For a game that was originally planned two years ago, Bungie’s Oni was praised as the most anticipated game at trade show after show. That praise has continued through 2000 (including a feature at E3), and was also planned to be a launch title for the PlayStation 2. However, that never happened. In fact, it was not released until February 2001, and after playing it on my PlayStation2, I wonder why it got so much praise. To me, it’s just average.
I know a lot of anime buffs will easily get hooked into Oni because the game begins with an impressive anime cut scene, showcasing on protagonist Konoko, an elite member of the Tech Crimes Task Force (TCTF), and her mission against an evil Syndicate.
The game itself is a pretty basic romp through 17 different environments, which are shown in a behind-the-back perspective similar to that found in Syphon Filter. However unlike SF, all the controls are analog, and that is the first of many problems with Oni. As the left analog is used for movement and strafing (which can be done with the D-pad as well), turning and mouselooks are done using the right analog. I’ve never been a big fan of using both analogs on the PS(2) Dual Shock, and this game is a perfect example of that.
Aiming with the analog is difficult, and it makes me really want Bungie to do what Infogrames did with Unreal Tournament, and provide USB support so I can use a keyboard/mouse combination. If that had happened I would have given the control a higher rating, and had a lot more fun with this title.
As for the graphics, once again I can only describe them as average. I don’t know if it’s because of the limited video RAM, or because of the PS2’s complexity, but the graphics in this game are nothing to really brag about. Environments are sparse and limited in detail. There is also some traces of slowdown at key moments. I’ve seen other games on the PS2 with graphical flair (Metal Gear Solid 2, Madden 2001, SSX, Starfighter, etc.) but this is definitely not one of them.
As for sound, I can say that in this area Oni is quite good. The voice acting is typical anime quality. We’re not talking about a cheapo Ranma 1/2 episode or anything else done by Viz Video, but maybe something by U.S. Manga Corps. Music is sparse, almost like something from Tomb Raider, but seems to suit the mood well.
Oni could provide some enjoyment, but is nothing worth bragging about. After a couple hours, I just lost interest, and it shows in my 2 1/2 Gem rating, completely average rating. I can only hope that Bungie and Rockstar Games can do better next time. Anime fans, and I mean the real hardcore anime lovers, will love this title for the genre. But most won’t have much love for the much-hyped Oni.