The artificial intelligence of your foes leaves a lot to be desired. They'll sometimes gang up on one member of your party, but it's easy to distract them or spread them out. In most cases, enemies won't even approach you until you're close enough for them to hit you during their turns, a cheap trick that makes the battles last longer than they should. On that subject, do yourself a favor if you play this game and make it your first order of business to switch to the "fast" animation setting from the default setting. As a turn-based game, Onimusha Tactics is inherently rather slow, but unless you opt for this faster setting, the action will be painfully slow even for a game in this genre. Also, Onimusha Tactics doesn't incorporate an initiative-based turn system, meaning you get to move all your troops in any order during your turn, followed by the enemy, and so on, until one side or the other wins. This again diminishes the game's strategic complexity. A ninja-type character is capable of moving farther during his or her turn than, say, a hefty pikeman or some lumbering genma, but it doesn't benefit from being able to attack more often. With all of that said, Onimusha Tactics basically plays OK, but its relative lack of strategic depth makes it less engaging than what you might be accustomed to from other games in this genre.
You'll have a ton of characters to choose from when deploying your forces in battle, but many of them will have roughly identical roles.
Interestingly, there are no generic characters in Onimusha Tactics as there are in virtually all other strategy RPGs. Each of Onimaru's companions is a unique character with his or her own portrait and character sprite, and each is introduced along the course of the story. Some, such as the rifleman Magoichi, you may recognize from other Onimusha games. All have Japanese names, so expect to become familiar with guys like Ekei and Yoichi; actually, the very Japanese flavor of this game will be one of its main attractions for some audiences, though the proceedings, especially some of the humor, will seem a little too foreign to someone not otherwise interested in the game's subject matter.
As you'd expect, some of the characters figure more prominently into the events that unfold than others do, and most characters end up being relegated to supporting roles. It ends up being your choice, for the most part, as to whom to bring into battle. Usually, a balance of heavy hitters, ranged attackers, and supporting units such as ninjas or healers is a good idea. Since you'll fortunately get to take a look at what you're up against on the battlefield prior to having to choose which forces to bring to bear, you'll intuitively know when it would be a good bet, for instance, to throw all your ranged fighters into the mix. Still, since you'll end up with many more than the maximum of eight characters per battle, you'll probably end up settling on a consistent starting lineup and neglecting most of the other characters, who won't gain any experience sitting on the sidelines and will therefore become pretty useless as you get further into the game.
If you really like the premise of Onimusha Tactics, then give it a shot.
Onimusha Tactics looks pretty good, and it's graphically comparable to other strategy RPGs for the Game Boy Advance. As mentioned, it's a nice touch that all your characters look unique, though you'll see the same types of genma over and over, and most of the environments you'll explore are drab and forgettable. There also aren't a ton of different special effects, though the ones you'll see do look quite good. The game also features some rather impressive still 2D artwork, such as for the various character portraits and the occasional cutscene. Onimusha Tactics sounds pretty good, too, replete with down-sampled versions of the sort of anime-style sword-slashing effects that fit the previous Onimusha games so well. There's a catchy soundtrack, too, though it loops a bit too often, to the point where it might get stuck in your head for the wrong reasons.
Onimusha Tactics has a great concept and some cool features, but the "tactics" part of its title is a bit of a misnomer. Ideally, strategy RPGs can make for an excellent alternative to the typical console RPG formula, which bogs you down with one bland, time-consuming random encounter after another, because strategy RPGs are supposed to offer deep and involving combat systems. Onimusha Tactics doesn't succeed on that front, but it still offers some cool characters, an interesting premise, and potentially many hours of entertainment for those willing to trade some of the richness found in the best strategy RPGs for the chance to do battle against samurai sword-swinging demons.