The story of Onimusha Tactics revolves around the quest of Onimura, a descendent of the long forgetton Oni Clan. Onimura and his sister Oboro were both orphaned without the true knowledge of their becoming. Their caretaker and the clan chief of Iga, Sandayu assists Onimura in his quest to defeat the ultimately powerful Genma King, Nobunaga Oda. The Genma are a race of monsters that follow Nobunaga in his work to abolish mankind and gain ultimate control of the world.
The storyline is a pretty basic plot that has been played out way too many times in video games and in film. The young hero is a long forgetten prince with unspeakable powers. Once he learns his true potential, he overcomes unspeakable odds to defeat and stop the big evil bad boss from dominating the world.
If you're familiar with other titles under this genre that fall under other consoles, like the Sega Shining Force series or Konami's Vandal Hearts, you'd be right at home here. While there is a world map, you as the gamer do not choose your next destination. After completing a battle you essentially for lack of better words, simply advance to the next stage. Each stage is divided as an episode, where prior and after to the stage there is advancements upon the storyline. However there is little to no user selection in this advancement. Because of this linear game play there are no random battles of any kind presented. So how do you level up your characters? Well, similar to Shining Force's Regress magic spell (return, exit stage) you can simply select a menu command Withdraw to exit the battle, saving any items obtained or experience gained.
Onimusha Tactics is a very limited game in turns of customizability you'll find in the Final Fantasy Tactics series or Tactics Ogre series. While there is an item system, there are no finances involved. Instead of obtaining the Final Fantasy gil or other forms of currency, new items are dropped by defeated monsters or gained from creating them with Onimura's convened Oni Gauntlet. Also from defeating Genma monsters you can gain a variety of Genma stones. This stones are used in conjunction with the Oni Gauntlet to produce new items. Similar to the other Onimusha games, after defeating a monster you can gain their energy, per say. This energy is used to power up your created items. But before you can create new items you need to obtain the "recipes" to do so, these are also acquired from defeating the Genma monsters.
While in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance you have the ability to change your user classes, recruit new members to your clan, interchange special abilities, these idea is lost in Onimusha Tactics. Your party members are fixed in various classes that also determine restrictions upon what kind of weapons and armor they can utilize. Their special abilities are automatically learned by leveling up and as to what they are, are also determined by the individual's user class.
The actual gameplay, the battle system seems pretty straightforward and basic. If you've ever played another strategy-RPG, you'll quickly integrate into the system. However if you're new to strategy-RPG games, it still won't be that difficult. The first episode houses an in game tutorial, which you can skip if you make the proper selection.
Overall the gameplay clearly resembles other tactical games, but lacks the true essence found in other releases under the Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre games. While the simplicity may be nice for some, it doesn't help the game with the intensity needed to keep a true gamer at bay for days of gameplay.
The graphics of this game are fairly simple 2D. The graphics look pretty sharp on the little Game Boy Advance LCD screen. The graphics are pretty similar to what you would expect from a Super Nintendo game. In other words this game is powered by superb 16-bit graphics. The graphics are good. The graphics look pretty good on the big screen television when played through the GameCube's Game Boy Player. Though the picture is not nearly as sharp as on the GBA handheld unit. Perhaps it is a different between the two technologies? LCD versus CRT? Most likely that is the reason. Some GBA games also have a problem when played on the Game Boy Player, that the screen does not refresh quickly enough. Thus in high action games the game can appear sluggish. However this does not happen since the game play is all turn based.
The audio is pretty basic and pretty bland. It gets extremely repetitive and annoying. You might be better off just turning the sound off and listening to the radio.
The timely release of Onimusha Tactics is perhaps one of its downfalls. Being released within months of two other games under the strategy-RPG genre, it fails to live up to the entirety of its competitors. The game play, being extremely linear and limited fails to provide the same fun and complexity (i.e. challenging) Onimusha Tactics fails to be an exciting, must-own title. Perhaps a year prior to the release of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and you'd have a winner, but truly if you are looking for a great strategy-RPG game this isn't the route. Games like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance or Tactics Ogre will easily fit the bill. However if you found those games too complex or you're a diehard fan of the strategy-RPG genre, then pick it up. I know as a big fan I can enjoy this game, but overall it was just a disappointment after playing through Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Needless to say, rent before you buy.