Third Time's the Charm??
I'm free from Shadowbringer's icy grip and can do other things with my life again...like play other videogames! This isn't totally fair, I've also started drawing and have actually been pretty consistent with my novel, but you know, whatever. Anyways I played the Oninaki demo. That's my intro, let's just jump in and talk about it!
I can pretty easily say that this is already Tokyo RPG Factory's best game so far, even having spent only a few hours with Oninaki. You can tell, because it has a soul, which is more than I could say of their previous two games – and this is coming from someone who actually liked I am Setsuna! But where that game and its predecessor were so intent on capturing an era of nostalgia without remembering what made the games from said era actually good, Oninaki feels like it was born from an interesting idea then expanded upon. The game is about a young man named Kagachi who can go between the real world and "The Veil," a place where lingering spirits of people get stuck in a sort of limbo. As a Watcher, it's he and his friend Mayuri's job to send those spirits off so that they can be reincarnated.
This involves a lot of beating evil spirits up. Where Tokyo RPG Factory's previous games were turn-based, ATB affairs, Oninaki is an Action-RPG. I can best compare it to a Mana game, with a dash of Diablo and a sprinkle of, weirdly enough, Chaos Legion mixed in. You team up with cool spirits to run through scores and scores of enemies on your quest to ease the spirits of those that have passed. It's a relatively simple affair, but when it flows, it flows, especially when you start collecting more spirits and unlock more moves.
Depending on the kind of person you are and what kinds of games you like, Oninaki's combat could best be described as either "meditative," or "boring." I enjoyed taking out enemies at a rhythmic pace, listening to a podcast all the while. But I could also see it easily putting you to sleep, seeing as there wasn't much challenge to speak of, and some sections felt like they went on a bit too long for my taste. It might be worth it to turn up the difficulty from Normal Mode, just to make your pulse quicken. Luckily you can switch difficulties whenever you want, which is something I always appreciate!
That said, I think it's worth it for the game's world-building and atmosphere alone. This game was a lot more reflective and self-aware than I was expecting. It immediately explores the aspects that come with being able to see the dead, and the impact a Watcher could have on someone who might have lost a son, for example. There are some pretty dark concepts though, and I'd throw in a content warning for suicide, of which there's, uh, a lot of discussion around, even this early in the game, haha.
I also love the art style and character art. The daemons, as well as Kagachi and Mayuri, all look great, and I'm excited to see what more of your spirit companions look like.
Now onto the meh stuff – this game can chug. The beginning especially felt like the game missed its alarm and was rushing to catch up and load as you played it. An example below:
Oof. This translates into the combat as well, although I feel like I got more of a hang of it as time went on, I think it could be smoothed out just a bit. Also, the game is in Japanese, which is fine, but there's so much dialogue that occurs between Kaguchi and his daemons that doesn't get subtitled, which I feel kills some of the world-building that Tokyo RPG Factory has spent time crafting. Lastly, there's a weird lack of music in the game. I passed through dungeons that were almost completely silent save for the occasional tune when a tougher enemy or boss appeared. I feel like the monotony of the combat could be dialed down with a bit of music!
All that said, I'm cautiously optimistic for Oninaki. If its sluggishness could get improved before release, and if its retains its interesting story through the whole game, I could see it being a great time!