Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny for Playstation 2 – A Game with Real Character

Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny for Playstation 2 – A Game with Real Character

Story-line, game-play and characters: the three main elements of any great game. For me Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny’s greatest strength lies in its characters. The incredibly life-like (by Playstation 2 standards) character designs add a sense of realism to the game, despite the fact that most of your time will be spent fighting demons. The strong voice acting and well-made character models help to gloss over many of the story-line and game-play issues – of which there are a couple, most notable being that you are forced to use the D-pad rather than the analog stick for movement. This wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the large number of spiral staircases which need to be navigated in the game, and which are infuriatingly difficult to get up with the D-pad alone.

Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny box art

Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny box art

Jubei Yagyu is the main character of this story: a samurai whose village is destroyed during the opening sequence of the game. This event brings about the revelation of Jubei’s destiny as heir to the ancient clan of demon-slayers, the Oni. Jubei is modelled on the Japanese actor Yusaku Matsuda who died in 1989, twenty three years before this game was released. Straight away a sense of reality is conferred onto this game, and, more specifically, its characters.

Jubei and the other excellent character designs are exhibited throughout the game in spectacular cut-scenes. There are numerous different channels that the story can take, affecting which cut-scenes are shown. This is based on a ‘friendship’ system that I did not realize existed until much too late in the game. Early on, Jubei finds his way to a village. In this village are four different characters to interact with. Gifts can then be given to each of these characters, and they all have very different personalities and tastes, from the refined Magoichi who is interested in history books, to the less refined monk, Ekei, who lists women, good food and alcohol among his interests.

The friendships Jubei forges during this stage will affect the rest of the game, as those you please most will help you out later on. For me, the fact that it was not made explicitly clear that this mechanic existed made the whole process seem more organic. Because of the choices I made for Jubei, my path through the game will be different to another person’s. For example, in my game Ekei seemed to be everywhere, Magoichi remained a distant and aloof figure, whilst the ninja Kotaro was just some weirdo that jumped off the roof of a horse’s stable to warn me about a beautiful woman and then was never heard from again. It’s this mechanic that made me feel as though I was having a unique experience, and it makes me want to leave the game at just one play-through because of it.

Onimusha 2 exemplifies what makes video games special to me as an artistic medium. Paintings, books and films are exactly the same for every person that sees or reads them. They may have different interpretations about what they have experienced, but the subject matter remains essentially the same. With video games, however, you are given a certain amount of freedom, and it is within this space that you forge your own unique experience of a game. Even with the most linear of games, your experience of it will differ from the next person.

Kind regards,

Lefthumbstick

I’d love to hear about your version of Onimusha 2, so why not leave a comment?

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Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for Playstation 2 – What a game

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for Playstation 2 – What a game

There is very little I could tell you about Metal Gear Solid 2 without including spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

MGS 2 Box Cover Art Work

Hideo Kojima, the brains behind this game is a genius. Look at the back of the box art for this game, it includes screen shots with Solid Snake in them. On the front of the box we have a bad ass potrait of Snake too. Everything is geared to make you believe that you are going into this game as the hero protagonist of the previous installment, your character is even referred to as ‘Snake’ during the first few minutes of the opening movie. The aquatic suit mask and respirator hide the true identity of the main character, even after you’re told that your codename is being changed from Snake to Raiden for this mission. And then comes the big reveal: you’re not playing as Solid Snake at all, you’re a rookie by the name of Jack.

The greatest bluff in video games?

The greatest bluff in video games?

The rest of the game is surprise after surprise, I’ve never seen so many plot twists and double-crosses in a game in my life. The storyline is complicated to say the least, and draws heavily from Hollywood movies of the 80s and 90s. This is combined with a charm and sense of surreal humour that you would normally find in JRPGs. Metal Gear Solid 2 will have you single-handedly taking down a mysterious foreign organisation, and along the way you will be urinated on, pooped on by seaguls, have your balls groped by the President of America and fight a Harrier Jump-Jet as a boss battle. This game fuses the two traditions of heroic Hollywood storylines and Japanese video game charm. In fact, the cutscene sections are often so long that it would be fairly accurate to describe MGS 2 as more of video game-movie hybrid.

Just a quick note about this game compared to Zone of the Enders, which I wrote about a few weeks ago and for which Hideo Kojima was producer. Dispite these two games being worlds apart in terms of quality, there is one thing common to both of them: awesome boss fights. Metal Gear Solid 2 and Zone of the Enders do boss fights like how they should be done: frustrating, gruelling battles of wits and timing. From the aformentioned Harrier, to Fatman, Vamp, Solidus and the Metal Gear Rays, MGS 2 has a great line-up of infuriating bosses to get stuck in to. Also if you look closely downstairs inside Strut E you will notice the Z.O.E. insignia on some of the boxes there, a nice touch, but I feel as though that works as a metaphor for the development of the two games: MGS 2 taking centre stage, while Z.O.E. lies forgotten in a box in the basement.

Anyway, I came at Metal Gear Solid 2 as a complete novice, never having played any form of Metal Gear game before. As such, the initial impact of the switch in protagonist was somewhat lost on me. It was only after playing through the after-mission – where you actually do take control of Solid Snake – that the full significance of what they had pulled off hit me.

What had stopped me from playing this game and other games in the series before was the knowledge that I am awful at these games (the fact that I died 78 times during the main campaign on Normal mode can easily testify to my lack of ‘Tactical Espionage Action’ skills). I made the wrong assumption that MGS would be like a run of the mill shooter game: heavy on the action with little in the way of storyline. I could not have been further from the truth, and was pleasantly surprised by the depth of story and enjoyability of gameplay that I found. I became immersed in the lore of the MGS world.

Luckily for me, the game includes an entire novel explaining the backstory of MGS 2. It’s basically the storyline to the first Metal Gear Solid game told from the perspective of Natasha Romanenko – who was apparently one of the supporting characters in the first game – and it’s long. But what a brilliant and brave idea to include something like that in a game. It adds a lot to the mythology that this game works to culitvate, as I am sure the other games do too. It’s addition also meant that I did not feel excluded from some of the finer points of the plot, especially towards the end of the game. For example, whenever someone spoke about Shadow Moses, had I not read the material I would have been like “Who?”

Although still accessible as a stand-alone game, you undoubtedly get more out of it if you have some prior knowledge of the series. However, far from being an excluding factor, the game clearly wants you to know this information, it wants to include you in the world that has been built up around it.

Metal Gear Solid 2 gets a little crazy towards the end. But it does have a clear message: you are able to choose for yourself who you are, it doesn’t matter about what genes you have, or how you were brought up, you can still choose to be the best you can be. Snake was able to escape his genetics, whilst Jack was able to move beyond his uprbringing. And that is what this game does; born a Japenese video game it was brought up on a diet of Hollywood films, but it chose to try and be more than just a game, and more than just a movie, it chose to tell a great and entertaining story, to try and be the best that it can be. Obviously it is neither better than a lot of video games nor better than a lot of movies, but at least it tried.

Kind regards,

Lefthumbstick

I’m not the best at playing games that are in a series in the correct order. Did you play MGS 2 after having played the first one? Did you feel as though you were conned at all? I think that I probably would have.