This week I tried out Onigiri Online, a game that proposes to take players into a world inspired by the mythology and colorful folklore of Ancient Japan, with its share of Oni (demons) and Youkai (spirits and legendary creatures), redesigned sauce anime. Faithfully accompanied by various partners, players will have to make their way through the world of Onigiri Online and discover its many mysteries.
An aspect that is shared by F2P MMORPGs is that their scenario do not generally stand out. In fact, most players tend to skim right through them. Onigiri Online might however be an exception, depending on the players. Indeed, while the plot and dialogues may not interest the general audience, anime and manga fans might view them in a different light. The basics of the scenario will effectively not be unknown to adepts of Otaku culture. In the imaginary world of Onigiri Online, humans live in harmony with the Oni race, as well as certain friendly members of the Yokai race. The peace however does not last as the seals that prevented the world from falling into chaos by the hands of the Kamikui have been broken. The adventure starts as the player, an Oni, saves Lady Shizuka from a Kamikui. The pair then embarks on a quest to find and fix the cause of the Kamikui’s reappearance, and are soon joined by 7 other characters. The job of savior of the world, however, can not be learned overnight and the beginnings are modest. In fact, the first quests are limited to hunting mobs and learning how to use the different features of the game, including item identification and storage, the fortification of weapons, and so on.
Graphics and Sounds
The anime design sticks very well to the atmosphere of the game. The characters are sympathetic and even the monsters eventually become endearing. The first town is pretty well polished, and the buildings are well detailed. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last. Upon leaving the town, players quickly find out that the outer areas didn’t receive the same treatment, and will seem quite dated and unattractive. However, whether this was done on purpose or not, these graphic “flaws” merge pretty well with the Ancient Japan theme. The same could be said about the BGM used in the game that while being soothing, fits so well into the progress of the game that you soon forget about it. The tempo nonetheless picks up during boss battles, creating a much needed feeling of urgency.
Another feature that is shared by F2P MMORPGs, especially anime-style ones, is that they tend to be easy early on. The difficulty then picks up after the player reaches a certain level, generally after they get a class promotion. If you are expecting Onigiri Online to be the same, you’re in for a huge surprise. While the gameplay elements are outlandish enough, the fact that even the low level mobs can kill your character in 4-5 hits will be a huge turn off for many. I however suspect that this is only a way to force players to use the Dodge and Defend skills.
As for the other unusual gameplay features, let’s start with the character stats and skills. During the character creation process, and we should precise that players have access to dozens (if not more) of available aesthetic combinations, there is no class selection option. Instead, players are invited to choose between 5 traits that will determine their weapon proficiency. These include Power (Axe, Oodachi, Spear, and Sword), Defensive (Spear and Staff), Cautious (Dual Swords, Bow and Wand), Kind (Staff and Wand) and Daring (Axe, Oodachi, Dual Swords, Bow, and Sword). As characters level up, they will get to assign points in their stats, composed of Power, Vitality, Wisdom, Mind and Dexterity. In the case of skills, those of you that have played Monster Hunter before should not be too disoriented. Those that haven’t, brace yourselves. Indeed, the skills are assigned to the weapons, not your character. Starting with a Kind trait, my character was equipped with a Staff, a Wand, a Bow and a Sword, each of them with 3 skills of their own. As the characters progress, they have access to additional weapons that come with different skills, or upgraded ones (one example being Fireball I getting upgraded to Fireball II). Thankfully, this is rather easy to get used to, and those that can appreciate the difference will enjoy the game.
Another interesting feature of Onigiri Online is the weapon enhancements. Quite common in MMORPGs, enhancements takes have a great role to play in Onigiri Online. First of all, you don’t needs scrolls or special items to fortify weapons. You simply use other weapons. Weapons obtained through dungeons can be used to fortify each other, with the fortification rate depending on the grade of the weapon used. Moreover, once they reach a +10 level of fortification, weapons cannot be enhanced anymore. At least, not before they have been smelted to have the enhancement limit raised. With the limit starting at +10, smelting weapons will see the limit raised to +20, +30 and so on, which allows players to use the same weapon for quite a while. In addition to this, Smelting also offers the possibility of raising the level of the skills assigned to the weapon, or change an existing one into a whole new skill. In the case of the latter however, both the ability that will be deleted, and the ability that will be added, are chosen randomly. Players should thus use this feature wisely.
Finally, the most important feature of the Onigiri Online gameplay is the Partners. If other MMOs have pets of familiars accompany and assist you in battles, Onigiri Online takes this a step further by giving players a total of 8 partners that you can choose from at any time. These partners not only work as members of your party. They are protagonists of the story, and as such hold an important part into it. Coming with different weapons and abilities, the partners will level up as you fight alongside them, and will soon turn out being essential aspects of your adventure. In addition to this, each of them will take on important roles normally assigned to simple NPCs, with Shizuka offering Item Identification and Storage services, Yoshitsune repairing, enhancing, and crafting weapons, or Miroku being the Item Merchant. These roles will also be influenced by the affection levels for the character. As such, a Shizuka with a high affection level will find rare grade weapons more often during the Item Identification process.
Granted, it is not the best MMORPG out there, but it has the merit of offering something different in the saturated F2P market. Thus, while being slightly disappointing graphically, and having a steep learning curve, Onigiri Online is a game that deserves its chance and will most likely attract many.