Posted: February 5, 2014
A hero reminiscent of Kenshiro from Fist of the Northstar, 8-bit action and simple controls. Oniken is a snacksize-loveletter to oldschool gaming. Time flies as you run, jump and slash your way through six worlds of postapocalyptic battlefields, from underground facilities to cyberninja-infested forests. Many challenges await as you conquer one techno-dungeon after another in order to blow up the core and save innocent people from the robotic Deathforce.
Joymasher didn't hold back with the 80ies cheese and present a story heavily influenced by some of the greatest oldschool anime/manga you can imagine - any game that thanks Koichi Ohata in the credits can only mean action all the way and that is pretty much what Oniken delivers.
It's a throwback to the days of 8bit, equally inspired by NES as well as Master System titles, feeling like a lost game of that long gone era that suddenly appeared again. Obviously this means you spend your time jumping platforms, collecting powerups and slashing away at all kinds of badniks - only interrupting the carnage for massive, screen-filling bossbattles at the end of each stage while rocking out to some very cool chiptunes that remind me of various compositions on the MSX2.
Learning patterns and figuring out proper positioning is key to stopping the evil machines. While nowhere near as polished or deep as titles like Völgarr the Viking, Oniken's simplicity, combined with the high speed of the game and it's great sense of "anime-schlock" set it apart from similar titles on Steam, making it a nice addition to any library that already contains titles like the aforementioned Völgarr, Muri, the original Duken Nukems or the upcoming Metal Slug 3.
For all the retrofun this game provides, it's not without issues - it lacks a bit of polish in places, there are a bunch of odd hitboxes here and there and simply mashing "attack" often yields much better results than trying to avoid damage. But it is rather fair, replenishing your health upon entering a sub-stage and letting you restart in said sub-levels once you reached them. Stages aren't overly long and dying, while annoying, isn't all that big of a deal - especially since you can just select which level you want to start from in the main menu (if you have unlocked the stage that is).
Overall the difficulty seemed right for this kind of game, the truly godlike players can always try their hands at the new hardcore-mode, which is really a great challenge (finish the game in one session without replenished health between sub-stages and pretty much no deaths). There are also speedrunning-achievements and online-leaderboards - providing enough stuff to do if you beat the main game, turning the run'n'slashing action into a score/timeattack-type of title. There is a Boss Rush mode too, and you get the "Jenny"-bonus stage which was basically a proof of concept that run & gun-gameplay would work in Oniken. And because the Joymasher people are nice people, they have thrown in the soundtrack too - making the Steam version the definite version of Oniken to own, even if you might already have it on Desura or from someplace else.
In total Oniken is a pretty brilliant package, especially considering the price - while not flawless, it absolutely feels very "retro" and is all the more impressive considering it was just done in Multimedia Fusion. If you can accept the limitations in gameplay and control as a result of trying to ape classic 8-bit titles, Oniken will provide hours of (sometimes frustrating) oldschool fun for you. An excellent debut by Joymasher here on Steam.