Title: Onimusha 3: Demon Siege Publisher: Capcom Developer: Capcom Date Released: April 27, 2004 Players: 1 Platform: Playstation 2 ESRB Rating: M Initial Retail Price: $49.99

The third and final installment in the Onimusha series, as promised by it's developers. Veterans of the series can expect much of what they loved in the first two games, plus a little extra incentive to shell out yet another $50: you get to play as Jean Reno. Enough said.

Story: Nobunaga Oda, like a damn cockroach that just won't die, is back, but this time he's setting his sights a little higher than Japan for conquest. This time, he's trying to take over the whole world. Which makes a lot of sense, really. I mean if you can't take over a relatively small country after two attempts, then you may as well try and take over the whole world... Anyway, Nobunaga has found a way to travel through time, and has transported himself to present day France, where he set loose his genma hoards to wreak havoc. Samanosuke Akechi returns, and with the aid of Jacques Blanc (Jean Reno), they must thwart Nobunaga's efforts to take over the world on two fronts, in the past and the present.

Main Characters: Samanosuke Akechi: the same main character from the first Onimusha game, he's still a master swordsman with a gauntlet from the Oni clan that must defeat Nobunaga Oda. Still modeled after Takeshi Taneshiro. Jacques Blanc: a member of the General Directorate for External Security in Paris, France. He travels back in time to try and stop Nobunaga so that he cannot reach to future and destroy his home, and ultimately protect his son Henri. The Oni clan has also given him a nifty energy whip and gauntlet to absorb souls. Jacques was modeled after the great Jean Reno. Michelle Aubert: Jacques' girlfriend. She's a member of the French army, and aids Samanosuke in the present to stave off the advancing genma offensive. Ako: a tengu that is about the size of a small fairy. It's her job to communicate between Jacques and Samanosuke, and help them succeed in defeating Nobunaga. Nobunaga Oda: the bad guy (for the last time). He's the head of the genma army, and aims to conquer the world.

Gameplay: Like the two previous games in the series, Demon Siege includes the same level of ultraviolent swordplay that is synonymous with the name Onimusha. You still have to absorb souls to enhance your weapons, and five special purple souls still equal a short period of invincibility. However, there is one very big change that was made to this installment: analog control. That's right, no more fumbling with the directional pad on your controller. Now, you simply point with your thumb on the analog stick where you want your character to move, and he moves there. Genius! For many, this is the answer to a prayer sent out nearly three years ago, when the first game was released. Also, the gold and gift giving system from Samurai's Destiny has been removed, and been replaced with another neat item exchanging system. Now you use Ako to send items through time to the other playable character to use in his time. For example, Jacques may find some arrows, which he cannot use, as he does not have a bow. So, simply direct him to a special portal through which you can send said arrows with Ako to deliver to Samanosuke, who can but them to good use. Also, throughout the game, you can acquire vests for Ako to wear that grant you special powers. For example, the Blue Vest allows you to absorb souls faster than normal, and the White Vest allows you to slowly regain health while you stand still (very, very useful), to name a few. Overall, the gameplay is solid, and many of the earlier minor discrepancies seem to have been taken care of.

Graphics: This is another department that has received a major overhaul, in that there are no longer the pre-rendered backgrounds of the previous games, but instead, fully 3D backgrounds that seem more realistic. The true brilliance of the graphics in the game can be found in the skillful depiction of the two main characters, or rather the real life actor that they were made to resemble. From the hint of stubble underneath Takeshi Kaneshiro's nose, to the heavy bags underneath Jean Reno's eyes, everything has been artfully represented. If there's one thing that should be said about the game's graphics, it is the detail put into the opening CG sequence. Originally released online as the trailer for the game, it has been hailed as the single greatest video game animation EVER. It is truly a sight to behold, and should not be cheapened by mere words. It lives up to the hype it receives, and should be viewed by anyone that claims to be a fan of the series.

Final Thoughts: After two games of fine tuning the Onimusha formula, Capcom has finally perfected it. With fully 3D backgrounds, analog controls, jaw-dropping visuals, and Jean Reno, I can't really see any significant areas for improvements to be made. Admittedly though, some people might find the whole time warp item exchanges to be a little lame, or even frustrating, if items are forgotten in transactions, etc. But this seems like a trite complaint when compared to the rest of the game. For those already hooked on the series, this is a must. For those new to the series, this isn't a horrible place to pick up, but I would personally recommend at least playing the first game, as there are more story similarities between the first and third games.

The Onimusha trilogy: Onimusha: Warlords -- Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny -- Onimusha 3: Demon Siege

Sources: www.gamefaqs.com A heartfelt respect, and (plutonic) love of Jean Reno, and how utterly cool he is

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