The world of Oninaki is beautiful and captivating, but it’s also a good bit disturbing in many aspects. From its very first moments I was instantly drawn in as I wanted to understand exactly how this world works and why exactly it is this way. The incredible art style, which reminds me slightly of Omensight, and the music work together to create an incredibly deep and interesting setting. In terms of gameplay, combat is interesting and varied. If I ever got bored, I could just swap my daemons around and combat feel fresh all over again. The attention to detail in every aspect of Oninaki combines together to create a solid and fun which will keep me thinking about it’s deeper themes for a long time.
Oninaki leads off with the main character, Kagachi, as a child whose parents have just died. In these first moments, I learned two important things about this world: First reincarnation is very real in Oninaki, and secondly grieving for a dead loved one can have dire consequences. Those who grieve for the dead can actually cause their loved ones to become distressed and prevent them from moving onto the next life. This is a horrific concept for me, especially when a child is being told to not grieve for their parents because if they do, it’ll be their fault their parents can’t reincarnate. Additionally, the child’s grief might even cause their parents to turn into fallen - dangerous creatures who were once humans but somehow became lost and despaired. It’s a lot of weight to put on a child’s shoulders, especially over something which is an integral part of the human experience.
Fast forward a few years and Kagachi has become a Watcher, whose duty is to help maintain the balance between life and death. To do this, he must frequently switch between the living realm and step through the veil to the beyond. I was able to switch freely and at any time between the realms, even in combat. However, switching is a walk in the park and there are some rules about how everything works to keep in mind. The first thing to keep in mind the realms are reflections of each other. As such, if I killed all the monsters in one realm when I would cross over, there were frequently the same type of monsters on the other side waiting for me. Therefore, switching between realms to avoid a deadly fight often did not work well.
However, the most important aspect of switching realms, was the first time I crossed the veil in a new area everything would be shadowy, and I couldn’t see. Moreover, after switching I would be stunned for a few seconds, and if anything attacked me during this time, I’d instantly die. This predicament was easily avoided, however and is clearly explained when the ability is first introduced. While working my way through an area, there would always be a more difficult monster who once they were defeated would open a rift to the other side. Switching realms at one of these rifts would remove the shadow in the area I was in and would also allow me to fight normally. Once I had done this, I could freely switch between the realms in that area. Switching between realms added another interesting layer to the gameplay which I enjoyed, and I only ran into issues when I forgot where I hadn’t crossed over before.
As you might expect, switching between the realms is used quite heavily in a variety of ways. The first obvious way is as a method of traversal. Whenever I would run into a roadblock of some sort in the real world if I crossed over, there would be a portal or some way to move on. Likewise, sometimes in the beyond I’d run into an area still covered in shadow or impassable in some other way and to continue I’d need to switch back to the living world. While initially this was interesting it did get a bit repetitive because there’s only a handful of different ways to get around. Additionally, the shadow realm contained chests which, when looted would drop various useful items, so it felt particularly important to explore everywhere in the shadow realm as much as possible.
By far my favorite aspect of Oninaki is the combat style, or more specifically, how varied the combat can be. Watchers bond with daemons, who were once human but have lost their memories and are now guardians. Which daemon I had active would determine not only what kind of weapon and fighting style I’d use but also what skills were available. The different fighting styles include a quick and agile fencer, a heavy hitter with a spear, duel wielding a crossbow and a pistol, fist weapons, and a guy who fights with shield cannons just to name a few. There’s even a giant wolf which you can ride on the back of to fight. While you can only set four to be in your party at any time, you can easily swap deamons at Oninaki’s various waypoints, where you can also manually save. Of course, I had my favorites, but even the ones who felt less enjoyable to me were more a case of the fighting style didn’t click with me more than the daemon wasn’t useful.
For example, there is a daemon I obtained early on named Wil. He used a hefty axe, and I’m pretty sure he by default hits the hardest out of all the daemons. However, his attack speed is slow and rather than dodging attacks, he puts up a barrier. In contrast, my favorite daemon is Izana, who fights with a giant scythe and strikes more quickly. However, what I truly love about her (aside from some of the amazing skills she has available) is she dodges by opening a rift and stepping through it to a spot some distance away. As a result, it is possible to dodge through enemies, which is particularly useful because she deals increased damage when attacking from the side or behind a target. Of course, there are some boss fights which are geared towards specific daemons, but I could still use whatever one I wanted. It just makes things a bit more difficult.
Every daemon has its own sphere grid, which is a collection of spheres arranged in an array you spend points to unlock a multitude of active and passive skills. Doing so further increases the daemon’s overall power by increasing their rank. It is possible to unlock every skill in the grids so fretting over what to unlock when isn’t a huge concern as you will eventually be able to learn every skill if you want to. I do, however, recommend the skills which reduce the stun after switching daemons, make switching to specific daemons quicker, and passives which are active whenever the specific daemon is in the party.
Using these skills make a huge difference in how combat feels and helps everything flow better. Being locked in skill animations or trying to switch daemons in the middle of combat can be frustrating so minimizing these restrictions much as possible is good. However, it is also good these restrictions can’t be completely removed because it forced me to think a bit more strategically. Each daemon has a specific type of stone which can drop and collecting these is how each sphere is unlocked, for example Aisha needs Sword Stones to unlock her spheres. Unfortunately the only way to get Sword Stones is to be actively using Aisha, not just have her in the party but have her as your active daemon. This type of set-up usually frustrates me because I prefer to keep party members evenly leveled; Luckily Null Stones also drop. These can be used in lieu of a daemon’s specific stone and allows for easy cross leveling of daemons which are used less or obtained further into the story.
Overall, I had a blast playing Oninaki and not only enjoyed the gameplay and story, but the art style and music in-game is also top-notch. I did find the story to be mostly predictable; however, there were also a few moments which surprised me. In fact, at one point I thought I had come to the end of the game but it turned out it was just the end of that section. The combat can be a bit challenging to get the hang of, even on the easier difficulties, but it’s well worth the effort.
This review was done on PS4 with a copy received from PR.
- Mesmerizing setting with interesting characters and story to tell
- A fun combat system which can be customized to the preferences of the player
- Upgrading daemons and weapons is easy to understand and not overly complicated to figure out
- The story can be a bit predictable in a few aspects
- Sort preferences on equipment menus wouldn’t save between play sessions
- Some fights felt like they were too much “run around and avoid” and not enough attack time