Ever seen that show Dirty Jobs? It’s that show where Mike Rowe takes on work that’s too gross or difficult for the average person to do themselves. We’re talking about things like garbage duty, special effects, milking goats, the works. How am I going to tie this into Oninaki, the new action-RPG from Tokyo RPG Factory? Well…
It turns out that Oninaki’s hero Kagachi has one of those jobs. He’s a Watcher, essentially a guide to the dead. It’s a more hands-on profession than you’d expect in the real world, since in the world of Oninaki, the dead need to be reincarnated to maintain the cycle of life. If someone dies with regrets and doesn’t want to move on, they become a ghostly Lost and it’s up to a Watcher to convince them to skedaddle, since if a Lost person sticks around too long they become a Fallen monster.
Due to the whole monster thing, if someone’s causing those regrets in a Lost individual, it’s up to a Watcher to do something about that as well – up to and including killing that person so they can join a dead loved one if need be. This is Tokyo RPG factory. You shouldn’t be surprised that it’s a little dark. Things get even darker when it’s revealed that someone is causing problems in the lands of the living and dead, so it’s up to Kagachi to do something about it.
This is an action-RPG, so of course we’re all about the combat. The problem is that Oninaki’s combat doesn’t make a great first impression. Kagachi’s weapons take the form of non-hostile Lost called Daemons, each of which represents a different weapon, and you start with Aisha the sword Daemon. Her attacks are slow, stilted and a little awkward. Enemies come in large groups and you’re not really in a great position to deal with them. It’s rough, but as you continue playing, you’ll accumulate Skill Stones to advance your abilities as well as collecting new Daemons like the ranged crossbow/pistol Dia, the axe Wil and the lance Zaav.
You’re able to equip four Daemons at a time, each with four active skills, and can switch between them at your leisure. Combat with a full loadout is vastly more satisfying and you’ll have it within the first few hours of the game, plus progressing down each Daemon’s skill tree drastically improves their effectiveness. A little patience is key to success!
On the RPG side of things, you’ve got customizable loot and weapons to mess around with. Properly building your gear is addictive, as is slaughtering Fallen by the thousands to collect the stones you’ll need to do that customization. One slight complaint is that Oninaki isn’t especially fond of precise numbers, until you’ve actually crafted a weapon and equipped it, so you’re flying blind to some extent. But this isn’t the end of the world.
In addition, there’s no currency system; instead, customization works on a sort of barter system where trading certain things both buys new things and earns you bonuses, which is somewhat more interesting and encourages even more grinding for loot to trade.
Oninaki’s presentation immediately calls to mind Tokyo RPG Factory’s other titles I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear. It’s a distinctive artistic style, not quite cel-shaded but much less harsh than the average game, one that lends a dreamlike feel that serves Oninaki’s narrative well. Character design is one of Oninaki’s strong suits, and I was particularly fond of the various Daemons that you collect throughout the game. Strangely, some of the visuals tend to be little glitchy; in particular, the skill tree is known to bug out somewhat and end up looking a little horrifying, but this is just a cosmetic issue and doesn’t affect gameplay.
Oninaki represents Tokyo RPG Factory both branching out and learning from its previous titles. It’s much more of a complete “game” than I Am Setstuna and much more interesting from a plot standpoint than Lost Sphear. The results are almost entirely new, yet still intimately familiar and playable, especially for those JRPG fans anxious for something beautiful to spend a few hours staring at. Again, the combat can be a little janky at first, but stick with it and you’re bound to find that helping serve the undead can be a surprisingly good time.