Tokyo RPG Factory’s titles thus far have relied heavily on a deep-seated nostalgia for old JRPGs in order to be enjoyable. With their latest action JRPG effort, the development studio — which was originally conceived to produce classic-style JRPGs with a quick turnaround — has transitioned into crafting something truly special. Oninaki is a title exploring death, reincarnation, and moving past what came before. Considering their previous track record and the quality of their latest efforts, these themes also apply to the current state of the studio.

Classic JRPGs reincarnated

Oninaki's action-based combat is much better than a menu-based one

Reincarnation is a key theme of Oninaki. The protagonist, Kagachi, is a Watcher, an individual whose duty is to uphold the law of reincarnation. They are important because the spirits of the dead can sometimes be prevented from moving on by the grief of their family members, friends, and various loved ones. Should the spirits still have an individual in “The Living World” holding onto that sadness, that regret twists the spirits and transforms them into monsters stuck in “The Beyond.” Throughout Kagachi’s quest, players will switch between these two planes of existence on the fly.

These aspects make Oninaki‘s strongest facet its narrative-driven efforts, which are told alongside the backing of a sweepingly solemn orchestral score. The explorations into death and reincarnation, and the emotions these bring to mourning loved ones, are poignant.

Gaining an edge with Daemons

A small slice of a single Demon's skill tree in Oninaki

The combat in Oninaki is a departure from Tokyo RPG Factory’s previous two titles, being an action RPG. I was initially worried that it would be repetitive, but thankfully Oninaki leans more on its RPG aspects. You will need to craft strategies and combine skills and abilities to defeat foes. You must also learn foes’ unique attack patterns in order to come out of fights unscathed.

Weapon variety comes from the utilization of different Daemons, spirits that Kagachi has saved. You’ll want to constantly upgrade and pore over the numerous skill trees of the various Daemons. These options allow you to choose and craft the Daemons to specifically suit your play style.

Apart from various skills and buffs, you can also spend skill tokens to unlock cutscenes that divulge memories of the Daemon from their time alive. Kagachi may initially view the Daemons without empathy, but these backstory vignettes help players to sympathize with them. This is enhanced by the strong voice-over performances from the Japanese voice actors and a sharper translation when compared to other Tokyo RPG Factory games. It is still unfortunate that there are no English dialogue options, and there are no subtitles for the banter between the Daemons and Kagachi during combat.

Crank up the difficulty

Oninaki's Kagachi is a character that grows past his indifferences

There are a few issues to be found with Oninaki. At times, the AI was slightly frustrating to deal with, with enemies not detecting Kagachi. This meant I had to chase after them since they weren’t attacking me, which can be a bit tedious. The normal difficulty mode for Oninaki is a tad on the easy side as well. Players may want to explore the harder difficulty option if they want more from combat. The difficulty is balanced with increased drop rates for the various items needed to gain skills, allowing you to hit the ceiling of what its mechanics allow. Performance-wise, the game’s ethereal anime aesthetic looks great in both combat and the overworld. However, even when the Switch is docked, there are noticeable hitches during effects-heavy cutscenes.

In any case, it is recommended to download the generous demo for Oninaki. The save data from the trial will carry over to the full game, and it will give you enough time to decide whether the game is worth buying.

Death, life, and what comes after

Oninaki's various characters have their own nuances and views on reincarnation.

On the surface, Oninaki might seem like a rough-around-the-edges action RPG lacking depth to its combat alongside an anime-inspired melodramatic story. However, for those who are patient enough to explore its world, characters, and ability-based battle system, there’s a lot to like an dive into after all. If you have even the slightest curiosity in this title, Oninaki‘s refreshing take on JRPGs is most definitely worth your time.

Release Date: Aug. 22, 2019
No. of Players: 1 player
Category: Action Role-Playing
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory

A review code was provided by the publisher.

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Daniel Thompson
Hey folks! I'm Daniel (Danny) Thompson and I've been writing in the games industry for quite a few years. I have a deep love for the industry that's rooted in the people behind the games that you enjoy.

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