Demos are, in my opinion, a great way to advertise your game. A player can download it for free, get an idea of what the game offers, and then make an educated choice about whether to buy it or not. I occasionally download demos on my Nintendo Switch if they catch my interest, and I’ve found some really great games like Cadence of Hyrule and Disgaea.
Yesterday I played a demo of the game “Oninaki” by Square Enix. It was not good. Personally, I don’t think Square Enix has many good games besides a few Final Fantasies and Chrono Trigger, and I don’t really think they should be viewed as important as companies like Sega, but I digress.
The game was also made by a company called “Tokyo RPG Factory” (or something of the sort). That reassured me that this surely wasn’t going to be some generic JRPG with almost nothing that separates it from others of its kind. Anyway, the demo begins with you, some Japanese-named guy (no choice of name or gender if you care), crying over the death of your parents. But it’s okay, because some girl and semi-important Kakashi-looking guy said it was. There’s also a different, mysterious girl there who says some cryptic stuff and disappears. A shot in this series of cutscenes reminded me of Hollow Knight, which I should play again some time (and which you should play, too). There were also around 2 or 3 loading screens in this cutscene, and every loading screen I experienced in this demo felt way too long.
Something that I dislike about the cutscenes is the lack of fully voiced dialogue. Every time a character says a line of dialogue in text, their character might say a word or two out loud. The dialogue is also in Japanese, which makes me wonder why they didn’t decide to hire English voice actors when 90% of the dialogue in the game is just one or two word sentences. Square Enix has made several other RPGs with much, MUCH more voiced dialogue that had English voice actors, so why not this game? Maybe they didn’t hire English VAs because they knew the Western audience wouldn’t like the game… 🤔
Fast forward 20 years (in-game, of course). You’re with the non-mysterious girl from earlier who gets a line of fully voiced (whoa!) dialogue. And so do you! And then, you see that both of you have a Stand – or as they call them, “Daemons”. I’ll call them Stands because the resemblance is so obvious you could call it plagiarism. You then get into your first combat encounter with Generic Enemy #1. (Note: the girl only appears in cutscenes for some reason).
The combat in this game is not very good. All you do is mash Y on your controller listening to your character make the same grunting noise over and over. Occasionally, you press A, which makes your Stand do a special attack and gives the illusion of making “combos”, but it isn’t all that special. You can also dash with B. That’s a pretty simple gameplay mechanic. However, Oninaki somehow manages to make the dashing mechanic useless and frustrating. For some god-forsaken reason, you can’t cancel one of your attacks with a dash – you have to wait for your attack to finish with its 13 million years of end lag. Not only that, but you can’t even buffer the dash (pressing A during an un-cancelable attack to make it happen after)! Who designed this absolutely useless feature? Games like Furi (which you should also play) have a dash mechanic, and make it a critical part of gameplay. If you’re going to make your attacks un-cancelable, at least have the courtesy to give them less end lag.
Eventually, you encounter a larger enemy with more HP, which you kill, and then find you can travel between dimensions – the good-ol’ regular dimension and the dimension where lost spirits are (or something like that.) This is actually something I thought was cool – credit where credit is due. It reminded me a lot of the one Dishonored 2 level where you constantly time travel in a mansion. You and Generic Female Character (GFC for short) meet the soul of a kid and find out he wants to meet his parents. This is done in a visual-novel style format (characters on right + left, textbox on bottom). This is important because this never happens again (or at least not in my experience). All of the other cutscenes in the part I played (except for 2) are done in a top-down, in-game perspective, so why does this specific cutscene ruin the pacing by transporting you into Visual Novel World?
Anyways, after killing the same three generic enemies (I never encountered any other regular enemies besides the same three) with one large enemy thrown in, there’s an EXTREMELY unnecessary cutscene where your character just looks at a portal. No special animation, no dialogue, just a pan of the camera that breaks the gameplay flow. Come ON, Square Enix! We both know that you don’t need a cutscene to let the player discover and use a gameplay mechanic. Besides, if someone is playing this POS game they probably have enough gaming experience to figure out what a portal does GOD THIS MAKES ME SO MAD.
Speaking of things that exist only to annoy the player, every now and then a character says something in Japanese. With no subtitles. I don’t speak Japanese, so I have no idea what the character said. Would it be that hard to put in subtitles somewhere?
After that, there’s a cutscene where you get a second Stand – some dude with armor and a spear (or is it a lance?). At this point I realized that not only do the stands use *their* weapon, you’re using theirs as well. However, they did bother to put in a new gimmick, as well – your guy can have up to four Stands equipped at once (but not all active simultaneously). I think this concept has a lot of potential and I think swapping between Stands in the middle of an intense fight to match the weaknesses of your enemies would be really, really cool. However, the demo doesn’t do this at all. Then, you fight an even bigger guy. You have to switch to your Goblin Slayer looking guy which is kinda unintuitive because you have to hold the right stick down where you should just be able to flick it. Your Dark Souls buddy allows you to use Doomfist’s Meteor Strike to damage the guy and eventually you beat him. Yay.
The kid from earlier (remember him?) finally gets to see his parents, but unfortunately human beans can’t see spirits. The kid wants to talk to his parents, but unfortunately you and GFC have to act as the middle man to let the three talk to each other. Eventually, the boy cries for some reason. You mention it to the parents, who then say they want to “reunite” with their son. At this point, you may ask yourself “Do they want to kill themselves?”, and the game shortly answers it with a “yes”. The parents line up mass-execution-style and then you pull out your sword.
Then, the title card. I thought the demo was over, but alas, that was not the case. There’s some cutscene of the main town, which, after panning to the sky, experiences a brief FPS drop. In a cutscene! I understand that the Switch’s hardware specs are bad but it’s a CUTSCENE! Make it a video or something! I also noticed that, in the same cutscene, one of the characters had really low resolution clothing textures. At this point, I had zoned out and was no longer paying ANY attention to the dialogue. The two things I picked up were that I had to go to some place in the North and that a lot of people were killing themselves (which I think was unrelated to my new goal). Yikes. There were a lot of NPCs I could talk to but I didn’t talk to any, as I just wanted to finish the demo. As I was going through the town, I noticed one of the areas had a noticeable decrease in FPS. Also, I don’t know what happened to GFC.
I also noticed that a lot of the female characters were wearing veils. My brother, who was watching me play the demo, mentioned that they’re wearing veils to hide the facial animation, which I think is the probable reason why. It’s odd, especially because a lot of other characters didn’t wear veils. Maybe it’s just a design choice..?
Anyways, after a brief struggle getting into the zone (which was in the West) due to unintuitive UI design I made it into the extremely generic ruins area. After killing the fodder enemies and spending around a minute killing a big guy, I dimension traveled. After seeing ~20 more of the generic spirit enemies, I had to stop playing. I could no longer take it.
In conclusion, the demo of Oninaki was unbearable and I highly advise against trying this game (unless you want to experience it for yourself). If, for some reason, you wanted to buy this game, it costs $50 (not on sale). That’s ridiculous! There are so many better games available for lesser prices. You can buy The Witcher 3 GOTY for $15 on sale, which is SO much better in value! Heck, even other JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are made by Square Enix and offer much higher quality for a $10 increased price.
Overall, I give the Oninaki demo a 2/10.
Dimension traveling is cool
Having multiple Stands has a lot of potential
It’s a demo so it’s free (thank God)
Textures look really bad at some points
FPS loss in some areas (including a cutscene)
Very, very limited dialogue that’s only Japanese – some without subtitles
The same 3 generic enemies over and over again
Boring, repetitive, and mindless combat
One of the worst dash mechanics I’ve ever experienced
Loading screens felt long