The Oni one for me.

January 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Hi Konoko, it’s me, Shinatama! I’ve checked our neural link, and it’s working perfectly. I’m so excited, commander Griffin has authorised us to run through TCTF training program Beta 6. That means you’re almost ready for field missions! But before we begin, you’d better warm up.”

The opening words to the tutorial, for what has to be one of my favourite games of all time. Oni, a highly hyped, third person shooter/brawler. The only product of Bungie West, released on the PS2, Mac, and PC, at a time where Bungie as a whole was owned by Microsoft. The first and last game by the studio, it featured anime inspired visual design and plot, with gameplay that flowed between its shooting and brawling seamlessly.

Its story sent you on an adventure through a distopian future, playing as Konoko, a TCTF agent with powers far beyond the norm. While initially you fought only “The Syndicate” an imaginatively named criminal organisation, throughout the story your allegiances shift, as you attempt to discover the secrets of your past. The whole thing, in typical dystopian style, culminating in a battle that is essentially pointless, and with the world only marginally helped by your actions.

To face the truth, I have to accept that, as a whole, it’s not that fantastic a game. The voice acting, while not particularly bad, is certainly nothing to write home about. Its graphics were fairly dated, even when it was a new game. And the whole thing reeks of a game which was rushed out, despite it having a fairly lengthy development period. It’s also quite a short game, probably ony taking six to eight hours in a single playthrough, and that’s accounting for its terrible checkpoint system, and unskippable cinematics. On top of this, while the transition between gunplay and hand to hand combat is very well done, it doesn’t help that the gunplay itself is a little awkward.

However, a few things make up for this. With a heavy focus on hand-to-hand combat, you’d expect it to be quite good, and here Oni delivers. It’s a little simple, and it has the ability for you to play through the game using only one move, but that defeats the fun of it. There is little as satisfying as pulling off a well timed dodge, only to watch your opponent fall off a building, or dodging a move to pull behind them, and break their back. The whole fighting system also incorporates some brilliantly smooth animations, which give everything a beautiful flow. This is helped by the sound design, that helps to make things feel like they have impact, extending out to the guns, which all have a distinct timbre, which is satisfying to hear. To top off the sound cake, is the score -by Marty O’Donnel, Bungie’s in house composer- which combines techno stylings with an “eastern” twist, giving the sound a similar feel to that of Deus Ex’s Hong Kong scenes.

In the interest of giving this rambling piece a point, I feel like I should tell you to go and play Oni. Of course, my argument is unlikely to have any affect, given that it’s an element of its time, and you would have probably made up your mind about whether or not you should play this weird game some time ago. But it had to be said. Personally? I’ll go back and play it again whenever I get bored of all the other games I have, because sometimes it’s safer to go with what you know.

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