Part 5: Short Essay for Level 5
There's a few subjects I want to look at today, and I think I'll start with the new gun we get. The Superball gun, or the man-portable Mortar launcher is the standard issue grenade launcher you find in many games. However, this gun doesn't really have an aiming reticule, just the two red ovals that give you an idea of 'about here'. At short range, shooting someone in the chest is viable, but outside of that, you are literally eyeballing the arc, and learning that arc, or figuring it out in the middle of a fight can be very annoying, making this not as good a weapon as it could be.
I mean, yeah, sure, it's still explosives, with an option of cluster rounds, but the lack of a reliable ability to aim is a hindrance to this weapon. It still won't stop me from using it on occasion. Mainly when I don't have a better use for my Kinetic Ammo in my hands. Sooon.... SOOOONNN!!!!
The two alternate paths in the middle section of this level are a long run around high spaces with the constant danger of falling off and lots of enemies to fight, or a shorter, more direct path through a tunnel full of jumping and timing puzzles.
It's a no brainer, really. Up and around it far better!
But what's actually interesting is that these two paths are different checkpoints, the lower path is Checkpoint 3 in the Load menu, and the upper path is Checkpoint 4. Oh, I should explain that. Oni doesn't save your game. Or rather, it auto-saves at checkpoint locations, and, well, let me show you;
That's the auto-saves for the game, which you can tell happens when there's a little 'Game Saved' message pop up in the middle of the bottom of the screen. Loading the title of the level leads you to the actual start of the level, cutscene included if its there.
It's a very Console type save system, which is odd as the game was released for the Mac and PC first, with the console port later. I also suspect that it was implemented this way as part of the time-saving measures that this game went through during the last minute rush out the door. Well, that and a save-anywhere system would hurt the game's difficulty, as saving after good fights, and reloading after bad ones takes away from the challenge.
On the other hand, this game has some ridiculously quick load times, so getting back into the action quickly is good for the game, and made it relatively easy for me to make my recordings as I never felt like I was really wasting my time.
But now for the metaphorical elephant in the room.
What's this about the missing levels?
Well, here, let me show you a listing of all the levels in the game, right from the game's files.
What you see here is a numerical listing of all the game's levels, from Level 0 which is Basic Training, through Level 19, which is actually Level 14 in the game. Right now, we are... here
Right there! Level 6! Except, as the video file says, as the title card for the update says, and actually physically counting the non-training levels will tell you, this is actually Level 5. So, what happened?
Well, a lot of this can be traced back to the change in ownership and Take Two working to get this game out the door. Not all of the game's levels were completed, and while a few of the multiplayer areas were done, the lack of supporting code meant that they were among the first things removed.
The first missing level is, in respect to the final publishing numbers, level 4A(5), or Airport II. This segment would have seen Konoko travel through an underground section of the airport, and here she would have, if I'm gleaning odd information right, have actually addressed my complaint about Muro in the previous level by having him and Konoko fight in the tight confines of the underground tunnels until she won, or he chose to leave the scene, leading to the chase in this level.
Level 5A(7), which would have occurred after this one, and was cut pretty early in development for reasons unknown. It either wasn't that well developed, or it didn't fit into the plot of the game. There are a few screen shots from early previews of the game that were of levels missing from the game at the time of release that might have occurred here, but nothing provable. Even in the game's files, it's called "Obsolete" rather than things like "Airport" and "Airport III".
But the real missing chunk, the one we do know the most about, is the missing chunk between levels 14 and 18. These three levels are known to be the "BGI Arc" of the game, as the BGI - or Bad Guys International was meant to be a more mercenary group of criminals that was in conflict with the TCTF, and some sections of the Syndicate while at the same time providing resources for both. In the last level, there's a terminal that mentions them, the only remaining evidence in the playable game.
As another 'faction', the BGI would have had their own enemies, which partly explains why they were cut. When I get to showing off the combat moves across all the characters, you'll see that a lot of them act and fight the same, so either the BGI enemies would be reskins of existing enemies, or there would have to be a lot of work done to make them unique and exciting.
In terms of plot, we do know that in level 15, Konoko would travel to an isolated BGI facility on an island to gain information about the Syndicate's plans, and resources for later use. Level 16, at the same location, would have seen Konoko encounter a character that was cut, but remains mentioned in a terminal we'll read next level. Finally, level 17 would have been her escape from the BGI facility, culminating in a fight against the robotic Iron Demon, basically Oni's answer to Robocop's ED-209, a massive machine that would have dropped the second 'super' gun after the Wave Motion Gun of Barabus. The arc would have left off with her stealing a BGI plane, and heading back to the mainland for her two final confrontations.
All these levels were cut for various purposes, and the ending result still flows together very well. Yes, it's a little janky in parts, such as with the two Airport levels feeling like they go on just a little too long when placed back to back as they are. Breaking it up with an underground section and mini-boss fight against Muro would have worked out, I think. And taking out the BGI arc doesn't hurt the game at all, and leaves the plot more tightly focused on the TCTF and the Syndicate.
That's it for this level. I better stop here before that niggling sensation in the back of my brain tells me that I'm missing something becomes a real problem.