Oninaki (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 21.08.2019 1

Review for Oninaki on Nintendo Switch

Square Enix's Tokyo RPG Factory may only have two games under its belt, but for old-school RPG fans those were both notable. I Am Setsuna delivered a charming, nostalgic return to the glory days of classic Final Fantasy games. Then, its spiritual follow-up, Lost Sphear, built on that initial creation. Now, its third creation is stepping away from ATB combat and classic RPGs, and stepping into the world of Action RPGs. Coming first on Nintendo Switch, with future releases planned on PC and PS4, Oninaki is delivering a world where death is a slightly complicated matter.

When Kagachi was just a boy, both his parents died after long suffering from an illness, and here he learned the basics of his world. When the dead pass on, they must not be grieved. Grief fills the dead with regret. When the dead carry regret, they lose their way, and those who are lost cannot be reborn. Therefore, the Watchers pray for reincarnation as they carry out their duties. This is explained to Kagachi by his friend's father, the man responsible for ensuring the eternal cycle of reincarnation is upheld - the man who helps Kagachi's parents move on. Kagachi sees a strange little girl outside his house that night; a girl that will be the heart of this tale.

Jumping to years later, Kagachi has become a Watcher himself; tasked with maintaining order between the Living World and the Beyond, and travelling between the worlds, rescuing "Lost" who have wandered from the path. The beginning of the story is split up into a few short tales where simple people have to try and deal with the loss of loved ones in their lives. Kagachi, along with the small cast of other Watchers, arrives after a tragedy to help the lost soul move on into the cycle of reincarnation or to help those left behind.

Screenshot for Oninaki on Nintendo Switch

The story has real trouble achieving the scope that it projects. It's meant to be a whole world based around this philosophy of reincarnation, yet it feels like one small town with a handful of faceless NPCs out in the few zones around the town. In particular, this suffers around the main group of characters and the twists early on. It's kind of easy to guess when it's a "Who could the killer be?!" when there are only about four characters it could possibly be… It makes the whole thing end up feeling small. There's absolutely no surprise around the developments in the first half of the game. It delivers on some emotional hits, though. With the story so steeped thematically around life and death, there are plenty of heavy elements in the writing. The scope issues never really go away, but the tale is an interesting one and the conclusion is where the story really shines, with the finale full of surprises and some great moments.

Oninaki may look the part of a Tokyo RPG Factory title, with the style and art all fitting with what has come before, but it stands apart thanks to its combat breaking away from Active Time Battle (ATB) approach, and instead attempts hack-and-slash action RPG style. While it's fun, there are some issues with the difficulty, even in the harder difficulty mode. There is never a challenge if time isn't an issue. Like many games of its ilk, every encounter is easy enough to overcome with patience, running in circles, jabbing a couple of hits at the end of a pattern, and repeating. There doesn't seem to be any encounter or enemy this simple stratagem can't overcome. That being said, the core combat system is interesting and full of fun. That system is centred round the use of Daemons, each with unique fighting styles and abilities. Similar to Stands from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, these Daemons hover along Kagachi and, as he attacks, they attack, sending ethereal blades, bullets, or fists smashing into foes.

Screenshot for Oninaki on Nintendo Switch

The Daemons are the souls of people who could never move on to the cycle of reincarnation, nor could they be damned or banished. At first, Kagachi has a single Daemon to use: Aisha. This Swordswoman is a great introduction to the combat, acting as an all-rounder. She's got fast regular attacks, a decent dodge, and a combination of both AOE and single-target damage for both groups and individual boss enemies. As the story progresses, though, there are tons more Daemons to find. There's a heavily armoured knight, named Zaav, who is more of a tank, able to take much more damage, with much slower attacks, and a worse dodge, but with big Dragoon-style jump attacks. Then there is a dual-wielding gunslinger for ranged combat that has no real dodge, but a slow jump to avoid enemies. There's a gargantuan double-handed axe Daemon, a Monk-style hand-to-hand Daemon, and a speedy dual-wielding rogue Daemon, amongst many others.

Mastering combat means making use of numerous Daemons. Four can be equipped at a time, and switched with the hold of a button, and when it feels like this is probably the whole range of Daemons, more and more appear. It's not worth spoiling here, as many of them are some big surprises, and drastically alter the combat. These Daemons are where the classic RPG elements are more focused. They have got weapons to equip that can be customised with stat-boosting items dropped by enemies and, most importantly, they each have a unique skill tree to work through. These trees are packed with passive and active abilities to unlock, and there's a surprising level of range. While combat is a pretty generic mashy deal, this range of different fighting styles really rewards experimenting and keeps things interesting. Another nice feature is the 'Memory Nodes' scattered here and there on the skill trees. The Daemons have all lost their memories from when they were alive, and unlocking these nodes expands the lore of the world a little further, telling more emotional tales to each of the souls that aided in Kagachi's mission.

Screenshot for Oninaki on Nintendo Switch

These Daemons are used to doing combat against various creatures across two parallel interlinked worlds. As a Watcher, Kagachi can freely step between the two, although it's not always safe to do so. The land of the living and the "Beyond" occupy the same space, and hitting the 'ZL' trigger switches betwixt them, stepping through the veil. Doing this in a completely new area leaves Kagachi "Veil Blind;" the map covered in pitch black, where enemy attacks can be instantly fatal. To travel safely, it's necessary to find a mini-boss in the area known as a "Sight Stealer" and slaughter it, and then use the portal left in its wake to remove the miasma in the area of the veil and grant special combat effects while there.

While the game is moving away from ATB, one of the studio's clear inspirations - Chrono Trigger - is a core part of the game as a big name from that iconic title joins the team. Takashi Tokita, Director of Chrono Trigger, is the Creative Director for Oninaki. His vision, combined with the signature style of the studio, makes for a gorgeous, yet classic, presentation.

Screenshot for Oninaki on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Oninaki is a welcomed trip down memory lane to the glory days of Chrono Trigger, fully capturing the nostalgia of the time. However, like Tokyo RPG Factory's previous creations, while there's a lot to enjoy here, the flaws cannot be ignored. There is a fascinating premise, and a robust story, but it takes far too long to really get going, and the side-quests are wasted. Also, the scope feels too small. When it comes to the combat, the wide range of Daemons keeps things fresh, changing up the experience enough to keep interest higher but, at its core, the combat is just... fine. There's nothing special - same with the RPG elements that add little extra depth to the whole thing.

Developer

Tokyo RPG Factory

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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