Onikira: Demon Killer

Alpha v.189

Digital Furnace Games, Merge Games and Headup Games proudly bring us their latest game on Steam’s Early Access program; Onikira: Demon Killer. This 2D side-scrolling beat-‘em-up jumps, slashes, uppercuts and smashes its way into our favorite action genres.

The game takes place in a fantasy world of feudal Japan, as the story tells of an evil emperor who stole the soul and powers of a dragon and was later imprisoned by a legendary hero who as well had the power of a dragon. You now play as Yamazaki Jiro, the samurai who fights against the evil menace coming from below once again.

Do you have what it takes to kill all those demons?!

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This Ninja Gaiden and Bayonetta inspired indie title combines the highlight mechanics of said games and executes them in a 2D environment. But how well do they perform?

Besides having to fight through enemies who won’t let you pass until you defeat them and get trapped in a DMC-like wall, you can platform through obstacles and find special new weapons, each with special animated attacks and combos with advantages and disadvantages. To start off, you begin your adventure with the Katana, you have the regular samurai slashes, crossing attacks, uppercuts and slams. Later you find the Kama Blades which are attached to your arms and allow you to perform very fast slash attacks, low damage but great maneuverability; they also have a great tornado uppercut to max out your combo counter. Then you find the Naginata, a pole-arm razor sharp blade on the end, faster than the Katana, less damage, but of course has great crowd control range attacks. Later you find the fourth and last weapon with wrecking capabilities; the Tetsubo.

The game offers an interesting weapon switching mechanic very common in Ninja Theory games. When you unlock new weapons you can use their corresponding attacks by holding specific buttons. The combat mechanics shine on how to use your weapons to maximize the combo counter, each weapon can be activated by holding a specific trigger, like LT or RT, then proceed to launch your attack with the regular X or Y buttons on an XBOX 360 controller (it also rumbles on the presence of stuff going on in the background!). There are about 50 different moves; you have access to them during the first stages of the game and against the first Boss. You can also spend souls at the… Yeap, the Soul Shop at the underworld Yomi, and get access to be healed or trade them for moves.

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How fluid is it?

Fighting style is very flexible with these many weapons; it’s quite an impressive variety to say the least. However, at the current stage it might feel a bit rough around the edges and combat can have a weak responsiveness at times causing the flow of action lose its rhythm. Nevertheless, the world where you fight offers many well designed enemies with their respective attacks, even if there are a few different designs and unique fighting styles, it’s at least good enough to vary the scenario. You can hit enemies probably endlessly even when they don’t have any more hit points to increase your combo, feels weird but I suppose it works? I did encounter an issue and it’s how hit boxes are worked, they are tricky, some enemy attack animations make them invulnerable to your own attacks, they do not get staggered and you will get blasted with a barrage of attacks x times the amount of enemies layer upon each other.

As for the level design, very simple minded, includes regular platforming while being encased in combat arenas. It has the usual “here is something special, now finding your way to get it!” Something that is very appreciated in games that I found in Onikira, is how they present you the boss straight up, and you lead your way into battle at almost its same pace, then finally encounter him on an epic showdown. It’s a sense of scaling and a common technique in the action genre that truly kicks a**.

The game offers Challenge Arenas, basically fight and complete challenges, obtain achievements and show all your friends on Steam’s leaderboards who is the baddest samurai in feudal fantasy Japan… In 2014!!!

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Of course, Onikira current stage has some rough edges but that’s why its in Early Access, we support devs and help them build the game to be better, fixing simple issues like an anti-climactic Game Over, or implement a wider variety of settings in the Options menu, or how sound and music start at a level, and after you pause the game and press resume, it boosts up significantly, causing a bit of a weird continuity issue.

But seriously though, what about its audiovisual proposal?

The game works around a warm color palette in contrast to the dark ambience of the evil Yomi, truly depicts an environment where war is going on. Sound works in association with this atmosphere to generate this specter of evil and having your character with a red armor shows how much blood is going to be spilt to save your home. The music is also well mixed and balanced properly, it might get a bit repetitive but only if you restart the game over and over, otherwise it has a great beat to it, a combination of modern instrumentals with classical Japanese. According to a dev from Digital Furnace Games, there should be around 10 music tracks (one per level).

Verdict:

Try it if you're a fan of the genre

At its current stage it does need a couple tweaks here and there, but it does show a lot of promise that resemble way more than its price.

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