Tokyo RPG Factory has been crafting lovely RPGs since 2016's I Am Setsuna and they're at it again with the action-packed Oninaki.
Oninaki has you play as a Watcher whose job it is to help the living as well as spirits. With this occupation, you have the ability to shift between worlds at any time which is very similar to Shadows: Awakening; another worthwhile action RPG. Anyway, Oninaki's world looks wonderful complete with soft colour palettes and detailed environments that change drastically between the Veiled and Incarnate worlds. As you traverse these parallel worlds, you'll encounter many NPCs who usually have tragic stories and helping them out is almost always bittersweet as you may have to kill some people and seeing families torn apart is always disheartening.
These heavy themes persist throughout Oninaki's story and although the overarching narrative isn't particularly engaging, it's the personal stories of those you meet along the way that make the plot really shine. Another ability that you have as a Watcher is that you can bond with Daemons which is not only essential for combat; they each have their own intriguing back-story that you can optionally unlock in a handy menu. With so many ways to flesh out the world and its inhabitants, your enjoyment of the story almost entirely relies on your willingness to seek out lore and optional story sequences. If you don't want to, you'll likely not appreciate Oninaki as much.
Oninaki is an overhead action RPG that plays similarly to the Ys series although it's not quite as fast-paced. Combat involves hacking and slashing your sword and utilizing your current Daemon's skills and abilities. You can equip up to 4 Daemons simultaneously that you can switch to on the fly as well as 4 skills for each Daemon that act as special attacks. Meanwhile, each Daemon also has a specific dodge action such as jumping, dashing, and warping. Swapping between Daemons to see what each one is capable of is great fun. As you fight, you'll gain Affinity and once it's at 100%, you can unleash Manifest which makes you and your Daemons more powerful.
With all of that in mind, the first few hours of the campaign are quite clunky and tedious because your selection of Daemons and skills is severely limited until you acquire more and it takes a while to amass enough to make the gameplay actually enjoyable. Once you get over that initial hump, though, things become much more exciting. However, some boss battles can be a little too exciting in that the level of challenge can suddenly go through the roof. These difficulty spikes essentially force you to grind and configure your party until you can beat them which ends up feeling repetitive and fruitless as once you defeat a super-tough boss, combat can become too easy.
One thing that I enjoyed immensely in Oninaki is its upgrade systems. Aside from simply levelling up your character, each Daemon has a sprawling skill tree that you can master after obtaining enough upgrade stones. The Daemons can also equip weapons that you can upgrade and enhance with Shadestones at the local Alchemist. While there, you can craft (or Transmute) a few weapons and Shadestones by combining unneeded equipment. Whenever you're in a pickle, you can use a Healing Incense mid-battle and the total amount that you can have on-hand at any given time increases as you progress. Overall, these systems are very rewarding.
Finally, the core combat in Oninaki can be a lot of fun if you constantly change up your Daemons and try out new skills. However, when you're just trying to get through an easy dungeon or grind in order to tackle a tough boss, fighting enemies turns from an enjoyable experience into an exercise in tedium. The developers could have remedied this aspect by forcing you to change your Daemons in certain circumstances but as it is, you can feel safe with simply equipping your favourite one then monotonously mow down foes like there's no tomorrow. In other words, I wish there were more incentives to frequently change your setup and play style.
Oninaki is a solid action RPG with striking visuals and a compelling story if you're willing to dig into it. Although it has a few less than ideal elements, what's here still adds up to one rewarding and captivating adventure.
- + Enjoyable action RPG combat with a wide variety of skills and Daemons
- + Lovely visuals and emotional story
- + Rewarding upgrade systems
- - Gameplay starts off being too limited
- - Contains a few huge difficulty spikes
- - Combat gets tedious after a while