With the recent release of much-anticipated Action RPG Oninaki, Tokyo RPG Factory – the leading minds behind 2016 release I Am Setsuna–tuck another game under their belt. However, unlike breakout hit Setsuna, Oninaki leaves much to be desired.
The story starts out strongly, player taking on the role of a Watcher named Kagachi as he ferries souls from the lands of both living and dead, gameplay switching from one world to the other with an initial ease I found captivating. There is a marked focus on the concept of reincarnation and how it relates to both characters and the in-game culture as a whole, taking on a darker nature throughout the game that’s never properly explored. While the concept is an extremely fascinating one, as the story progresses, there begin to be cracks in its telling, Oninaki falling into the trap of being vague and telling rather than showing.
The Watcher goes from being a figure confronted with there being shades of grey in his black and white view of morality to an unrealistic character, simply nodding and accepting nonspecific explanations when they’re offered to him by a supporting cast I really felt no connection for. Quests go from having a cohesive feeling of togetherness to being spasmodic, connected in truth only by a thin thread of plot. By the time the game’s third arc starts, the game is less of a poignant portrayal of the struggle between life and death and more a slog through NPC quest givers as they morph from wandering souls whose goals you genuinely care for into blocks between you and the end of the game. Admittedly, I found myself considerably underwhelmed with the story as a whole, felt as though it failed to maintain both that starting momentum as well as my attention.
However, this cannot be said for the visuals, as Tokyo RPG Factory has a history of making aesthetically-striking games. This rings true for Oninaki as well, as a simplistic but intuitive UI frames lush landscapes that carefully detailed characters traverse. Paired with the dreamlike soundtrack that calls to mind fairy tales, it is all too easy to get lost in the loveliness of the world of Oninaki.
Curiously enough, even though this game has been marketed as an Action RPG, it’s focused more on the latter of that acronym than the former. As story feels weaker the further you get away from the initial demo’s ending, so does combat.
Combat in the demo and the first few hours of the game was exciting, interesting to pick up. The Watcher wields daemons–lost souls condemned to wander–as companions in battle, granting them worthwhile use. In a more traditional RPG setting, these daemons would act as your “classes”, the Watcher able to swap from one to the other in real-time. I found myself primarily wielding one of the first daemons you acquire, a swordswoman whose attacks are both quick and effective. A shield-laden daemon, whose powerful swings (though slow attacking speed) felt more a boon than not, and a melee wolf fighter (who–like the swordswoman–got up close and personal) rounded out my main team. Though the options for daemons in Oninaki is incredibly diverse, despite this seemingly vast variety in style, there is not much else to the combat aside from initial impressions. This aspect, too, quickly becomes stale and tedious, assuming one can find it within themselves to get past the starting sluggishness of this daemon-based system.
Despite layering my own team composition with as many one-hit buffs as I could, the levelling of them feels more monotonous than not; a veritable time sink for little payout that evolved into me gritting my teeth and wishing for progress. Bearing this in mind, for those players who were drawn to the promises of an innovative combat system and seeking more action, your luck would be better spent elsewhere.
More time spent with Oninaki and it becomes obvious that–despite this seemingly vast variety in style – there is not much else to the combat aside from initial impressions; this aspect too quickly becomes stale and tedious, assuming one can find it within themselves to get past the starting sluggishness of this daemon-based system. The levelling of them feels more monotonous than not; a veritable time sink for little payout.
I personally played the PC release of the game, which, quite frankly, felt oftentimes as though it were released as an afterthought. Mouse and keyboard controls felt clunky, oftentimes burdensome. I don’t recall there being a point where I could actually use my mouse at all, instead having to use the arrow keys on my keyboard to selection options on the main and option menus. Controller commands were optimized with Xbox controllers in mind; trying both DualShock 4 and wired Xbox controllers reported more issues with the former than the latter, commands not working as intended, prompts not showing up with the proper input.
All in all, with a mindless combat system bordering on tiresome, a story that doesn’t properly capitalize on the seeds of darker themes lurking therein, and a control scheme that has me searching Steam for a fix, I cannot properly recommend Oninaki. Though, I tried my hardest to enjoy it, after being informed the game has multiple endings, I felt defeated rather than excited for any possible nuances, wanting the time I had already sunk into the game returned to me with interest.
Version Tested: PC