Monday, 23 September 2019

Oninaki ★★★☆☆

Oninaki is the latest JRPG to come out of the relatively new Tokyo RPG Factory, a game developer and subsidiary of Square Enix. This follows on from two previous releases, I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear – both of which I think were excellent and enjoyable games. The two titles were traditional turn-based RPGs with certain additional mechanics that innovated those older styles and made for a much more interesting gameplay experience.

Oninaki is a total departure from these two, moving instead into a more top-down action RPG style of game, similar to the Ys series and Diablo. You play as Kagachi, a Watcher, who moves between the living world and the Beyond (essentially the world of the dead/underworld) battling using manifested Daemons and saving the souls of the Lost.

Now, the game itself has some pretty awesome ideas, plus a really interesting storyline that explores life, death, and reincarnation in a very anime-esque way. The problem is that, despite having those awesome ideas, the developers haven’t really done anything with them to elevate them to as great a level as they could be.

The first problem I noticed was the combat, which lacks the variety that it needs in order to make interesting. Of course, the idea of summoning Daemons to fight for you in battle sounds super cool, and there is variety within that aspect, but in reality, much of the combat is really just glorified button mashing. Some will enjoy this, but it lacks the sort of challenge you get from a more strategy-focused combat system. Further still, combat also becomes tiring after multiple instances of enemies either hitting you exceptionally hard (usually during boss fights) or dying instantly to every attack you throw at them. Fun for a while, but it gets dull (even to me, who will always choose story over combat).

Going back to the story – this is the strongest point of the game however, character development is not quite as well done as I had hoped. Our protagonist and detailed and interesting, but many other side characters are not, with some of them seeming like a bit of an afterthought. There’s a lot of interacting with the spirits which is great, but once you’ve got to the halfway point it starts to feel like they’re really just quest givers, rather than individual personalities that we should care about.

The quests are good, but I found that the majority were really focused around fighting – if that’s your jam then that’s great! There’s a distinct lack of puzzles within dungeons and out and about in the world though, and I think adding some more of these could have really helped to mix things up a bit.
One thing I really liked were the graphics, which were very simple in their design like previous games from Tokyo RPG Factory. Some may dislike this because they want something a bit more visually varied, but I liked them for two reasons – firstly, they’re beautiful, even without all the frills, and secondly, the lack of graphical intensity leads to a game that runs really well and isn’t demanding at all on the system. After some of the FPS nightmares that I’ve played recently, this felt like a dream!

The problem with Oninaki isn’t that it’s a bad game, because it really isn’t. It has a lot going for it, but it just doesn’t excel in any area. It’s distinctly and wholeheartedly average. Excellent ideas get buried underneath repetitive and mundane combat scenarios and, whilst the storyline is interesting, it’s not exceptional by any means (especially when you compare it to the previous games). Possibly one to pick up when the price drops.

Hannah Read

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