Review: Oninaki, a beautiful JRPG

Tokyo RPG Factory releases a new action RPG under Sqaure Enix. Can this title compete with other Japanese role-playing games? Read it in our review about: Oninaki!

Oninaki was released on August 22 on the Playstation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch. The concept art for the title sparked a lot of interest from gamers who like Japanese role-playing games, but there are so many of these games out there and very few that execute it well. One thing is certain, Oninaki is stylish and explores dark aspects of the world. But, is that enough to rise above the competition?



story

Reincarnation, depression, death, fear, insecurity, all aspects that plague the world as a taboo. For many it is difficult to talk about these topics. Some people have never been in it themselves and many are too afraid to talk about it. Oninaki is a title that aims to make aspects like these discussable and that is a plus in itself. Where others turn off the lights, the Tokyo RPG Factory turns the lights back on!
You play as a Watcher, a sort of moral knight who wants to put spirits at rest, instead of letting them wander in an eternal shadow of their previous selves. Ghosts need to be reborn in Oninaki's world as a new person, a new life in which you will hopefully not make the same mistakes as before. Sometimes the story goes so far that you have to execute a living person so that they can find peace. Touching all these topics will be a great relief for many players.
The way Oninaki's story is told is quite JRPG-esque, as linear as you'd expect. There are a lot of long dialogues and some of them go too deep into aspects. But, despite the sometimes childish art style, it's just really nice that a game like this tackles subjects like depression.

Gameplay

You as a Watcher get your powers from so-called Daemons. These Daemons give you a completely new play style. Aisha is your first Daemon. Aisha is a master of katana and can perform quick attacks. You have a number of other Daemons, including Izana. Izana loves swinging her big scythe and she is very focused on attacking large groups at once. Each Daemon works with a completely different play style and is very extensible. Despite this, the combat itself gets repetitive pretty quickly. You don't do much more than use three buttons at most to pulverize your enemies. This is a shame as the enemies are quite well designed in terms of mechanics as well as graphically.
Since the combat in Oninaki determines a fairly large part of the gameplay, the repetitive side of this is not to be missed. It can make your playing session very short, purely out of boredom. This is not such a big problem in the first hours of the game. However, halfway through the story you really notice how repetitive everything is and the story is also the only bright spot in the game at that moment.

graphics

However, the graphic part of Oninaki doesn't need a millimeter more love. The environment, the enemies, the characters and everything about it is just right. The drawing style is fantastic and the way the atmosphere is conveyed is a breath of fresh air compared to so many AAA games that are similar these days. Where the game is cheerful, you immediately notice this in the environment. If it all gets a little darker, your impression will change, trust me!
The boss fights are extremely good in design and an aesthetic relief. Sometimes I thought of Furi, not because the game looks like that now, but the boss fights in Furi were also a tour de force compared to the rest of the game. The attack animations had a certain weight behind them, which naturally created a certain fear of dodging quickly. The boss fights were a smooth experience, too bad that the rest of the gameplay was left behind.
The music in Oninaki also created the right atmosphere. Where your environment was peaceful, so was the soundtrack in the background. The same goes for the grim bits, the pathetic bits and the thrilling bits. There was little to complain about in this area!

Verdict

Oninaki is an aesthetically pleasing experience, but unfortunately held back by repetitive combat and gameplay. The story involves certain social taboos that not every publisher would want to touch, but here too the game is a victim of linear translations in the generic JRPG style that everyone knows by now. There is a lot of potential in the title and a second part with better gameplay and a more dynamic way of storytelling will certainly be a 9 out of 10, but unfortunately this is not the case now. The game is definitely recommended if you like exploration, thoughtful characters and a breathtaking drawing style, but unfortunately leaves a bit too much on some aspects.


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