Review: Oninaki

Tokyo RPG Factory came into existence with a ton of excitement backing the new studio. In the five years that they’ve existed, we’ve gotten three games: I am Setsuna, Lost Sphere, and Oninaki. This nostalgia-filled romp through classical JRPG tropes were just that though – a walk down memory lane. Unfortunately, those games didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded them, but they weren’t bad games, they just lacked direction.

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I am Oninaki

A demo released last month for Oninaki and even though the demo left me hoping for more in the final retail release, I left with a positive impression. However, after being given the chance to review the game for Console Creatures, I found the game provided some great ideas but didn’t know where to take them in the end.

Oninaki is about the cycles of life and death and reincarnation. You play as Kagachi, a Watcher who guides the lost souls to the Beyond. As Watcher, Kagachi transitions between both the living world and the dead world. Aside from ushering the dead to a new life via reincarnation though, you’ll serve as a judge for these lost souls. Those spirits who dwell too long in our world turn into Fallen. It’s a tough job serving as a Watcher but their role in ensuring the dead pass into reincarnation is crucial.

Daemon Dealing

What caught me somewhat off guard was the narrative material from the start wasn’t afraid of broaching the deep subject matter. Each theme the story presents some plot points well, leaving us questioning what really happens after we pass on. Other things are quickly glanced over and left to be forgotten. It wasn’t until the back half of the game did, I find things slogging along. The threat of the Night Devil and how it’s affecting the world manages to be intriguing. Unfortunately, tepid combat often slows down the pace. Daemons level up and earn new weapons though their respective skill trees. Each unlockable sphere is a memory of that Daemon and each one explains their back story.

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Using partners known as Daemons are the key to surviving combat. Alone, Kagachi isn’t extremely powerful but together with his partner, create a powerful team. See, Daemons are spirits who are corrupted and they cannot reincarnate and so they are used as tools. Each Daemon has a backstory but cannot recall who they are. This revelation plays well into the plot and I enjoyed how this idea waves into the narrative and how you uncover them.

Through the Veil

Also, Daemons come in many forms and offer a wide variety of skills with their own skill tree to build offering both passive and active skills in battle. There is also the ability to swap Daemons on the fly so you can use up to four at a time. What doesn’t add up is lack of diversity in enemies in the field or that I’d find myself gravitating back towards familiar Daemons when the game is clearly asking me to experiment with new ones.

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To say nothing of the visuals would be a disservice. Oninaki is the best Tokyo RPG Factory title hands down. With a spiritual motif, the colours are vibrant with scenic backdrops. Both the living and dead worlds offer their own take on any environment you’re currently exploring. Each area comes with its own palette of colours and in some cases, Veil Blindness leaves Kagachi susceptible to one-hit kills. To alleviate the condition, you’ll need to discover the Sight Stealer. However, the downside of all this is that areas feel empty.

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At the end of it, Oninaki presents some interesting ideas but the execution lacks some finesse. While the world-building is more than good, the simplistic combat leaves something to be desired. On the narrative side of things, some threads are convoluted and overstay their welcome. I do like the game, don’t get me wrong on that but there are some things that drag down the experience and it is a shame that three games in and Tokyo RPG Factory struggle with the same issues across their catalogue. Oninaki is a step forward for the studio but shorter, tighter experiences should be considered going forward.

[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]