With its watercolor hues and anime-inspired style, “Oninaki” looks as though it were crafted from a dream. The soft colors and cel-shading have an ethereal quality and those visuals are fitting for a game about death.
Tokyo RPG Factory’s latest action role-playing game takes place in a fantasy world, in which reincarnation is a reality. Death is seen as a transitory state as most spirits move on. “Oninaki” follows a boy named Kagachi, whose parents die when he’s young. His childhood friend, Mayura, and her father, Kushi, help him through the ordeal.
That leads Kagachi to life as a Watcher. In the world of “Oninaki,” they are the guardians between the living world and the beyond. Their job is to guide lost souls to the next phase of their existence — reincarnation. Using their own weapons and lost souls called Daemons, they battle creatures in the living world, and they can transport themselves to the world of the dead and slay monsters there.
It’s a fascinating world, in which Watchers have to regulate death itself. Because people know that reincarnation exists, what’s to stop them from dying and re-rolling for a better life? The game and the world bring up these questions over the course of the adventure.
As for the gameplay itself, “Oninaki” is a mix of “Diablo” and “Dark Souls.” The “Diablo” element comes in the dungeon crawl that players will run through. They’ll kill hordes of enemies using the Daemon companions that they discover along the way.
Each Daemon offers a unique weapon, skill and action. For instance, the starter Daemon, Aisha, lets Kagachi wield a sword. Her powers allow him to dash across the screen and use a linear rush attack called the Gale Slash. Those special moves take time to recharge.
Further into the adventure, players encounter Zaav, a Daemon with a different set of attacks. He offers Kagachi a spear and the lost soul allows him to jump in the air. Combine those two moves and players can perform a powerful jump attack that’s useful against certain monsters. Zaav’s special move is called Meteor. It’s powerful but takes a long time to activate.
From the demo I played, it appears as though gamers will have to switch out their Daemons depending on the enemy. In addition, they’ll also collect Soulstones that can upgrade these special Lost Souls. If they want to delve into the Daemons’ backstory, they can restore the spirits’ memories and find out what makes them tick.
Lastly, players have the Manifest ability. That’s tied to a meter called Affinity, which rises during battle but falls when skills are used. When Manifest is used, it temporarily boosts stats, cancels a current action and prevents stagger damage. This power is vital when facing tough bosses.
That easily became clear during my travels through the world of the dead. I met up with a boss and encountered a “Dark Souls”-like experience. That means I died a lot. The bosses in the game will punish players who don’t memorize their patterns or attack a weak point. Thankfully, I had healing incense, which kept me alive through the confrontation. I had to keep an eye on it though, because I only had five on hand. They are replenished by opening treasure chests or defeating enemies.
Even if players die, “Oninaki” isn’t too punishing. They start them over from convenient save points, and they can continue the adventure without much penalty. I fought the boss, the Iron Hammer, a few times before I figured out its weak point. Players have to attack from behind. The challenge showed off the potential of the action RPG combat system. It should be interesting to see how Tokyo RPG Factory adapts the gameplay for other bosses and situations. It appears to do a lot with fairly simple mechanics.
Release date: Aug. 22
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam. A demo may be on the way.
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