Dark Japanese tale tackles questions of death and afterlife.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Oninaki is a fantasy role-playing game for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows Pcs. The story explores the complicated topics of death and how we deal with it. Players take on the role of a Watcher, a sort of officer charged with keeping the peace and also helping lost souls transition from this world to the next. In the course of his duties, he comes across parents grieving their dead children, the souls of cultists who have taken their lives at their leader's command, and lovers separated by death who can't live without each other. Several characters choose to die rather than continue living without their loved ones, and the hero is enlisted to help some of these characters die. These deaths aren't shown, but players hear the sound of a blade swinging and making contact with the people seeking death. Players do battle with plenty of fantastical monsters and a few humans while exploring the world, using swords, crossbows, pistols, and magical abilities to attack. Defeated characters fall to the ground and disappear. Note, as well, that mild profanity appears in text dialogue.
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What’s It About?
ONINAKI imagines a world in which a handful of people called Watchers have the ability to cross over into the veil, the world just beyond that of the living. Here, the souls of the recently dead sometimes linger with unfinished business that must be reconciled before they can move on to whatever comes next. The Watchers' job is to help these souls find peace by assisting them with whatever's keeping them here, and to make anyone who may be involved in wrongful deaths pay for their misdeeds. Players take on the role of one of these officers, Kagachi, a young man who has become cold and emotionally distant since the death of his parents when he was a child, but who's devoted to his job. Assisting him is an evolving roster of demons -- powerful lost souls that become companions -- as well as a strange, ageless girl who exists between worlds and can pray to help souls of the lost find rest. As our hero travels about the world investigating various crimes and helping souls left behind, he encounters a variety of aggressive monsters both in the world of the living and the world of the veil, which players can switch over to instantly at the tap of a trigger. His current companion demon determines the type of weapons he can equip, and as the game goes on, he gradually earns new weapons, abilities, and skills that make both him and his demons more formidable in combat.
Is It Any Good?
This one is bound to start some serious religious conversations between players. Oninaki isn't just concerned with exploring what happens after we die -- are we reincarnated, do we go somewhere else, or do we just vanish? -- but also how our obsession with what comes next can impact our decisions in this world. It can be the root of cults and even give people what seems like justification to commit suicide. These dark questions pop up frequently, especially early on in the game, and might prove uncomfortable for some players. But they also help make for engaging storytelling, drawing players in via their emotions and forcing them to think about their own attitudes and philosophies. You probably won't agree with some actions taken by key characters, but they might help you understand the role that religion and belief systems play in shaping people and cultures.
Combat's a bit less compelling than the storytelling. Attacks are fun and powerful -- especially when calling on demon companions to manifest, allowing them to make short work of powerful foes -- and enemy creature design is pleasantly creative, but the environments can be tedious. Moving between the world of the dead seems like a pretty cool idea at first, especially since switching between worlds is necessary in order to find paths and interact with lost souls. But after a while, it starts to feel like it's simply a way to make players explore the same areas twice over and artificially increase the length of the game. And while the demon companions are great, it takes a while to level them up and earn enough skills to make them feel really powerful. You may find yourself relying too much on just the one or two you've used most and are strongest. Oninaki makes a bold bid for our attention with its surprisingly somber and powerful themes, but it would be even more engaging with just a little more diversity in its world design and care given to how our hero and his demon companions grow and evolve.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence in media. Is the impact of the violence in Oninaki affected by its focus on what could happen to characters after they die? How does this affect the way you perceive the violence in the game? Would the intensity of the impact be affected if the violence was more graphic?
Oninaki has several characters who believe life isn't worth living after the loss of a loved one, but how would you go about consoling someone who has lost someone important in their lives?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Release date: August 22, 2019
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language
- Last updated: August 27, 2019
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