SummaryTwo distinct genres that work well as a hybrid.
The Good"Gun-toting Japanese cartoon chick." How can you not like a game with that premise?
While it's a fairly typical action game, Oni scored big with me on intangibles: The little things that differentiate it from your typical 3rd-person run/jump/shoot contest and add up to a great gaming experience. The unique circular status indicators. The other characters giving you new mission objectives as you move about. The ability to whack people with your gun when you run out of ammo. The little comments you can make Konoko say by hitting "ctrl" when fighting the bad guys. The characters, dialogue and plot really feel like they were lifted from a Japanese anime, or at least a good American imitation of one.
I'm also going to venture a bold and different opinion and say that "save points" aren't all bad. For me it's horribly frustrating to really be getting into a game, to the point that a save completely slips your mind (that's an immersive game world, that can make you do that), only to get yourself killed off and have to go back to the start of the level. Oni is well-paced and the difficulty balance is quite fair, so it rarely takes more than a couple of minutes to get back where you were. This also prevents you from overwriting a good save right at the worst possible time, when you're trapped and out of ammo and your life is low. With save points, you're at least reassured that you'll have a couple of seconds to react to nearby enemies after you restore. And it does prevent me from abusing the save-anywhere feature: I've been known to cheat my way through a difficult section by saving every few steps and brute-forcing my way ahead. I will concede, however, that it's not a perfect system. The ideal solution might be for the game to save regularly but also give a couple of quick-save slots to the player for the heat of battle or for a particularly difficult section.
The BadGraphics are adequate, but the engine gets a bit sluggish in open areas if there are three or four enemies coming after you at once. The scenery is pretty stark, though some of the character animation is nifty.
The learning curve for the control system is quite steep. There's a lot to take in at once, and it's different from any other control scheme I've experienced. (Thank goodness for the practice level.) I ended up sticking to flips and basic punch/kick combos and I did okay. Fighting was more fun than using the weapons, some of which -- the machine gun in particular -- were practically impossible to aim because of the recoil effect. Instead of making the game's action feel more realistic, it only made it frustrating. And the gameplay gets a little repetitive toward the end, with wave after wave of the same enemies.
The Bottom LineI like Oni. I like it for the simple reason that it's a little bit different than anything else I've ever played. While I've never enjoyed 3D run-and-shoots, or pure fighting games with all the complex moves, the two work well together here, with the anime theme rounding out the experience nicely. Oni is definitely worth checking out. (My advice: Sift through the bargain bins at your local mall or Menards. I got my copy for $5.00!)