After several years in the making, the long awaited game Oni has finally hit the shelves of your favorite game store. Now that its been released, the biggest question that the gaming aficionado undeniably has to answer is whether or not Oni lives up to the hoopla and hype that has accompanied it throughout its initial conceptualization. Read on for Jim McHugh's verdict on this heavily anticipated G.O.D. PC title.
We were told
time and time again over the past 2+ years by both the developers and gaming
hounds that this title would be THE game to change the face of gaming...and to
be completely honest, it does prove to be something quite extraordinary as a
video game in a number of ways. But
then again, 'Oni' (which means
'Ghost' and/or 'Demon' in Japanese) still has its own group of poltergeists that
haunt the game.
For the past
several decades, the art form of 'Anime' (or Japanese Animation) has captured
the attention and imaginations of both children and adults. From such classics
as 'Starblazers' and 'Speed Racer', to the modern crazes dealing with 'Pokemon'
and 'Digimon', it seems that this unique animation form has struck a chord with
many within the international community. With anime's popularity still strong
and continuing to grow in bounds, it was only a matter of time before the gaming
industry would take notice and try to capitalize on the phenomenon.
Although several titles have been released in the past with the anime
theme in mind, nothing really has stood out as much or have been able to really
capture the anime experience. With
Bungie's and Gathering of Developer's release of 'Oni', the bar has been raised
quite high, delivering a game that encompasses the best traits of anime,
including an in depth storyline, interesting characters, a strong plot, and
in-game artwork that mimics some of the best of the Japanese styled animation.
of 'Oni' begins in the year 2032, where the majority of the worlds population
lives within massive cityscapes, protected from the biologically devastated
wastelands of the outside world. All
governing actions are now under direct control of the World Coalition
Government, or the WCG. But the term 'Big Brother' doesn't even come close when
you try describing this outfit. Every aspect of modern life is under direct
influence of the WCG, from the food you eat to the air that you breathe. Most
people have been willing to give up some of their personal freedoms for
protection and order under the auspices of the WCG, who claim that terrorists
and other fringe organizations still have biotech weapons available to them, the
cause of the ecological disasters and death outside of the cities. As the main
character, Konoko, you work as an agent for the Tech Crimes Task Force (TCTF), a
policing outfit used to control the stem of illegal cyber-drugs and weapons that
have begun to surface in your society...or, so you are told.
As you begin to investigate one of the more organized crime groups known
as 'The Syndicate', you stumble onto a mystery greater than anything you could
have imagined. One that will question everything that you know and have been
told by the TCTF and the WCG...not to mention your own identity. What Oni does
is take you on a third person adventure through 14 intense levels of play,
weaving an intricate storyline with intense combat. While that in itself is
nothing spectacular on the gameplay front, it's HOW Oni does it that makes the
game something of a unique specimen.
Developers Bungie and G.O.D have gone to great lengths to incorporate some of the best aesthetics that I've seen in a game in quite some time, and seem to have strive in almost every area to make Oni a high Caliber game. The animation/graphics engine used in the game and in the cutscenes are as they had been pre-ported to be, very fluid and 'anime-like' in detail. Every motion and movement runs through very
smoothly and in
a realistic fashion (albeit in an animation sense), even down the effects of
gravity on individual objects (my favorite being the dropped weapon on a ramp
that slides down slowly until it hits the floor). Over 20 characters exist
throughout the game, each with their own unique appearance, movements, and
personalities. A much more entertaining aspect than the normal ‘cut from the
same mold’ duplication of characters seen throughout other titles.
This same sense
of intricate depiction of characters can be seen even more so when you throw in
the factor of Oni’s unique combat system.
Most of the game characters do have their own form of combat that
you’ll come across during gameplay, but that’s only scratching the
proverbial surface of what Oni’s combat style is all about.
In laymen’s terms, consider an amalgam of the titles ‘Tomb Raider’
and ‘Tekken’. Multiple combinations of moves made up of throws, kicks,
jumps, punches, and acrobatics mixed in with fair amount of gunplay make
for an exciting twist in the action based scenarios of the game. No one was as
surprised as I when during a round of melee, Konoko grabbed the weapon of a
nearby armed assailant, used it to shoot another assailant as he ran toward us
(weapon still in the hand the first bad guy), THEN disarmed the first guy with
an elbow to the stomach which knocked him to the floor.
Still though, my personal favorite has to be the ‘Lariat’ move, a
running based attack that allows you to do running ‘swing’ off an opponents
neck, literally twisting his head and body around with a satisfying sound of a
loud ‘crack’ whilst knocking down any other close by attackers with the
swinging action of your legs and feet. There
are also a number of other moves that can be learned throughout the game,
ranging from the ‘Devil Spin Kick’ to the ‘Rising Fury Punch’, with some
slightly more difficult to master than others.
overall high quality of gameplay in mind, Oni’s developers went to great
lengths not only with the visual elements of the title, but also for the audio
ones as well. Unlike most titles that throw in a soundtrack as an afterthought,
the makers of Oni have gone to great lengths to incorporate music that not only
invigorates the game but also keeps it grounded solidly within the genre of
Action/Anime. The main theme throughout deals with an original and stylized
techno beat that basically builds during the more climatic aspects of gameplay,
and lessons to an ambient and even sometimes non-existent form during slower
areas. It keeps the pace of the game going not unlike the soundtracks found in a
quality film or television production, a very refreshing quality. I’ve even
found myself listening to the music on the CD-ROM on its own, while not playing
the game…something I cannot honestly admit to doing anytime before in the
Not So Good
In many ways,
Oni stands out as a unique and quality game that most definitely surpasses
anything else within the third person genre to date. But to be completely honest
(and maybe even slightly morose) Oni still has many problems that keep it from
being the best game I’ve ever played.
the earliest problem that I came across was the save game option…something
that caused me to throw a derogative statement more than once in the direction
of my monitor, to the chagrin of my girlfriend and cat (both who happened to be
in the room). Instead of the ‘save-at-will’ function that was the popular
trend for some time, the developers at Bungie have chosen the automatic save
function instead. Simply put, you have to travel to a pre-determined point of
any given chapter of the game before it will save for you. Normally, this
wouldn’t bother me as much, since it has the positive aspect of keeping the
pace of a game moving along. But, for some ungodly reason, Oni’s creators threw in quite
a few levels that were just too damn long to traverse, causing hours of replayed
grief and consternation. At one
particular save point, I even toyed with the idea of hunting down a cheat code
or two just to keep the game moving along, something that I normally try not to
do (I did finally cross that particular barrier, however).
problem that I continually came across during the game dealt with its overall
combat system. Although innovative in its approach, Oni’s special form of
combat leaves much to be desired when it comes to practicality. More suited for
a game consoles’ control pad than a computers’ keyboard, the various
combinations of button pushing needed in order to perform some of the
spectacular maneuvers Konoko can produce seemed next to impossible. Most of the
time, I found myself using just the standard punch and kick combinations
available (still deadly, by the way), and only by chance did I end up actually
performing any of the other moves. The
lack of key mapping also added to this problem, forcing the user to control
Konoko’s actions only through the preset system rather than allowing the
personal touch that most gamers tend to set up. Another bummer in my book.
The last couple of problems that I came across weren’t actually REAL problems when you think about it. More ‘pet peeves’ than anything else, in my honest opinion. But still, they stuck in my mind enough to warrant writing about them. For starters, the gaming environment seemed rather non-descript for the world of the future, even if it is not-too-distant. Though nicely rendered with CAD programming, the game could have just as easily been set in 1998 rather than 2032 if I didn’t know better. Also, there just wasn’t enough interactivity within the environments themselves, turning everything into a high speed blur as you ran past the sights in your hurry to get past the next set of armed villains in your path. Basically, there was no need to stop and smell the roses, if you get my drift. And finally, the last problem that caught my attention dealt with the linear path the game takes during its ‘missions’. Every once in a blue moon, the mission parameters could be altered slightly by your actions, but in the end you still had to complete a set of predetermined tasks which basically worked around the idea of getting from point A to point B.