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Review | Oninaki

"What does ACDC and Oninaki have in common? The are both beating around the bush. Just that ACDC does it how it should've been done."

by Foggy, 29-08-2019,

Oninaki is a new JRPG by now already known factory of old school role playing games. As this is the third time that Tokyo Factory is doing sentimental, nostalgic, the best and unique RPG titles, there is no way anything can go wrong. I wish I was saying the truth in the sentence before. Whoever played it knows that this particular studio has real nasty issues of presenting exactly the thing for which they were created before - and that is the golden age of this genre.

Prepare to have nightmares about this penguins.

Some things are right on spot, but with every positive item in the game, there is a few of those negative ones. With story they went a step further, theme that they were presenting in the previous games is similar, but in this case,  it is a bit more elaborated and deeper. Oninaki is a story about watchers; you being one of them - we can call them a connection between the world of living and passage between the beyond. Respectively they are the ones that will show the way to the lost souls, which because of the unfinished businesses keep wandering in the passageway. Mostly those are feelings which are too strong to overcome so they are holding to them and not letting go. That whole world is actually a bit weird, the living are excepting the death because they believe they will float away into the next life, although nobody confirms that. If they don’t succeed to overcome the thing that is holding back, they turn into fallen, and are, more or less a product of the darkness and the thing which is attacking you throughout the whole game.

If they find me there in between when I die of playing, I sure hope they will retain me for around 700 years or so to finish my backlog of games.

In the beginning everything starts basic and sterile, but later they hit it to the bigger gear and throw more concepts of the theme. This is one of those games where the second part is better than the first; but only partial. At least regarding the story, you can expect a few plot twists, interesting concepts of the passage world and the world beyond, which is feeding from the souls and making a big mess. I am glad they stepped up in this direction. I was always a fan of these spiritual themes.

Spiritual World will breed new colors into your life.

On paper it sounds nice, but in reality, it is still a bit different. Presentation of the actual story has one big flaw which is hard to put into words. The pace of storytelling is not fluent as it should be, it is not holding the pace it should have for the entire time, and lifeless boring side characters definitely minors the impression. The game has partial Japanese voice over, which means that you will have to follow some scenes with classically not understandable Japanese jargon while reading a shitload of text below. Visuals are great, so staring into text dialogs is not that hard on the eye after all. The thing that bothers the most is the fragmentation between text and actual voice; leaving you to listen to uuuuh’s and ooooh’s of the characters while they are talking, confusing you little by little. This was definitely a big minus for genre, and in this case particularly stands out.

You can't even tell that everything looks the same outside of this picture.

O.k, what to expect from the game of 4 GB size in the 2019th? When we compare this piece with Setsuna and Sphear, graphically speaking they finally made some progress. The world that surrounds you is full of bright colours anime style and eye loving sights. Some locations really have that melancholic note that breaths perfectly with a hint of nostalgia of a really good soundtrack. Through boss fights you will be hearing the sounds of Irish flute for some reason, nice and cheerful tone and fine melody. I would definitely recommend to lower the in game sounds and enhance the music to the max. They somehow succeeded at times to completely put the music to background. You even can’t hear it at moments when you are swinging around. As for storytelling goes, another and biggest game flaw - copying same assets in 5th gear. Here comes my little unexpected frustrating rant caused by repetitiveness.

Of course that roach will visit, it's his grass.

I have swallowed this game in only few days. That would be the first sign that something is wrong. Yes, it would, If I was a normal human being and I can play like a normal human beings. But there is something about that. The game has something that pushes you further, no matter how much things are repetitive. One of worst things is definitely the dungeon design. Although game has quite a few locations where you will pierce trough the enemy hordes, each of them is actually so poor and linear that after time you simply stop to expect something new. As you can shift between two worlds, the same way the map has two sides. Unfortunately, the other side is not offering much diversity except different palette of colours, enemy reassignment, a few boxes of random loot or some NPCs which will grant you quests. Passage will be good when there is no way further, because the solution is actually hidden in the darkness. The whole concept of dungeon is based on run-jump-slaughter principle. Actually, the whole game is an action RPG and sort of a button mash. After a while exploring loses its purpose, crossing the veil or transferring into alternative world totally makes no sense because going through the same map which is boring as is its not a jolly time. The end of the game is extended with furiously copying floors of the last few dungeons. I really don’t understand, did they really need that?

Same assets in this forest from beginning till the end.

The game is by story divided into two parts. The other half relies on the past of your protagonist and will explain more into details the series of events. I really liked the transition because in this case Kagachi becomes The Night Devil, which haunts you throughout the first part of the game. Movements and looks of the protagonist are changed completely, and the other part of the game is, although still repetitive, more fun. By competing the game there is possibility of going back to the both time lines, which is useful because everyone brings its own quests, so you can easily return and finish the unfinished businesses.

I wish I had Deamon or two – When one is asleep another can play.

As this was an attempt of switching from tactical turn-based principle of the fight to a complete real time action hack and slash, it left some room for scepticism. Exploring has never been this badly done from all of their three games, the fact that there is no world map but just static picture in which you go in and enter so far explored areas if you activated the portals. This by no means can be a step forward. They went two steps back with this transition and towards some modern times where everything has to be in real time, they who actually defend the legacy of old school. I cannot claim that previous two games have some super fun fights, but I always loved the turn-based. Luckily this transition gave some results, at least partially, outside of the random berserk button mashing there is a particularly fun system of progress and fights. This wouldn’t be a Tokio Factory, if this segment is also not flawless.

And they wonder why they are extinct.

Kagachi. The guy with different eye colours and a katana. It started promising. Soon the first fight starts. Looking good, little sloppy but overall nice. I seriously thought the whole game will be beating around the bush, but as the time went by, the fights became more complexed and crowded with deep mechanics. The thing that decorates watcher is his daemon. They are also souls, but they serve as a help in battle, and each one of them changes the style of the fight and the weapon watcher uses. At the same time, you can have four assigned with the possibility of swap at save points.

I interpreted them as sort of a summon which transforms into super sayan when it goes wild. So, the first daemon gives you a katana, a fast weapon and faster movement speed. The more you fight, your skill points pops. You use them through menu to learn some special attacks and enhance some static attributes. When you level up your daemon to max, you can expect regeneration with every attack from the behind, critical depends on the position and the side of the attack, certain status burst during the specific situations and so on. Fights becomes more fluid and quite satisfactional. The more you attack, the affinity to a daemon rises. When you rise affinity above 100% you can manifest with your daemon to enter super saiyan mode, becoming weapon of mass destruction with nothing to fear for. Each out of 11 daemons is unique on its own way and have more than 6 special skills. Use of those require cooldown time for them to be used again. All of this looks like Diablo mechanics more than old school JRPGs.

Decent and fluent fights are destroyed with lousy level up strategy of daemons and very confusing upgrade skill system.

Daemons use weapons. I love Izana, reaper with one hit kill possibility activation. As mentioned, game is sort of like Diablo loot system based. Occasionally weapons of different rarity drops, legendary being the rarest. When you equip new weapon, it changed visually which is cool. You can choose between around 10 weapons per Daemon. They differ weather they can hold shadestones or not. So, each shadestone you get can be inserted into empty socket to raise desired attribute. You can equip them at local Alchemist store, where you can also upgrade weapons and transmute into new. Its all very basic and playing on normal can be done without any of that. If you are a maniac, try maniac difficulty and maybe you will need this.

Max out. That is the only thing to say here.

One of the problems is that you find almost all daemons shortly. Leveling up one takes a lot of time. There are null stones in the game which can be used to level up any daemon, but those are so rare it will not be enough to even level up one daemon to max. So, with a little bit of grinding, you can finish the game with 2-3 daemons on max. Which is a shame, considering the best experience is when one is fully leveled. Each daemon unlocks memories in a form of short story. I found them boring and not worth the time.

And I thought I will cruise through the world map. Silly me, expecting just what the studio stands for.

There is one more hidden mechanic here. Usage of special skills can trigger awakenings. So, a skill can equip a skill. Wow, inception. The worst thing is – its completely random and in 50 hours of game, if you don’t spam same skill over and over again, possibly you will not have more than 5 different ones. If only this progress was somehow different and if you can see how many times to use certain skill to unlock something. That would be great. There is not even camera rotation, so some fights can be a drag when there are million of enemies close. Colorful as it is, all that will create a mess on the screen. Boss fights are little harder, but still with good strategy become fairly easy. Shame, I expected more.

Legendary drops, a bit of stones...

Side content present. Side content sucks. You can find wondering Lost Souls to interact with. Each will give similar fetch quest and reward you with Null Stone. Only one will lead to 11th Daemon which is neat. But in general, it makes no sense to finish all quest. They are boring, all NPCs are similar, there is even one scene in the game where there are 2 same guys on the screen. Poor wife of theirs. Re-using assets comes in all forms here.

Kagachi likes to kill people, but deep down he is a romantic.

Game offers around 30h of gameplay. If you are grind maniac and like to clear 100% of the game, around 60 should be enough. Post-game dungeon is copy-paste of dungeons you come across during game and consists of 101 floors. It alone takes about 12 hours to finish. Reminds me of Ni No Kuni 2 which suffered from the same poor dungeon design. 

There are 3 different ending depending of conversation outcome selection at end. Too bad that some choices during game not effect game flow.

Star Gate: Oninaki.

Oninaki is a game which you love in one moment and hate in very next. This studio still struggles to nail the correct formula, and I fear this can possibly be last from them. Many of you will skip this title as there are many games out there which are better, plus it’s that time of year when more games come out than ever. I loved it, but I also hated it. Kagachi kills many people through the game. Maybe that can persuade you. Maybe not.

"Play if you liked previous titles, avoid if you expect something great."
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