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THE LOST SAMURAI.

Byline: Redmond Carolipio Staff Writer

Ah, Paris.

The Arc de Triomphe. The Eiffel Tower. The demonic time machine.

Let me explain.

Japan is the starting point, but ``Onimusha 3: Demon Siege'' takes the samurai Samanosuke (sa-ma-NO-skay), the hero of the first ``Onimusha,'' and deposits him in modern-day Paris. It's a classic trilogy finale. The first two games established a saga of demons and men in feudal Japan. This one focuses on the war itself and how it rips through the fabric of time into a new place.

``Demon Siege'' puts players back in the shoes of Samanosuke, and like the first game, there's a fabulous opening CG movie that establishes the samurai as a warrior with no equal, dispatching hordes of enemies with exquisite skill befitting a legendary hero.

After that, players are plunged into the middle of an assault on Honnoji Temple, which is where the No. 1 villain, the demonized Lord Nobunaga, resides.

It's a captivating setting. Players can either weave through the tangled mess of the battle or get their hands dirty with a juiced-up Samanosuke. Eventually, you run into Lord Nobunaga, and this is where things get weird.

Before the two can cross swords, a large black void crackling with electricity opens up under our hero, and he's sucked in. He arrives in Paris, which is now swamped by the demon hordes.

Here we meet Jacques Blanc, played by French actor Jean Reno (``The Professional'').

Jacques also gets engulfed by a random rift in time and takes a trip to feudal Japan. The mission of both heroes is the same: They must destroy Nobunaga's forces in their respective time periods. Both are aided by Ako - a tiny, winged spirit with the power to bounce back and forth between eras.

You actually get to control three characters in ``Demon Siege.'' Aside from Samanosuke and Jacques, you also use Jacques' fiancee, Michelle.

She's the gunslinger of the three, offering an abrupt (and satisfying) change of pace from the magical whips of Jacques or Samanosuke's array of blades.

But the focus never drifts far from the two main heroes, who blend in with their respective time periods and create a unique game play experience.

Jacques Blanc in Japan gives you a little bit of Simon Belmont (``Castlevania'') with a dash of Dante (``Devil May Cry'').

You can arm Jacques with a variety of whips, which come with their own special striking attacks. You can also bind and toss enemies, or pull them toward you and plug them with Jacques' .45 handgun.

Samanosuke's quest in Paris 2004 is more of the typical ``fish out of water'' stuff. Fans already know what the samurai is capable of, but he gets to hack and slash in visually stunning Parisian landmarks.

Samanosuke's first boss battle takes place on the roof of the Arc de Triomphe against a machine called Brainstern. He'll later find himself searching the basement of Notre Dame cathedral and climbing up the Eiffel Tower.

All of these locations look faithfully replicated (except for the demonic booby traps and puzzles, of course) and give the samurai simply a new place to play around.

The game reaches its innovative best when the two heroes are required to execute some time-spanning teamwork.

At some points in the game, the two heroes visit the same place in their respective eras and must solve a bunch of ``find the item'' puzzles.

Samanosuke might find a key that Jacques needs, or Jacques might find some crystal that Samanosuke needs. Since Ako can travel time, players can use her to serve as the item carrier.

Or picture this: Jacques finds a small seed that he can plant in soft, well-tended earth. So he plants it near a wall. Switch forward 500 years to where Samanosuke is, and that plant becomes a giant vine that he can use to climb toward his goal.

``Onimusha 3'' doesn't really mess around too much with mythic discovery and epic storytelling. It wants to end the series with gusto, and it pulls it off in epic fashion.

ONIMUSHA 3: DEMON SIEGE - Three and one half stars

Platform: PS2.

Price: $49.99.

Rated: M for mature.

In a nutshell: An innovative time-travel gimmick sends off this series with a bang.

CAPTION(S):

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 6, 2004
Words:728
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