Samurai epic makes for fantastic game

Like moviemakers, videogame producers know a good thing when they see it.

That's why there are so many movie � and videogame � sequels. Some are good, some are awful (see "Revenge of the Nerds 2".)

Occasionally, they're fabulous.

Add to the latter list Capcom's fantastic "Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny."

The game, for PlayStation 2, is a bigger and better version of last year's excellent "Onimusha: Warlord."

This time, you play as Jubei Yagyu, who takes Samanosuke's place as the game's star. Jubei returns home in 16th century Japan after a stirring opening scene to find his village ravaged by the demonic warlord Nobunaga's forces. He vows revenge, and the game lets you guide his quest.

To reach his goal, Jubei must wade through armies of evil monsters. To collect the cash you need to purchase items along the way, you often must complete the same section several times, killing the same monsters over and over.

Fortunately, Jubei doesn't have to go it alone. He meets up with four other characters, including a female samurai and three fighters with different skills.

These folks are open to bribery, and collecting gold to buy them things is important. If they like your gifts, they will give you things in return or show up at key moments to help you.

If they don't like the gifts, you're on your own.

As in the first game, Jubei's power stems from the souls he collects from vanquished enemies. Kill a baddie and his soul, as a glowing colored orb, floats around the scene for a moment or two. Hit a button and you absorb the soul, which can increase your health or boost your magic abilities.

Magic is vital, because there are many powerful enemies who can't be defeated by normal hack-and-slash methods. Jubei does have a variety of weapons, including swords, spears and a mighty hammer, all of which can be powered up with enough souls.

There are a few drawbacks, including some slowdown in crowded scenes and some unfortunate camera angles, but the game is beautifully designed and a treat to play 95 percent of the time.

Graphics get an A. Scenes ranging from bare rooms in tumbledown taverns to gold mines to great halls are packed with delicious detail and gorgeous colors, while weapons effects are dazzling.

Control gets an A-. Only a few minor camera problems knocks down this category. Controls are easy to learn and easy to use, with no complicated button-tapping routines needed to call up high-powered magic attacks.

Sound is also an A-. Ambient sound is beautifully done, as are weapons effects and a tasteful musical score. Voice acting is weak, but not offensive.

Give "Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny" an A. A stirring story and excellent game play make this a must-have for PS2 owners.

By the way, the flying blood and other mayhem require an M rating, for ages 17 and up. This game is too intense for children, so keep it on a high shelf.


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