Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone









After several years in the making, the long awaited game Oni has finally hit the shelves of your favorite game store. Now that its been released, the biggest question that the gaming aficionado undeniably has to answer is whether or not Oni lives up to the hoopla and hype that has accompanied it throughout its initial conceptualization. Read on for Jim McHugh's verdict on this heavily anticipated G.O.D. PC title.  

We were told time and time again over the past 2+ years by both the developers and gaming hounds that this title would be THE game to change the face of gaming...and to be completely honest, it does prove to be something quite extraordinary as a video game in a number of ways.  But then again, 'Oni'  (which means 'Ghost' and/or 'Demon' in Japanese) still has its own group of poltergeists that haunt the game.

For the past several decades, the art form of 'Anime' (or Japanese Animation) has captured the attention and imaginations of both children and adults. From such classics as 'Starblazers' and 'Speed Racer', to the modern crazes dealing with 'Pokemon' and 'Digimon', it seems that this unique animation form has struck a chord with many within the international community. With anime's popularity still strong and continuing to grow in bounds, it was only a matter of time before the gaming industry would take notice and try to capitalize on the phenomenon.   Although several titles have been released in the past with the anime theme in mind, nothing really has stood out as much or have been able to really capture the anime experience.  With Bungie's and Gathering of Developer's release of 'Oni', the bar has been raised quite high, delivering a game that encompasses the best traits of anime, including an in depth storyline, interesting characters, a strong plot, and in-game artwork that mimics some of the best of the Japanese styled animation.

The adventure of 'Oni' begins in the year 2032, where the majority of the worlds population lives within massive cityscapes, protected from the biologically devastated wastelands of the outside world.   All governing actions are now under direct control of the World Coalition Government, or the WCG. But the term 'Big Brother' doesn't even come close when you try describing this outfit. Every aspect of modern life is under direct influence of the WCG, from the food you eat to the air that you breathe. Most people have been willing to give up some of their personal freedoms for protection and order under the auspices of the WCG, who claim that terrorists and other fringe organizations still have biotech weapons available to them, the cause of the ecological disasters and death outside of the cities. As the main character, Konoko, you work as an agent for the Tech Crimes Task Force (TCTF), a policing outfit used to control the stem of illegal cyber-drugs and weapons that have begun to surface in your society...or, so you are told.  As you begin to investigate one of the more organized crime groups known as 'The Syndicate', you stumble onto a mystery greater than anything you could have imagined. One that will question everything that you know and have been told by the TCTF and the WCG...not to mention your own identity. What Oni does is take you on a third person adventure through 14 intense levels of play, weaving an intricate storyline with intense combat. While that in itself is nothing spectacular on the gameplay front, it's HOW Oni does it that makes the game something of a unique specimen.

The Good

Developers Bungie and G.O.D have gone to great lengths to incorporate some of the best aesthetics that I've seen in a game in quite some time, and seem to have strive in almost every area to make Oni a high Caliber game.  The animation/graphics engine used in the game and in the cutscenes are as they had been pre-ported to be, very fluid and 'anime-like' in detail.  Every motion and movement runs through very

smoothly and in a realistic fashion (albeit in an animation sense), even down the effects of gravity on individual objects (my favorite being the dropped weapon on a ramp that slides down slowly until it hits the floor). Over 20 characters exist throughout the game, each with their own unique appearance, movements, and personalities. A much more entertaining aspect than the normal ‘cut from the same mold’ duplication of characters seen throughout other titles. 

This same sense of intricate depiction of characters can be seen even more so when you throw in the factor of Oni’s unique combat system.  Most of the game characters do have their own form of combat that you’ll come across during gameplay, but that’s only scratching the proverbial surface of what Oni’s combat style is all about.  In laymen’s terms, consider an amalgam of the titles ‘Tomb Raider’ and ‘Tekken’.  Multiple combinations of moves made up of throws, kicks,  jumps, punches, and acrobatics mixed in with fair amount of gunplay make for an exciting twist in the action based scenarios of the game. No one was as surprised as I when during a round of melee, Konoko grabbed the weapon of a nearby armed assailant, used it to shoot another assailant as he ran toward us (weapon still in the hand the first bad guy), THEN disarmed the first guy with an elbow to the stomach which knocked him to the floor.  Still though, my personal favorite has to be the ‘Lariat’ move, a running based attack that allows you to do running ‘swing’ off an opponents neck, literally twisting his head and body around with a satisfying sound of a loud ‘crack’ whilst knocking down any other close by attackers with the swinging action of your legs and feet.  There are also a number of other moves that can be learned throughout the game, ranging from the ‘Devil Spin Kick’ to the ‘Rising Fury Punch’, with some slightly more difficult to master than others.

Keeping the overall high quality of gameplay in mind, Oni’s developers went to great lengths not only with the visual elements of the title, but also for the audio ones as well. Unlike most titles that throw in a soundtrack as an afterthought, the makers of Oni have gone to great lengths to incorporate music that not only invigorates the game but also keeps it grounded solidly within the genre of Action/Anime. The main theme throughout deals with an original and stylized techno beat that basically builds during the more climatic aspects of gameplay, and lessons to an ambient and even sometimes non-existent form during slower areas. It keeps the pace of the game going not unlike the soundtracks found in a quality film or television production, a very refreshing quality. I’ve even found myself listening to the music on the CD-ROM on its own, while not playing the game…something I cannot honestly admit to doing anytime before in the past.

The Not So Good

In many ways, Oni stands out as a unique and quality game that most definitely surpasses anything else within the third person genre to date. But to be completely honest (and maybe even slightly morose) Oni still has many problems that keep it from being the best game I’ve ever played.

For starters, the earliest problem that I came across was the save game option…something that caused me to throw a derogative statement more than once in the direction of my monitor, to the chagrin of my girlfriend and cat (both who happened to be in the room). Instead of the ‘save-at-will’ function that was the popular trend for some time, the developers at Bungie have chosen the automatic save function instead. Simply put, you have to travel to a pre-determined point of any given chapter of the game before it will save for you. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me as much, since it has the positive aspect of keeping the pace of a game moving along.  But, for some ungodly reason, Oni’s creators threw in quite a few levels that were just too damn long to traverse, causing hours of replayed grief and consternation.  At one particular save point, I even toyed with the idea of hunting down a cheat code or two just to keep the game moving along, something that I normally try not to do (I did finally cross that particular barrier, however).

Another major problem that I continually came across during the game dealt with its overall combat system. Although innovative in its approach, Oni’s special form of combat leaves much to be desired when it comes to practicality. More suited for a game consoles’ control pad than a computers’ keyboard, the various combinations of button pushing needed in order to perform some of the spectacular maneuvers Konoko can produce seemed next to impossible. Most of the time, I found myself using just the standard punch and kick combinations available (still deadly, by the way), and only by chance did I end up actually performing any of the other moves.  The lack of key mapping also added to this problem, forcing the user to control Konoko’s actions only through the preset system rather than allowing the personal touch that most gamers tend to set up. Another bummer in my book. 

The last couple of problems that I came across weren’t actually REAL problems when you think about it. More ‘pet peeves’ than anything else, in my honest opinion. But still, they stuck in my mind enough to warrant writing about them. For starters, the gaming environment seemed rather non-descript for the world of the future, even if it is not-too-distant. Though nicely rendered with CAD programming, the game could have just as easily been set in 1998 rather than 2032 if I didn’t know better. Also, there just wasn’t enough interactivity within the environments themselves, turning everything into a high speed blur as you ran past the sights in your hurry to get past the next set of armed villains in your path.  Basically, there was no need to stop and smell the roses, if you get my drift. And finally, the last problem that caught my attention dealt with the linear path the game takes during its ‘missions’.  Every once in a blue moon, the mission parameters could be altered slightly by your actions, but in the end you still had to complete a set of predetermined tasks which basically worked around the idea of getting from point A to point B.

The Finale

After experiencing Oni's unique theme and gameplay, I have to admit that I was truly impressed. Not only does it take the third person gaming experience to a new level, but it does so with a style and grace that I've not seen in other titles of the same genre. The positive aspects of the game almost completely overshadow any of the problems that were experienced (except that dreaded save game function), and the Japanese Anime theme is definitely held true throughout the title (and if any of you out there are true fans of the anime show 'Starblazers', you have to check out the character Barabas' wave motion canon). As for the hype issue, I'm not sure that ANY game could have lived up to the extremely high expectations that were placed upon Oni, especially after two years. But all in all, I do believe that the release of Oni has generally been a good one, as well as something for future releases to set their own quality measures to.