The Let's Play Archive


by berryjon

Part 15: Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

(This post will be more stream-of-consciousness than normal. Please forgive me.)

Oni is not a perfect game by any means. It's rather infamously - or famously, depending on your point of view - incomplete. But what is there is still a beautiful game in motion, a wonderful example of what could have been and the promise of better things to come.

Much has been said about the combat in this game, and many of you have been waiting rather impatiently for the combat video that I have promised, so here it is.

I'm sorry.

I tried to film it, using the Shapeshifter cheat, and I got a twenty minute video where I showed off stuff, and then went through the entire first level again, except as a Fury. I recorded it. I watched it. I sat on it (not literally). I mulled over it while at work, and in the end, I realized that it wasn't what I wanted.

Combat in this game is indescribably fluid, and yes there are some cases where things get wonky. Just look at all the times I complain about fighting on stairs or a ramp, or in level 8 when I do a Running Lariat through a doorway and the models don't even touch! But that's just another example of where the game was incomplete and unfinished before publishing.

Yet the fighting is where this game excels, what everyone who has played or seen this game can agree on. Sure, I reduced it to a very simplistic abuse of the Three Punch Combo and the Running Lariat, but that's my style. Go watch Stratafyre's own LP of this, and you'll see he loves the Spinning Side Kick. His style and mine are different, and the game works with both just perfectly.

When writing this though, a comment in the thread kept coming back to me with regards to how there really hasn't been a third-person brawler made seriously in the past twenty years, citing the example of the Batman: Arkham games for what we've got.

Which got me thinking. My second LP on Something Aweful was a game called Urban Chaos. This proto-GTA game had a lot going for it, and one of the things I liked about it was the surprising depth to its melee combat. Sure, I abused the hell of it like I did with Oni, using the sliding-kick, or grapple-throws to knock people down to arrest them, but there were things like being able to punch to the sides, the hundred-punch glitch, standing roundhouses worthy of Chuck Norris, choke-slamming a poor guy, the works! Yes, UC was a finished and polished game, but when you want to compare combat, these two games are at the top of the pile.

Because, and this is my hot take here, I don't think third-person brawlers are a thing anymore. Not really. Yes, there's games that have melee combat in them, but they're more like RPGs nowadays. Swing sword, numbers go down, that sort of thing. And the Arkham series? It's not a brawler at all. It's a glorified Quick-Time Event in each encounter. You have your Counter, your Bat-Cape, your Batarang, your quickfire gadget. There was no real... flow to the game. Well, there was, but it was the result of one of the best programmed games out there. Arkham was polished in a way very few other games are.

Oni still beats it out in terms of combat with a decade less technology, and with an inferior development cycle.

Which leads me into why the combat video got scrapped. There's too much. Or rather, there's a wide branching tree of styles and combat moves to work with. To start with, there are three generic skeletal structures. Female, used for Konoko, the Furies, and the generic female NPCs. Male-small, used for Griffin, the Ninjas, Kerr, and the other 'tall and thin' males. Then lastly, there was Male-Large, used for most of the TCTF and Syndicate enemies including Barabus, with the occasional civilian NPCs being big guys. Yes, there were exceptions. Muro and Muro Imago have unique skeletons, as does Shinatama(!).

As an aside, Shinatama doesn't have a 'Stationary Crouch' animation. When you see her sitting down, that's her crouch, and if you do it in the open, she just sits down on nothing at all. But once you start moving, her animations take the Female style, just scaled awkwardly for her different size and shape.

But after that, there are two combat styles in the game, or two starting places for them, aside from the unique fighters. The Male character models will hold their arms horizontal at the shoulder-level, right hand in front of the left in a high guard and strike from there. The Female characters will use Konoko's basic stance, a lower-mid guard.

After that, most characters have the same basic moves of punch-punch, crouch-punch, kick-kick and punch-kick. They move slow and awkwardly compared to Konoko's much faster speed, which I suppose makes sense as she's combat trained, and they're civilians.

From that point, more advanced enemies get more abilities. Throws open up early, while enemy equivalents to the Rising Fury and the Devil Spin Kick are mid to high tier.

Unique enemies, such as Mukade, Barabus, and both versions of Muro have their own pacing and issues that I just found awkward to try and handle. I could never get the Earthquaker to work for example, and Barabus' healing is scripted, not a move he can invoke. Griffin is TCTF Black Ops, and his moveset is exactly the same as theirs.

But the pace of the game, and the introduction of guns and multiple enemies means that for the most part, all this redundancy is hidden in plain sight from the player. They're the ones to take the initiative in a fight, and you rarely get to see non-Konoko character fight long enough to realize just how limited their moves actually are.

The combat is beautiful and amazing in this game, but in actually going through everything, I can only lament at the lost potential this game had. Sure, Mods are a thing, but that scene has mostly died out. Not completely, but it's still a twenty year old game whose sequel died in the concept stage.

The plot is nothing amazing, and I talked about that in detail in previous effort posts, so I won't repeat myself here. But I can say that the Bio-punk concept is a nice chance of pace from all the cyberpunk going on, and the comment from the thread about how this game could be re-imagined as a pseudo Deus Ex Human Revolution type game does give me some satisfaction that there is still potential here.

The game is short. Less than seven hours from start to finish. But this is one of those games that benefits from the small runtime, as it keep moving forward and doesn't overstay its welcome in any one place or set-piece. The focus helps, rather than having a meandering plot, bloated cast or arbitrary side-quests that other games get caught up in. There's no collectathon here! Unless you count collecting Mercury Bows and the ammo for it.

I just... I just wish there was more. More levels. More time to flesh out the combat. Maybe include more options to incorporate the guns into melee aside from 'club'. Also, figured out what the hell was with that odd throw I was doing. Turns out, you can sometimes do alternate throws based on if you're moving towards, away or standing still relative to your enemy. So the back-throw like that? That's Konoko's Reverse Punch Throw.

I think a small parkour system would be a wishful addition. Imagine being able to better use the environment to hit people, like using a wall as a jumping pad to punch someone, or to just throw/hit people into the terrain for additional damage.

I love this game, flaws and all. Yes, it requires third-party resources to even run on machines nowadays, but that's a small price to pay for enjoying a short and fun brawler that takes itself seriously enough to carry a plot, but not so serious that is ruins said plot.

The less said about Muro's interaction with Shinatama, the better.

In the end though? Oni is a good game. Not great, but definitely good. It is a forgotten classic, a game style that hasn't really been replicated, with technology that is twenty years old, but is still better than what we're getting today.

Oh, and did you notice that Konoko's character model is never replicated across levels? Each time, she's wearing something different, even in small changes.

Thank you all for sticking with me through all this. I hope to see you with my next LP, another 20 year old game that as held up even better. I just need to take a wrench to a few things first.