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Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines (Vita) artwork

Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines (Vita) review

"Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines is a solid JRPG on a system overflowing with them."

Death in video games is usually the result of failure or a scripted event. Itís rare for a game to present death as the result of its most common cause: old age.

Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines for the PlayStation Vita is a JRPG that reminds us all that time is the great equalizer. No matter how great we are, we have to go when our time is up. Itís certainly an interesting concept, but it runs the risk of being a pointless gimmick when translated into a gameplay mechanic. Thankfully, that isnít the case here.

As Oreshika begins, a clan you name yourself finds itself framed for the theft of the Instruments of Festivity. Such a crime is apparently punishable by death, as the emperor executes every man, woman and child. The story picks up a bit later, with a god resurrecting three members of the clan to seek revenge on the real culprits.

Now, here is where Oreshika gets interesting. While members of the clan may have been resurrected, said clan is cursed with lifespans that last roughly two years, along with the inability to procreate. These two tenets are at the core of Oreshika and will influence all of your decisions throughout the 30- to 100-hour adventure.

Outside of the above gimmicks, Oreshika is a pretty typical JRPG. Players create a character, choose three classes and explore dungeons. The limited lifespans of each party member do make dungeons a little more interesting, though. Time progresses on a month by month basis, and dungeons are timed. At the end of a run, players can either choose to stay in a dungeon for another month or return home.

While that may not seem so bad, you have to remember that each party member only lives for about two years. Once a character hits the tail end of his or her life, stats decrease significantly. While most players will make sure to let their older characters die in peace, others may choose to push them until the day they die. Itís the risk you have to take, and it can make for some harrowing encounters as a once strong character is steamrolled by enemies that posed no threat in battles the previous month.

Death is inevitable, though, and every party member will die sooner or later. If it was impossible to make new party members, the game would conclude rather quickly. As it turns out, the curse has a loophole. Cursed individuals can have children with gods or other cursed individuals. The choice of god is important, however, as the relevant deity's stats will mix with your characterís stats to influence how powerful the child is at birth.

Battles present other interesting elements, as Oreshikaís fights are of the turn-based variety seen in the original Persona 3. While the player retains control of the clan leader, every other party member will suggest three actions to perform on their turn. You can either heed their counsel and do what they suggest, or you can tell them something else to do. Youíll want to do a little bit of both, as constantly telling them what to do will decrease their loyalty to the clan. They may even leave if that stat drops low enough.

Battles are made even more interesting thanks to Oreshikaís unique take on stats. Itís a simple yet complex system that features only three stats, broken up into four elements: fire, water, wind and earth. As characters level up, the elemental strengths for each of the three stats go up, instead of the stats themselves. These elements provide each party member with unique strengths and weaknesses that force players to change up how they approach pretty much every battle.

The dungeons themselves are perhaps my favorite part of the game, though. Each dungeon features a strong theme that changes throughout the year, along with the seasons. Thereís also an abundance of alternate paths that can be unlocked with keys found in other dungeons or bought in shops. In a way, the dungeons almost feel like a JRPG take on Metroidvania.

While it sounds like thereís plenty to love in Oreshika (and there is), there are plenty of frustrating design choices as well. I may love the dungeons, but they do become an annoyance later in the game. Progression through the story requires players to make it to a specific point in a dungeon during a certain month. If you donít make it in time, the portal closes and you have to wait another year. Thankfully, thereís no hard time limit, so you can try again and again over the course of five, ten or even 20 in game years. Itís still annoying, however, to spend a month before the portal opens getting there, and then finding yourself worn out for the pretty difficult boss encounters.

Speaking of boss encounters, the game requires you to have a specific party member in the active party for story bosses starting at the second story boss. That means you have to spend valuable devotion - the currency used to create new children - resurrecting this character every two years. Sheís powerful, but itís annoying that a game focused on the gradual evolution of a family then forces players to constantly invest in a character who is not even part of said family.

Easily the most annoying part of the game, however, is the way it handles loot. Before each battle, the player is presented with three spinning slots that determine whatís dropped upon winning the fight. Thereís a catch, however, in that battles can be won instantly by defeating the general. Youíre not going to get as much XP or gold, but you will get the loot. Players focused on leveling up their team run the risk of the general running and taking the loot with him. While itís certainly interesting to make the player decide between XP and loot, itís a little annoying that I canít have my cake and eat it too.

Despite such issues, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines is a solid JRPG on a system overflowing with them. Itís certainly one of the most traditional JRPGs on a system thatís graced with a lot of unique takes on the genre. Itís also quite possibly the best value you can get on the system right now, with $20 securing you a minimum of 30 hours of play. Thereís certainly a lot more of the experience to have even beyond that, and itís absurd that Sony is charging so little for a title that could well end up providing you with 100 hours or more of gameplay.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (March 12, 2015)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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