Oninaki review – hints of fun combat can’t salvage a terribly written JRPG

August 22, 2019
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When Tokyo RPG Factory released its first game, I am Setsuna, the mission statement was making games reminiscent of Square’s golden age of RPGs. It was a lofty goal from the get-go, but the more of their titles I play, the clearer it becomes that you need more than Active Time Battles to inspire nostalgia – if anything I’m now more convinced than ever that they really don’t make ’em like they used to.

Tokyo RPG Factory’s latest, Oninaki, takes place in a world ruled by the belief in death and reincarnation. I’m always interested in JRPGs that handle death, since some of them – chiefly Final Fantasy 10 and Tales of Berseria – offer interesting angles on the topic, studied through the lens of Buddhism and Shintoism. Oninaki, on the other hand, has nothing interesting to say.

It does in fact have so little to say that after 30 hours with it I’m not sure what the plot was, or if there was one as opposed to a sequence of various tasks. You take control of Kagachi, a white-haired boy who after the death of his parents joins the Watchers, a group of people with the ability to walk between the world of the dead and the living. If someone dies with regrets, they stay behind as a ghost instead of being reincarnated, and so the Watchers take on any problem that may keep someone from peacefully passing on. This isn’t quite at the level of “oh no, I’ve left the oven on”, but too often, especially in case of ghosts you randomly come across, all you have to do is visit a specific place on the map again so that they can see it one last time.

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