As I went on my usual nightly rounds, I caught wind of some very old news: The Oni demo had been released. I was ashamed for not knowing about it sooner, but I managed to locate the file and download it. It blew my mind with the intense graphics on it (once I had it working with my voodoo^2). The detail put into Konoko, the main character, caught me completely by surprise with all the specular highlights, complex textures, and high number of polygons. Now that I have the final version I've been blown away all over again.
Oni was promised as a revolutionary game in the Anime genre - the first of its kind to introduce third-person action. This "TPS", as it's called - a "Third-Person Shooter" - combines the action of weapons and hand-to-hand combat in a flawless flurry of fists and bullets.
As Konoko, you can carry only a few weapons: your standard TCTF-issued pistol (which you can drop to pick up another weapon such as the plasma rifle or an uzi) and your two fists and feet. However, you're given a number of cool skills. Punches and kicks can be used in combos for a devastating effect, or you can grab your opponent and throw them - or better yet, break their back - all with only 8 buttons, and all with a very satisfying result.
As the game progresses, the enemies gradually become very challenging. Like the demo, however, "normal" difficulty mode often doesn't seem challenging enough. The AI's are intelligent enough to use all the moves and weapons available to them to defeat you, but if they lose track of you (such as when you're cloaked or hiding very well), they stop and look around "Scanning the area...." After a long while, they lose interest and resume their patrols. Their hearing is rather sharp, so, it's often not a good idea to rush them, as doing so gets their attention far sooner than you may like.
The graphics engine and character animation is ubelievable for an engine over a year old. Close up, you can see Konoko's metallic backback reflecting the room's lights. As characters move, you can faintly see the fading motion blur (even on cards without hardware motion blur suport), and even faster movement shows a movement streak, just as if it had been professionally animated by Japanese artists. Farther out, every room and building seems as if it was designed by architects - and they were. Every punch, kick, and throw looks like it was done by a martial artist in a motion-capture lab. When you strike an enemy, there's a brief but significantly noticeable flash of green, yellow, red, and blue - light, medium, heavy, and blocked hits respectively - accompanied by the sound of flesh slapping against hard metallic gloves, or some other rather satisfying sound. When ballistic weapons fire, you can hear bullets zipping by your ear, ricocheting off the wall or floor, and leaving a very visible impression on whatever it hit. The environment is built around you so that it does fully engulf you as few other games have ever been able to do. (NOTE: Use headphones or Dolby 5.1 Surround for full immersion effect. ^_^)
As you play, you may find yourself using Konoko's fists far more than the weapons you find along the way. Sometimes, sneaking up and throwing them is far easier than gunning them down point-blank with a pistol - and it's more fun, to boot!
However, aside from all the wonderful tidbits, there is one disappointing fact about Oni, reducing our opinion of it. There is currently no implementation of multiplayer gaming. Gathering of Developers has mentioned before that they may be releasing a multiplayer patch for the game sometime in the future, but nothing yet written in stone. Still, Oni is a very well-planned and produced game, resulting in one of the most satisfying games to play. It was still well worth the $47 I paid to preorder it. ^_^
Gathering of Developers
Oni community site
Official Oni site