Wednesday, February 6

Review: Oniken - Unstoppable Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

There’s a pretty major crowd out there who think fondly of classics from eras past and who are looking for something old school in terms of both presentation and challenge. Throw together some platforming, a little slashing action, vary things up with a different sort of action sequence, and then throw in some tough bosses and it’s a party. Happy to oblige, the developers behind Oniken have put together a title that, for me, isn’t specifically reminiscent of any specific title, but certainly has a mentality consistent with those older days.

One look at the title screen or any of the action and it is clear this is intended to be a retro throwback starting at the visuals. The limited color palette and 8-bit pixel graphics stand out, but there’s are also some modern bits of flair thrown in with abundant parallax scrolling and some assorted screen effects to show off a bit. Complimented by a soundtrack that feels pulled straight out of that era the look and general feel of the game are spot on.

When it comes to the gameplay I think there will be a variety of opinions. For me the balance is too far towards the past, as the controls are just a bit on the chunky and clunky side. Granted, I’d consider many of my qualms with the control to be that they remind me of those classic games this one is trying to emulate but at some point I’m not a fan of adhering too close to the past. Old school looks and play but with tighter controls would be my preference but things like having to press up and a button to throw a grenade when there are plenty of unused buttons on the controller and the inability to remap the controls (I’m not a fan of the defaults and there’s no option to change it) are irksome. The emphasis usually being on keeping your sword power-up and avoiding getting hit so then you can simply wipe the floor with a tougher character who’ll otherwise take a much more substantial effort to beat is also an old school mechanic I could do without. Throw in some flashing lights in the backgrounds and cutscenes that could give people with photosensitivity issues fits and there’s just too much I don’t understand the reasoning behind.

While I enjoy games with some retro flavor when they turn too much into the skid and ignore better and smarter modern game design techniques it feels like the retro label is being used as an excuse more than anything else. You can forgive some of the clunky mechanics from the past when they were developed for far less powerful systems and for the most part nobody knew any better. Decades past that time there’s no great excuse for fully emulating that era from top to bottom, we’ve progressed and when it comes to controls and mechanics shortcomings shouldn’t be thrown aside in the name of “authenticity”.

Score: 5.5

  • If you’re thirsting for a top to bottom recreation of the 8-bit era, warts and all, this title delivers
  • Some great music

  • In terms of controls and play mechanics the game is stuck in an earlier era, and not in a charming way
  • Having a relative with epilepsy there shouldn’t need to be photosensitivity warnings on modern games as it not only harms accessibility but also risks people getting headaches or having reactions