Hello all! Last week, we looked at a fantastic flight sim on PS2-probably the best one on the system.
This week, I pulled a totally random game off the shelf. So let’s just jump in.
Oni was a game for PS2. It was released in 2001 and developed by Bungie in a weird period after Marathon but before Halo. In Oni, you play as Motoko Kusanagi of Section 9 under orders from Chief Aramaki to...
Oh, wait. No, apparently you play as Konoko, a member of the Technology Crimes Task Force, going on missions for them. You soon uncover a plot that goes deeper than the box art (note the emphasis on guns) would have you believe. Konoko becomes an interesting character, and the plot has some dystopian, Orwellian influences that you don’t see coming.
See, Oni makes a pretty crummy first impression. As a Ghost in the Shell fan, I was pretty wary about the obvious *ahem* influences GITS had on Oni. Konoko looks like Motoko and even has a similar name. Commander Griffin looks like Aramaki, though not totally exactly. The plot and environments have that light cyberpunk feel just like GITS. And so on.
So, at first you can feel like you’re playing a GITS knock-off. ‘Course, there aren’t any really good GITS games either so...anyway, Oni controls pretty bad at first, too. You have to double-tap Up to run, for example, and that’s pretty awkward with a joystick. Punching and kicking is handled with R1 and R2. Again, awkward. And shooting a gun can be wonky. Add to the fact that you can only carry one gun at any time.
But really, in Oni’s defense, it’s an early PS2 game. One of the earliest, in fact. And, once you really get into it, you begin to realize how unique the game was, for it’s time. For starters, there’s the merging of hand-to-hand combat with gunplay. Oni has some iffy controls, but it seamlessly switches from a shooter to a brawler and back again as the situation demands. You’ve got a pretty healthy selection of moves at your disposal. And, to be quite honest, it’s a fair bit better than the crappy beat-em-ups that were released around the same time *cough* Fighting Force 2 *cough*
Seriously, how hard is it to make a beat-em-up? But anyway...
I actually kind of like the fact that you can only carry one gun. It’s a nice change of pace from being loaded down with an impossible arsenal of weapons. It forces you to think about using your gun rather than blindly shoot everyone in sight. It’s also pretty cool to see every enemy in a room dive for a gun when it’s knocked out of your hands.
As you play Oni further, you begin to see the game separate itself from GITS. As I like to say, there’s a fine line between inspiration and ripoff. While Oni certainly seems like the latter at first glance, it ends up being more of it’s own thing, and what it ends up being is an original work inspired not only by GITS, but also anime in general. The game starts with a cool anime sequence, in fact. So the influence is crystal clear.
Oni’s a bit simple looking, but it still has some charm. A big point made during the development of the game was the environments. Oni’s levels were designed by professional architects. So the buildings you’re kicking around in are supposed to be realistic. Sadly, it’s not something you notice unless you’re looking for it. I suggest, if you replay Oni, to look for it. I wonder why more developers don’t go this route, and make buildings that look like they could actually exist. I understand it from a gameplay standpoint,but still.
Some levels still have that “useless room full of cubes” feel, however.
Oni’s simple look carries over to the character models, but overall, it’s a good looking game. Keep in mind, it’s thirteen years old. The music is pretty decent, with some pretty okay rock tunes, but the game goes oddly silent for long stretches of time, to the point where I thought my PS2 wasn’t loading the music or something. (If anyone has the game, please confirm that for me?)
Overall, I enjoyed my replay of Oni. I was a bit naïve the first time I played it, calling it a ripoff of a classic anime. However, reexamining it made me realize it’s really it’s own game; one that chose it’s influences smartly. It’s a little wonky control-wise, but there’s still fun to be had here, and Konoko ends up being a pretty cool character. Check it out if you can.
Thanks for reading! Hit the comments, suggest future games for this article series (seriously, I need picks) and tweet me @WingZero351
Next week, we’ll look at a game with a similar title to this one. Kind of.