|Fourth installment of Onimusha on PS2. I'm still somewhere back in the first one, but I played this one a bit because I heard it has a co-op mode. And it does...sorta.|
It seems like co-op here was either an afterthought, or a design that they just didn't have time to flesh out and polish up, because it is very rough--to the point of being significantly dysfunctional. Perhaps this is why the packaging doesn't mention it--nothing in the manual, and the back of the case says "1 player"--and you have to access it by a hidden key combination at the title screen (hold all shoulder buttons on player 1 and player 2 controllers, then have player 2 hit Start, then start normally, and play through up to the point where the main character meets Jubei (takes maybe a half hour if you're going kind of slow)).
Once you've worked your way through the game to the point where co-op kicks in, you can both run around the screen, beating up the badguys. So far, so good. But don't move too far, or you'll find out that the camera only follows one of the players. To toggle the focus between them, the player who wants focus presses L2. ODoD's camera can be a little wacky anyway, and this toggling can lead to some very confusing situations. It's very easy to strand a player in such a way that they are off camera, getting beat on by unseen assailants. You can't orient the camera to be nice and behind you in co-op like you can in single player, which means you have to settle for the angle the game gives you, and sometimes this angle is a very bad one.
And then there are just basic mechanics that were not developed for the co-op game. For instance, there are small plank bridges and things that the game won't let the main, male character cross, saying the bridge is too fragile for his weight, for instance. Obviously, the idea is to switch to the lighter Jubei for these areas, which I guess you can do in single player by pressing L2. In co-op, though, you can't toggle characters like that, and in fact the Jubei player (player 2) can't really interact with anything. This means that if the level makes you go up a ladder, without switching scenes, player 2 can't follow player 1 up the ladder, and they just have to wait behind offscreen, possibly getting attacked.
We finally threw in the towel at the second (I think it was; maybe it was the first one) co-op boss fight. The camera was not adjusted for co-op play in this fight, and it actually moves inside the boss, so you just see an extreme side view of your characters swinging and hitting a sort of invisible wall, which is actually the large boss. This wouldn't be *so* bad, but since you can't see the boss, you can't see when he's taking a swipe at you, so you don't know when to block, and you just get hit. You can go off and farm respawning zombie samurai (respawning zombie samurai seem to have been a favorite thing of the developers) for health, but this gets tedious. Not seeing much hope for the rest of the game being any better suited to co-op, we got tired of fighting the single player nature of the game, and stopped.
Maybe some day Capcom will make a serious co-op effort for a game like this--a genre they once dominated. That day may not come for a while. But whatever you do, don't try to use ODoD to tide you over. The single player game is probably pretty decent, but the co-op one, as Capcom obviously realized when they decided to hide it, is decidedly half-baked.