Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher: Square Enix
With two projects under its belt, Tokyo RPG Factory has established itself as a studio that makes good (not great) RPGs. While I’ve enjoyed the likes of I am Setsuna, I’ve continued to hold my hopes out for the game that will put them on the map as an ironclad industry staple. Is Oninaki that game?
Spiritual Content: Oninaki relies heavily on reincarnation and helping the dead who haven’t fully passed move on to the next life.
Violence: While there is no explicit blood or gore, there are scenes of suicide and murder.
Language/Crude Humor: There is some minor foul language used in the game, including D***.
Positive Themes: There are continuous moments of helping grieving people cope and move on. There’s a major redemption arc with the choice for self-sacrifice, too.
You are Kagachi, a Watcher responsible for helping protect the cycle of reincarnation. With the aid of bound Daemons (souls trapped in the world of the living) to grant you powers and weaponry, you’ll find wandering Lost and help them resolve whatever is holding them to the living world.
Initially a cold and emotionally distant soldier, Kagachi meets Linne and opens his heart to the now-dead companion. While investigating a string of murders and ensuring their souls have moved on, Linne is attacked by the Night Devil (an evil Daemon who slaughters mercilessly) and Kagachi refocuses his efforts on stopping the murderous force.
The story has a few clever twists and turns, but it ultimately feels like it’s listlessly stumbling through a dark hallway. There’s light at the end, but it can’t see what’s coming up well enough to make each step count. Sadly, many of the main characters are rendered useless not long into the game, though I felt some closure by the end. I wish the main characters were actually meaningful. I suppose attempting to subvert expectations has its price.
I like Oninaki‘s look. There’s something about Tokyo RPG Factory’s simpler geometry with gorgeous art direction that grabs me. They provide enough detail to satisfy without requiring a monstrous machine to render. The result ends up being a painterly sort of look that works. Unfortunately, Oninaki‘s score isn’t anything noteworthy. In fact, it’s completely forgettable. Nothing bad stands out, nor does anything great.
Luckily, the game mechanics are Oninaki‘s saving grace. While it can get repetitive, I found combat enjoyable. Being able to equip up to four Daemons, each with different weapons and skills, you can shift the active one on the fly for some variety and combat strategy. Add to that the fact that each Daemon has a full-blown skill tree with new moves to unlock, and there’s actually some satisfying payoff for grinding through hordes of foes.
You’ll travel through the world, flipping between light and dark realms. Each is its own instanced version of the world with a few minor differences; the light side has monsters you have to slay to unlock the dark zone around them, while the dark side of the world has treasure chests with weapons and weapon upgrades you can acquire. Beyond that, there are different instances of the same monsters in both worlds, which feels like a missed opportunity. The dark side should’ve had some monsters the light side couldn’t and vice versa. Oh well, c’est la vie.
I personally recommend playing Oninaki on the hardest difficulty. While you will probably find yourself at the game over screen a few times early on, once you get your feet under you, combat’s a breeze. There’s even a meter you can build up, unleashing your active Daemon for a time. With this ability, you’ll easily mow through anything in your path, including bosses. Unleashing a certain Daemon on a boss all but ensured I would keep the fight under a minute long.
This brings me to possibly my only real complaint in the gameplay mechanics: the difficulty is too low, even at its hardest. Boss encounters don’t feel substantial if you have that meter maxed out and ready to go. At 20 hours of gameplay, I finished the final boss of the game in under 3 minutes and apart from unlocking the Daemon’s entire skill tree, I don’t feel like I did anything particularly special.
Oninaki is a fun RPG that feels like some missteps held it back from greatness. The storytelling stumbles, the difficulty is far too easy, the combat can get repetitive, and the sound design is completely forgettable. It’s a shame, too, because combat and building out your Daemons are genuinely enjoyable mechanics. There’s a good time to be had with Oninaki, but Tokyo RPG Factory still hasn’t yet delivered that great hit I’ve been looking for to cement them among the great RPG developers.
The Bottom Line
Oninaki is a fun RPG with interesting combat mechanics that ultimately fails to reach greatness.