No matter how long we live, death is unavoidable. It’s comes when we least expect it. It’ll come when we’re older and prepared or when life has just begun. For Kagachi, death came for both his parents when he was just a small child. Forced to process the pain without properly grieving for them (grieving prevents a soul from moving on), he is joined by his friend, Mayura, and her father, Kushi, to help him through one of the most difficult times in his young life.
As time passes, Kagachi becomes a Watcher, a sacred overseers of the living and spirit world meant to guide the spirit of lost souls onto their next reincarnated life. Creating this fine balance is a heavy toll to pay, but an act held with pride. Oftentimes a mission will go smoothly but there are other moments when the living cannot bear to go on without their deceased loved one and suicide is their only option to be reunited with their dead loved one.
While this task seems simple, Kagachi must also battle the dead, those who are determined to see him perish forever. Armed with weapons and other lost souls called Daemons, they battle between the living and the dead to slay monsters living in both worlds.
From the very beginning, Oninaki is more than a game; it’s an experience that will take you on an emotional journey and fill your heart with child-like wonder. As the game starts you’re met with a canvass of pure art, high quality visuals and comforting colors that’ll feel like a fantasy extension of Kagachi’s world. Despite death lurking at every corner, the game is contrasted with life in every corner; never overwhelming but always welcoming.
Navigating through the world of the dead is a careful balance of strategy and sheer willpower that often left me in a puddle of my own tears; with enemies that’ll come at you in waves, to bosses who will have you thinking quickly on your feet.
As you progress in the story, you’ll find yourself joined by a Daemon armed with their own set of skills, weapons and fight moves. You’ll start off with Aisha, who’ll provide Kagashi with the ability to possess a sword, dash with much appreciated speed and use a Gale Slash that’s basically a rush attack. My favorite was Zaav, whose special skill was a powerful Meteor that allowed you to take a large horde at once especially when you’re feeling claustrophobic. It can also provide much needed damage to a boss who’ll laugh at your puny attacks otherwise.
While horde attacks are best to initiate with, when it it comes to bosses, it’s advantageous to use your Daemon. But keep in mind that since they will need to be recharged, bosses will become frustratingly difficult and will leave you (or at least me) constantly replaying that level or instantly killed in the underworld (don’t worry, there are saved points in each level).
In addition, Oninaki provides players with a rich backstory of all Daemons and the game’s characters that’ll keep you enthralled in its world, and with the help of Soulstones you’re able to restore memories of spirits.
Despite the unforgiving nature of Oninaki and my embarrassing fighting skills, the game allows players to learn from their mistakes. It allowed me to become better the longer I played. Learning how to switch between Daemons (over ten Daemons in the game) and pacing myself made me appreciate this game for what it was trying to accomplish…true escapism.
Oninaki is a gamers delight. Effortlessly beautiful, the game is brutal and filled with an easy to learn gameplay mechanics that kept me coming back for more. With time and practice this could easily become everyone’s most charming game of the year.
Oninaki will release on August 22nd for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam.