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Onikira: Demon Killer (PC) artwork

Onikira: Demon Killer (PC) review

"A killer indie title bogged down by bugs"

Onikira: Demon Killer (PC) image

Before I started writing this review, after conquering several stages, I had a snazzy intro pieced together in my mind. I was going to emphasize how action-packed Onikira: Demon Killer is and ride that pony to the finish line. I planned to use various synonyms for "slash," talk about hacking demons to bits, and discuss how Jiro is an awesome protagonist (and demon hunter) that everyone should emulate. I would have used some pretentious vocabulary to purr over the games terrific art design and the harrowing tale it tells. And while all of that would have been true, my plans were shot once I ran into some of the game's technical flaws…

For the first four or five levels, Onikira is a nonstop rush that finds players slicing up baddies and negotiating heart-stopping perils. Each stage offers throngs of supernatural warriors who enter our world via dark portal. Sword-bearing demons pour from the abyss, teamed up with their gun-toting allies, projectile-spewing floating heads, and even massive heavies (from odachi-equipped brutes to fiery golems).

Onikira: Demon Killer (PC) image

Early altercations typically end with a few dozen simple strokes of your katana, but you'll need more than mindless button mashing skills to survive subsequent battles. Your adversaries bring all manner of weapons to the party, including explosives, terrible magic, and colored barriers. The only way to topple such defenses is with the use of alternate weapons, which you can quickly equip by holding one or both of your controller's shoulder buttons. In that manner, you can seamlessly transform your weapon without having to waste time with menus or cycle through selections, which makes it easier to switch between swift kama blades, bludgeoning tetsubo, and the crowd-controlling naginata as you quickly fill your combo meter.

A more important skill, though, is the dodge ability. By properly using it, you can practically teleport to a position a few feet away, passing through all blows, projectiles, and bodies in the process. Doing so requires you not only to pay attention to the villain before you, but to his nearby cohorts. You have to listen for flying bullets and grenades and virtually sense a chop before it lands. A failure to do so leads to constantly depleting hit points, a bloody carcass, and a broken heart.

Then, between battles, you can stare at game's wonderful scenery. It's reminiscent of hand-painted scrolls, except with an extra dash of darkness. Grim horizons, burning sunsets, and immolated villages provide the game with a fittingly depressing atmosphere, which in turn bolsters the sense of urgency as you undertake each new mission. Onikira communicates very well that you're battling the forces of hell.

Onikira: Demon Killer (PC) image

The only thing to occasionally stifle you before the campaign eventually starts to fall apart is the odd bout with lag. Stages typically start off with a few hiccups, which is no biggie because those dissipate within a couple dozen seconds. As you advance, though, the frame rate sometimes drops in the middle of the action. This doesn't affect gameplay much, but it's not exactly easy on the eyes. Such moments are thankfully minimal during scenes that require precision timing, when the game really comes to life. Instead, the worst examples crop up during other key moments, like when you're outrunning a building-consuming blaze, or ascending a volcano to avoid death by lava, or utilizing a grappling hook to cling from one object to the next as you cross vast ravines. During such segments, you really need to focus on making careful jumps and aiming projectiles at a specific angle. Failure is only temporary if anything goes wrong, though, as the game provides you with infinite chances to succeed.

Then you reach level five, and things start going downhill. The first indication that the game could have done with further development time comes when you attempt the grappling hook sequences. They operate properly most of the time. However, there are occasions when the hooks either won't respond or they leave you in a position where you simply can't reach the next platform or target. I would zip to a ring and then immediately plummet to my doom because the game didn't allow me to jump or perform a midair charge the way it's supposed to.

Onikira: Demon Killer (PC) image

Eventually I got the feeling that the last few levels weren't play tested much, since that's where a lot of isolated bugs and issues arise. One thing that drove me nuts were the wheels in stage six, which you can activate by pressing the B button. Doing so points a laser toward a giant crystal. Part of the problem is that all such devices prior to that moment require a person to hold the button down after pressing it. Here, holding the button triggers a glitch that sets Jiro to turning the crank endlessly. Nothing--not even button mashing or pausing and unpausing--breaks his newfound obsession, though you can use the suicide option to restart the area. Level six also features a huge graphical bug wherein a massive piece of the environment is missing, replaced by a single colored box. Not only that, but the stage begins with a tutorial window that obstructs the game's dialog. I can't even tell you what transpired in that opening cutscene.

The glitches don't let up from there, not even in the final battle. After you defeat the main antagonist's first form, a letterboxed cutscene ensues. When it concludes, the letterbox format doesn't go away and the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen hide not only your HUD, but also the boss's status. That's not even the worst part about this particular scuffle, either! The creature's second form requires you to navigate a collection of descending platforms, with a pitfall located beneath them. Tumbling into the oblivion causes you to disappear for a short while, only to materialize atop another platform. From that moment on, you continually take damage for no apparent reason. I couldn't tell whether I was actually supposed to have died from the fall (which might explain why I was constantly sustaining blows from some invisible force) or the game was just stuck in a loop that periodically registered pitfall damage. Either way, it's a huge faux pas for a final fight.

A little better than half of Onikira: Demon Killer is terrific stuff. Unfortunately, once the technical issues begin mounting, the game loses the confident recommendation it earned up to that point. Random problems hamper the experience in the closing stages, making it difficult to even enjoy the combat sequences. I'm tempted to urge people to download the game and play it once it is satisfactorily updated, but there's no guarantee that the flaws will ever be fully resolved. The developers at Digital Furnace will likely continue to tweak and polish, as they have been for months now, but until they're done the reality is that a lukewarm experience awaits you in Onikira


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (September 04, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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