it actually.

Rule of Rose Review

Some people have the tendency to gravitate towards a tale that makes them weep instead of ones that brings them joy.  If we take a step back and look at ourselves, we are a strange creature that innately want to be happy, but find comfort in bittersweet tale.  Perhaps, some of us are attracted to such entertainment because it acts as a mere reflection of our own psyche.  We want to fix something that is bothering us so we evaluate the little things that trap us in a psychological loop.  It’s almost a never ending loop until we find the answer that has been buried deep within us. Some painful childhood memories are better off suppressed.

Yes, I’m speaking of Rule of Rose, a psychological survival horror game released back in 2006 for the Playstation 2.  Player experience the perspective of an orphan named Jennifer with her pet dog Brown as they unravel a suspense, sorrowful tale.  I highly do not recommend this game to those who have a deep love for animals. The game actually brought some great discomfort to me even though it has a good moral message–for those who are passive and/or those who were bullied in their youth.  It forces me to think about society in general–the relation between children and adults. Now I understand why it did not get a release in North America (the video game store I went to never got the game. Only the case was on displayed).  Some of the themes are questionably cruel and not suitable for young people.  Even the older audience might find the game hard to comprehend.  I went to bed feeling as if my heart has just gotten broken after completing the game.

The game is artistically crafted and designed in a way where all things have a purpose including the monsters design.  Yes, gameplay and story are intertwined.  At one point, I was so frustrated with the gaming mechanics, but learned to appreciate the game design as I realized the order of finding weapons in the game (e.g  fork, kitchen knife, butcher knife, shovel, axe) gradually became more menacing as the undertone of the story deepened.   Gameplay wise, it’s far from being monotonous.   Exploring/investigating, in my book, is a type of gameplay.  Brown, Jennifer’s fury companion, is a great hunter and protector.  If you are the type that like to play detective, this game is a good treat.  You get the bigger picture of the whole game in the end, if you get the good ending that is.

The game overall, is quite well-balanced in terms of story, gameplay, music and visual.  I would consider the game on par with Silent Hill 1 and Silent Hill 2, which are great games! I plan to re-play the game.  Artistically, I’m quite fond of the atmosphere and the way how the story unfolds.

Rule of Rose is the type of timeless game that is on equal level with great books.  It is a good representation on how the medium can be viewed as a mature, artistic expression that has the ability to dive into the human soul.

P.S

Now I really need to go find myself a pet dog–hug it and tell it: “I love you, and will always protect you until I die!”

Kuon: An Enlightening Survival-Horror Video Game

Kuon, developed by FromSoftware, was one of the survival-horror video games I tried to squeeze in the month of October because of Halloween, but I ended up playing it into November.  It took me a month to complete  because I took my time and did not play every day. You can complete the game in 10 hours or less. Despite the short length of the game, Kuon is exceptionally great and is now on my top list of favorite games. Let me explain.

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The art direction in this game is superb as it reveals a simple but strong plot. The  use of sound effects and music created an intense horrific and isolating atmosphere. There were a few times, I was startled.  And yet, at times, it was not all scary. The sound of nature (e.g., footsteps, stream, wind) can be heard throughout the game, giving life to the atmosphere.

The placement of the sound effects ( monsters groaning, monk chanting in the temple, the twins singing) in the game were not overdone or overused. They all served a purpose and integrated really well to build suspense and tension. They also acted as subtle cue to steer me to the right direction, without acknowledging that I was playing the game. I was in the game.

Lastly, the three different protagonists (all females with unique personality)  which were played in three different phases, summarized the story so well that it left me feeling awe and sorrowfully happy.

Because of the game’s art direction, I was drawn to the game and understood the plot. This game is about the perversion of immortality. The father is so  driven to perfect the spells at the expense of his own daughter’s life and his disciples that he loses his humanity. The father, an authoritative figure, is evil and must be defeated by  the master exorcist, who is like a motherly figure. She rebukes the father and put things back in order.

This was the impression I got from the playing the game. Without the  art direction in this game, the story might have not been told well. It might have been another horror video game. But this one is special. It taught me something: We will die one day, why not enjoy the life we are given now in the present moment instead of tampering with something beyond our scope of reasoning?