ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni
Before I begin the review I just wanted to give a quick thanks to the publisher for allowing us to review ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni! This was offered to us and its premise was what encouraged me to take this one on. The art design of the promotional material, as seen in the featured image, as well as the character designs, reminded me of Okami. It certainly fits the “protagonist and small side-kick” theme as seen in many adventure games, with young oni protagonist Kuuta paired with his spirit partner Kazemaru being the stars of the story.
Kuuta arrives at Kisejima, an island filled with vengeful demon spirits who want to exact vengeance on those who killed them. Kuuta, wanting to explore the mystery of the power behind Kisejima, is subjected to several different trials to prove his mettle.
Not all of Kisejima is available for exploration, as Kuuta will need to complete a certain number of trials before more are opened up to him. Along his journey, Kuuta will meet a human girl named Kanna, reunite with long-time acquaintance Zenisuke, and befriend a baby boar who may or may not make traveling easier.
Before having a faster way of transportation, naturally needed as the island’s access expands, Kuuta’s walking speed is very sluggish. As expected for a small demon carrying a large backpack, Kuuta is not the most nimble and the most he can do is a pathetic tumble. In combat, Kuuta is very agile, with the load of his belongings off his shoulders. Kuuta can only engage in combat during trials, meaning moments where the extra boost in speed would be helpful, like getting chased by a giant demon-eating demon after retrieving spirits.
There are trapped spirits in ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni that can only be detected by Kazemaru as well as captured. Sometimes, there’s a chance for a giant demon to appear and chase Kuuta for the spirit. His only attack is a lunging bite that is determined by the glow of its eyes. It’s not the most difficult task in the world to merely avoid him, but it does become a monotonous game of cat and mouse. Saving the spirits is even a necessity in gaining hearts, which not only doubles as health but as a checkpoint to handle difficult trials.
I suppose saving the spirits shows Kuuta’s heart is into caring for docile spirits as well as defending himself and showing bravery against his adversaries. While Kuuta doesn’t talk much himself, his implied dialogue shows he is rather friendly towards others if not cautious due to him being a natural lone wolf. Kuuta does have a sense of justice as seen from his warm reception with others, but at times I often find myself confused about the direction of the plot.
It appears that each vengeful spirit is tied to the insecurity that leads to the creation of the demon. Similar to Ghostwire Tokyo in which most of the hostile yokai were personifications of common human woes. Gameplay-wise, ONI ran without many issues after limiting the frame rate, although I am aware that the initial launch wasn’t too kind. Still, the game ran okay with little to no dips and while combat is simplistic, it’s also satisfying.
Kuuta doesn’t defeat his enemies by simply beating them to unconsciousness. He also needs to destroy their spirit by attacking it directly and any exposed cores are destroyed in sequence. The more exposed cores, the higher the combo counter will be, which also increases how much spirit Kazemaru recovers. Kuuta doesn’t gain any levels, his power and other abilities are determined by the clothing and weapons Kuuta has equipped. As mentioned, his life counter increases the more spirit he saves, and also dependent on certain equipment.
ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni will have Kuuta engage in trials, usually involving killing waves of enemies until the end. After clearing enough trials, more of them spawn, sometimes following a cutscene, until a red fog appears. This usually indicates the boss of that section and can only be accessed by saving a certain number of spirits. While this is fine, this also means that the player will be encouraged to stop every time they sense a spirit in order to herd it back to the old man. Each location has its own “old man” to herd the spirits, so it’s not all bad.
Ultimately, ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni felt too average in the sense that nothing stood out for me that made me move to the edge of my seat. This game feels more like a comforting cozy experience, which is also fine, but after completing the first “red fog,” most players have seen the majority of what the game has to offer. While the music is beautiful, hearing the same song on a loop, sometimes resetting due to outside events, can also turn into a giant earworm.
While I don’t believe this game deserves the negative criticism I’ve seen, I will say that it’s at least worth checking out for a discount. The unfortunate rough launch of ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni may have squandered momentum, but it’s a comforting experience once the player gets past its rough edges.
ONI: Road to be the Mightiest Oni is available on the Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Microsoft Windows.