Tokyo RPG Factory, the studio that brought the world modern classics like I am Setsuna and Lost Sphear delivers a brand new adventure to Nintendo Switch owners with Oninaki, an action oriented adventure with a rich and somber story sure to captivate players to the very end. Players take control of the Watcher Kagachi, as he fulfills his solemn duty to deliver lost souls over to the Beyond (afterlife) of his realm.
Kagachi inhabits a vibrant and beautifully animated world dominated by the laws of reincarnation. As a Watcher he must ensure that the souls of the departed can pass onto the next life without any attachments to the living world so he has cut off his emotions to accomplish his duties.
As Oninaki heavily deals with the themes of death and reincarnation, the citizens of the world have an interesting outlook on death as told by their leader, The Sovereign, and the Watchers not to grieve the fallen or they will not be allowed to pass onto their next lives. It’s a much different look at death than most western cultures have explored, and although a bit depressing, also offers some hope to the thought of an afterlife.
Fans of I am Setsuna and Lost Sphear will find a similar storytelling experience with Oninaki. Tokyo RPG Factory already proved that it could tell a captivating and emotionally rich story with their previous installments and this one is no different, although there’s quite a bit of handholding and pacing issues here. There are plenty of Japanese manga and anime tropes packaged here as well, with subtle references to JRPGs of the past. Despite its heavy inspiration from the classics like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, Oninaki strives to be its own brand new experience.
Ditching the traditional turn-based battle system as seen in popular 16-bit games like Chrono Trigger, Oninaki takes a more approachable hand and slash combat approach, but it doesn’t quite live up to other classics in this genre. Kagachi has the power to control Daemons or lost souls of proud warriors who cannot or don’t want to pass onto the Beyond. These Daemons act as classes or jobs when equipped giving Kagachi a wide variety of tools and abilities at his disposal, similar to Xenoblade Chronicles 2‘s Blades or the popular anime and manga series JOJO’s Bizarre Adventure’s Stands.
There are plenty of Daemons the player will receive through basic story quests and some that they will have to look for on their own. Kagachi can only equip four Daemons at a time so the player can mix and match their favorites for the best team. Each one has a specific weapon, such as a sword or scythe with its own skills and abilities, which are unlocked on a skill tree. The actual combat is great at the beginning of the game but slowly turns into a repetitive button mash of the Y button followed by the occasional ability button. Most of the basic enemies in the game won’t ever give you a problem but the boss fights can be quite a challenge and not because of the player.
As the game introduces a more action oriented experiences one would think that the developers would try and make the inputs much more accurate and responsive, but I’m sorry to say that there were plenty of times when the game’s combat just felt slow. At times there felt like a delay in my movements making it hard to evade an enemy’s attack. This isn’t too much of a nuisance when fighting normal enemies, but with bosses that can kill you with only a few hits it becomes rather annoying, not to mention the respawn locations in boss fights are atrocious. More than a few times I was respawned right in front of the boss after dying just to get slashed two times and die again.
Oninaki also likes to throw waves and waves of enemies at the player, which aren’t particularly difficult but just seem to pad the game out longer than it really needs to be. After beating a large group of monsters expect to have an even larger group spawn right after it and then one more time again. This becomes tedious far quicker than a game like Secret of Mana or The Legend of Zelda, which is unfortunate because the developers really had a great core idea here, but the scenarios weren’t fleshed out enough to keep things fresh and interesting.
Out of the three games Tokyo RPG Factory has produced so far, Oninaki stands out as the most beautiful. The cell-shaded landscapes and characters look as though they were painted with watercolors offering a vibrant and visually satisfying setting. As Kagachi has the power to travel between the realms of living and dead each world stands apart even though they both share the same landscape. The living world is much more detailed and beautiful than the dead’s, but it too has its visual charms using a minimal color palette.
Although the world is beautiful to look at, there’s not much to do in it. The main city Kagachi resides in is full of bustling shops and houses, but the player can only interact with a handful of NPCs and there’s only one shop to visit. I would have liked the ability to explore the world more on my own, but it felt a little lifeless (maybe that was the point because the game is about death?).
The musical score is a little bland compared to the likes of I am Setsuna and sometimes non-existent at times. There’s also quite a bit of Japanese voice acting, which lends a lot of emotion to the story although the writing has its ups and downs.
Oninaki is solemn tale about death and rebirth that would stand as one of the greats if it wasn’t plagued by repetitive combat and some slow input commands. The art direction alone demands attention. Fans of I am Setsuna and Lost Sphear looking for a similar experience probably won’t find it here, but what they will find is still worth their time.
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 6/106/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Fans of Tokyo RPG Factory’s previous games will no doubt pick this one up, but what they play will probably not be what they were expecting. Too much needless grinding and pacing keep Oninaki from reaching the greatness it could have been, despite its wonderful art direction and touching story.
Tony has been gaming ever since he could walk. Pokémon Blue Version helped him learn how to read. His greatest accomplishment is not just having played the entire Kingdom Hearts series but also understanding it.