Gamestyle Auction intro: Before Halo there was Oni and before that, well Bungie were pretty busy with Marathon. We did cover the classic Apple Macintosh series with articles from Ollie at Gamestyle but currently these are not within the archive.
Published: March 2001
PUBLISHER: Take 2
GENRE: 3D Beat ‘em up
ACCESSORIES: Memory Card
RELEASE: Out Now
Oni, or Konoko to be more precise is the latest in a long line of attempts to create a gaming icon, surely you’ve seen her image recently? Will she be the next Miss Croft or consigned to the murky depths of long forgotten characters?
Konoko is an orphan raised and trained by the World Coalition Government in fighting and counter terrorism methods. The game is set in 2032 where the rich live in cities with clean air and no pollution. The poor however are forced in live in the dangerous forbidden zones known as the Wilderness Preserves. As a member of the Technology Crimes Task Force (TCTF) it is your mission to infiltrate the underworld organisation called the Syndicate. The Syndicate supply weapons, drugs and illegal technology to anyone who is willing to pay enough.
Oni kicks off with a brash, colourful but evidently empty anime introduction that does nothing to set the plot and unfortunately is a sign of things to come. For a game that has been so long in development I would have expected the cut scenes during the game to feature moving characters or facial expressions but alas this is not the case. The training mode although brief does its job well and in no time you will be pulling off those combos and using both analogue sticks. The combat system is very enjoyable however due to the short comings of your opponents and the poor AI you won’t need to perform more than a couple of combos which is good as you can only carry one weapon at a time.
The control system, which utilises both analogue sticks, is very distinctive however anyone who struggled to come to terms with the Timesplitters system may struggle once again. Such problems are not helped by the sensitive controls, as you will often find yourself compensating and correcting wrong movements. The camera for most of the game is good except in combat situations where you may be looking in the wrong direction, allowing your opponent a free hit. The on screen icons are well designed and contain most of the information that you require but the inclusion of a compass makes the straightforward levels even easier and you will grow to avoid the poorly designed diary.
Light effects are well handled and the colour changes depending on your victim’s health – a good simple idea that keeps you focused on the actual fight rather than a health bar. The levels themselves however are very bland, predictable and frankly by level 5 you will be bored. I do hope that in the future they don’t have room after room with nothing in it. Adding to the blandness is the consistent colour palette of greys and blacks that reinforce the view that everything is the same. At times I found myself asking if I was playing an early Beta version of the game rather than the full release, as everything was so sparse. No doubt the PS2 has power but when you consider that the whole look is similar to the Facility level on Goldeneye yet the N64 level is better designed, more interaction and items, you have to wonder where all the power has gone.
Oni has a unique saving system in console games however you soon realise why. Each level has four save points and when you reach a point the game will freeze for a few seconds to make the save. Not only does this break the flow but will become more annoying as you progress through the game. If you reach a save point (you don’t know till it freezes) and are low on health or ammo it will save that status. Therefore if you are facing a boss and the previous save was poor you will have to move to a prior save or start the level again. Not an inspired piece of design.
The main problem with Oni is the tired gameplay that is on offer. The game is a 3D roaming beat ‘em up with some nice visuals and an underdeveloped plot. Each level is the same, find the console, open the door, kill a few baddies and repeat till boss. At least the Bouncer recognised the limited gameplay and offers multiple routes, stories, characters, hidden extras and a multiplayer mode – Oni has none of this. Other problems include the poor collision detection, clipping, limited draw distance and the bodies of enemies sticking through walls. Interaction with other characters is limited to the pre-determined questioning while you have no control over what your fellow TCTF colleagues do on the levels. I can name several missed opportunities throughout the game but one example appears at the end of the first level. After battling through the level you are faced with the challenge of stopping the armoured lorry from leaving the building. However once you have found the necessary console a cut scene shows you stopping the truck by using the crane thereby ruining the drama. It would have been far better if you controlled the crane, not only more of a challenge but more interaction with the story rather than becoming a spectator.
I do think as a character Konoko has promise but the storyline and execution are such that you won’t be waiting on Oni 2.