Oni: Road to be the Mightiest Oni is the latest game from game developers Kenei Design & Shueisha Games. They are a team of five who had the goal of creating a small but feature-rich world full of character and adventure. The game was released on 3rd March 2023 on all platforms after two years of development.
Eeny Meeny Miney Oni
Oni: Road to be the Mightiest Oni is a game steeped in Chinese culture and nostalgia. The developers’ goal was to make players feel as if they had jumped into the pages of a childhood picture book. I have to admit I like the look and feel of the game from its dark treelines and the muted colours of the foreground glades contrasted somewhat by the bright and vivid distant mountains. Are there any other games you enjoy with a similar style and feel to this one? Share your memories and games below in the comments.
As the title of the game goes, the goal of the story is to become the Mightiest Oni. No easy task, or so you are led to believe. The exposition and explanation at the start provide a basic description. It helps you understand why you find yourself as a small blue creature with an oversized backpack and what your purpose is. You discover there’s a malevolent force at play on the land called Momotao. You, Kuuta, must travel the lands to Kisejima to find the power that lies dormant and train up your skills. Trials await to test your competency. Seeing the size of your character with the weight of the world on its shoulders you wonder what you’ve got yourself into You set off down that path encountering characters along the way. They give you quests to further train to become the mightiest Oni.
You start off small collecting beacons to light up. Each one providing even more to the written narrative and building up the world you find yourself in. The game provides a rich, diverse and emotional story which draws you in. These story moments take place with breathtaking and simplistic scenery further adding to the weight of the stories being told. These moments are spaced evenly as you rank up and progress so it never seems repetative and provides that much needed break from fighting. The characters differ from the one you play as, for example a human girl or a older charater of the same species who guides you at the start.
You are given small enemies at points throughout the game. These appear to be dark demons of past Onis. These are small and manageable and only a few appear at the start. They can easily become too much if there are a number of them. These enemies you can easily bash these with your club, collecting their souls afterwards in a combo of hits. Bigger enemies sometimes crop up with them with a range of attacks. You yourself are given a special attack to start off with. The first I encountered was called “Invincible” which unleashes a big hit to all in the area. This damages them more than a normal attack. More special attacks can be earned with every battle adding to your skill points allowing you to acquire them as you progress.
After learning how to take on these smaller foes you are then given bigger much more difficult bosses. One example, in particular, was a lion type creature quite larger than you are. The lion takes quite a few hits to take down. With every five or so hits the lion goes into “angry mode” as I call it, where a flaming aura surrounds it and it charges at you quite fast. This comes as a surprise initially as it contrasts with the slow gameplay that came before. With some well-timed dodges and a fair amount of chasing around the enclosed arena you are put in you survive the phases. You eventually get into a rhythm and learn how to take it down. I found these combat moments fun and enjoyable to master.
Graphics & Audio
Oni: Road to be the Mightiest Oni features stylised graphics. These vary from very colourful grassy landscapes to rocky hilltops and moody clouds. I often stopped in my tracks to appreciate the satisfying visual colours on offer in the landscape and characters. The effects when you fight are just as mesmerising, with comic and cartoon effects to show the movement and text animating in a unique way. The text will appear on the screen, but as you move it will become 3d and you can move around it. I found this to be a fun way to show dialogue. Sometimes well drawn images will feature as a part of the landscape. I found this was a clever and interesting way to tell the countless emotional stories featured within the game.
The music throughout the game was an interesting choice. A modern pop/soul direction was chosen, which I felt gave a contrast to the oriental feel of the game as a whole. The music choices were calming and serene as you explored the land, offering a sense of tranquillity to the game. With each battle encounter the music changed giving you the more upbeat style of music needed for such fights. The sound effects were great throughout and while voiceovers were missing, the usual babble was included when expensive voice-over actors are not an option.
A good few hours could be spent playing through Oni: Road to be the Mightiest Oni. Some time has been spent by the game developers to ensure that every player doesn’t travel too far afield. They instead want you to go back and forth in a space on the island. Using an invisible wall, the devs ensure that you are of a level to progress into harder areas to tackle when ready. The game doesn’t want you to rush through its narrative and action. Instead, it urges you to just calmly play through it, enjoying the scenery, music, and action. I found myself getting lost in the stylistic graphics and narrative not really giving a thought to how long I had been playing it. Those who rush through games wanting a quick play may be disappointed by the hoops they have to jump through to advance.
Oni: Road to be the Mightiest Oni was a pleasure to play overall. Its balance of narrative and action didn’t ever seem to weigh heavily on either side. The music choice, while feeling fresh and modern did however seem a little out of place. This was particularly the case with the one song about modern relationships that repeated throughout the initial part of the game. This did become a little irritating as you continued through this game. It didn’t fit the game about mythical fantasy characters. Overall, however, it’s a fun game to play. If you are into the Oriental stylised type of game that is offered here I’d recommend you at least give it a go. I award Oni: Road to be the Mightiest Oni Thumb Culture’s Silver Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.