The 1990 decade was particularly special to me. During this decade, I had my first console: a Mega Drive (or Genesis, for our US readers). I believe I was around 7 or 8 years then and, alongside the school, cartoons and my GI Joes, it was the pleasure that consumed most of the time of my childhood! The pixelated 2D adventures of that era were… magical! The limited technology – compared to what we have nowadays – was enough to suck us in and take us to the most diverse worlds and adventures. This is the reason I love so retro games so much. But I’m not the only Brazilian gamer who loved this time, as the developers from studio JoyMasher are about to show you.
First released for PCs in the remote year of 2012 and later being re-released in Steam in 2014, Digerati brought us at the end of 2019 Oniken: Unstoppable Edition, a pixelated action-adventure that follows the story of Zaku, a sword-for-hire in a post-apocalyptic future where a global war nearly decimated the human race. Zaku joins forces with the human resistance against a large military organization called Oniken which seeks to dominate the world. While the plot isn’t one of the most originals you’re going to see this year, the 8-bit visuals and retro gameplay from this game will surely blow some enjoyable nostalgic breeze over your console!
What do you do? Oniken: Unstoppable Edition is an action-platformer that will take you for several levels crowded with enemies eager to take your head on a silver plate. Slice and dice them using your trustful sword, your ninja skills, and explosive grenades to exterminate Oniken metallic soldiers and save humanity!
What we liked!
- Visuals: The visuals from Oniken come straight from the 8-bit era. Animations and visual effects for Zaku and his enemies truly remind classics like Strider and Ninja Gaiden – one of the titles it takes inspiration from. The stages vary between futuristic bases, forests, icy caves, ruined cities and more, all with a good level of personality and great level design!
- Sound: The chiptune soundtrack of the game is great – for old school players like me, at least! Among the sound effects, I felt lots of ‘I’ve already heard it before’ vibes remembering of the good old days of my youth, perfectly recreating the feeling of the 8 and 16-bits era. And to recreate this feeling, my friends, is something very few studios manage to do so well-done. Kudos for it, guys!
- Level variation: The level progression in Oniken has some interesting variation. Your first mission will have a linear progression, with platforms and so. In the second level, you will be piloting a jet ski-like vehicle while dodging obstacles and eliminating enemies. In the third, you will explore glacial caves and soon be back to this jet-ski, but now running away from a giant polar bear. In the fourth, you will find yourself climbing trees to escape a fire in the base of the forest. This variation on levels is perfect to prolong your interest in the game, preventing you to become tired of it.
- Tough challenge: As the games it pays homage to, Oniken is a challenging adventure. Let me try to be clearer here: It’s a VERY challenging adventure. It won’t take you by the hand or aid you with save points or power-ups after every encounter. Here you have a limited number of lives and will need to dominate do game to advance. Whenever you die, you go back to the beginning of the level. And there are no save points before boss encounters: if you fall before when fighting one of them, there you go back to the beginning of the stage. This high difficulty level may become a barrier for some less-skilled players. And if it wasn’t challenging enough, there are a Boss rush mode and a Hardcore mode where you must finish the game WITH A SINGLE LIFE! If you manage to beat it, I’m already your #1 fan.
- Rankings: After finishing a level, you get a score based on how long you took to finish it and – I think – your overall performance in the level. The point is since there is no online leaderboard – like the PC version has – there’s no point in having it at all: you will never know how good was your performance since there’s no one else’s to compare to.
What we disliked
- Sharpless sword: There’s one flaw in the gameplay of Oniken that was a big disappointment to me: when cutting your enemies with your giant sword (sword that reminded me of the mercenary Guts, from Berserk… just saying), you don’t feel like hitting them, somehow breaking the immersion from the game. It’s great to see them being decapitated or divided into two, but some more feedback would do wonders for its gameplay.
- The cruel slice of nostalgia: Old platformers used to be very unkind with those who dared to defy their challenges, presenting some very unfair situations like hard to reach jumps and enemy shots that were enough to make you fall from platforms, resulting in your inevitable death. Well, I’m sad to announce that these situations are still here to make your (and my) blood boil! C’mon, guys! I understand you wanted to make Oniken the more similar the possible to those classics we love, but there was no need to be unfair with players like them.
In my years reviewing games here at LifeisXbox, there’s one expression I’ve used to describe a game only once: “a love letter”. And today I feel the need to use it again because there’s no other way to describe Oniken: Unstoppable Edition without saying it’s a love letter to the classic of the 8-bit. It delivers the same kind of magic older players used to feel back in the day when life was much simpler. It delivers Just keep in mind that this game aims to very specific public and may not be for everyone – and it’s totally ok if you don’t appreciate its style. But if you are brave enough to challenge it, I strongly recommend you giving it a try!
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.