Oninaki is the latest title from Tokyo RPG Factory, a team within Square Enix that has been dedicated towards delivering RPGs with a 90s feel to them to a modern audience.
While the first two games from Tokyo RPG Factory, I Am Setsuna (2016) and Lost Sphear (2017), were both traditional turn-based style games their upcoming project, Oninaki, will be an action RPG.
I’m a huge fan of traditional turn-based RPGs, as are many gamers that follow what Tokyo RPG Factory has been working on over the last few years. It was surprising, then, to learn that Oninaki would make the lateral move over to an action RPG.
Personally, I wanted to know what the reason was behind the switch in genres and also, I wanted to learn more about the game’s key gameplay mechanic: Daemons.
Daemons are designed to be what makes Oninaki stand out from the crowd. In battle the main character, Kagachi, can summon up to four Daemons to battle. Each Daemon have their own style and combat that make them unique.
Unfortunately, Oninaki wasn’t available for us to play at E3 2019, so I couldn’t get a feel for it myself. Luckily though, we did get to talk to a few of the members of the Oninaki team, a group that is loaded with talent that have worked on games such as Chrono Trigger, Parasite Eve, and Final Fantasy.
Director Atsushi Hashimoto, creative producer Takashi Tokita, and producer Ryutaro Sasaki, were all present in LA to talk about their game and they each took turns answering a few of my questions.
First, like I said, I was interested in why they decided to make the switch to real-time action with Oninaki. Their answer was very specific but also very simple. So much so that it took me a bit off-guard.
The team was most interested in creating a a game where the character would need to turn and move to protect their sides, something that featured one character that could play through the game by themselves.
Naturally, a traditional turn-based JRPG might struggle with checking those boxes but an action RPG would have a much easier time, with the team saying:
“When we were thinking what kind of gameplay would be the best fit for that type of game action RPG was the best fit.”
What is meant to substitute for a large cast of diverse party members are the Daemons. Daemons are lost souls that the main character can rescue and then eventually call them into battle.
When designing a game that could carried by just one character, they thought that a system that allowed the character to change jobs on the fly would fit very well in Oninaki. I guess you could kind of compare it to Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns.
Here’s how the team described the Daemon gameplay system:
“The easiest way to imagine it would be they [the Daemons] are more like jobs. They will be with you, you’ll see them onscreen, but basically you’re like switching jobs.”
I asked if the jobs would feel familiar to classic Final Fantasy jobs that fans of that series would be familiar with. According to them, some Daemons may feel familiar to some classic Final Fantasy jobs, one for example is very similar to a Dragoon, but they felt the vast majority were going to feel unique to Oninaki.
This gameplay style centered around summoning Daemons into battle fits in with Oninaki’s focus on life and death. If you’ve played any Tokyo RPG Factory games you might notice that each ones has a notable theme, or a focus to it.
I Am Setsuna, for example, was designed to be a bit depressing and sad, and everything from the plot, character interaction and music supported that.
Oninaki is all about life, death, and reincarnation according to the developers I spoke to. They all wanted to explore the idea of whether or not people would live their life to the fullest, or throw it away and live however they want because they know that they will reincarnate anyway.
They didn’t name any game as a particular inspiration, but they want Oninaki to feel like a classic game from the 90s, but with modern conveniences.
I enjoyed both I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear. They are indeed throwbacks to the 90s, for better or for worse. If you were getting a bit tired of Tokyo RPG Factory’s previous works but are still interested in some retro-feeling JRPGs, keep Oninaki and its action RPG style on your radar when it releases on Aug. 22.