Oniken can be summed up in two words: BAD ASS. Most 8-bit homages don’t capture a fraction of the spirit this game possesses. Fans of classic NES action titles like Strider will find plenty to love about Oniken. It features authentically devious level design, a radical chiptune soundtrack, and ultra-satisfying controls. Even the cheesy story is far more entertaining than it should be. Sometimes Oniken can be a bit too punishing to overlook, though it still is undeniably awesome. This is the most fun and genuinely retro game on the market since Mega Man 10.

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where an evil military organization seeks to enslave humans with a robot army. A resistance has risen to match the evil doers, but finds itself losing ground every day. Enter Zaku, the mysterious drifter and legendary swordsman who fights injustice while helping those in need. Nothing we haven’t seen before in essentially any anime or traditional Japanese film ever created. Though, there is a layer of cheese to the entire affair that can’t help but make you smile. Between hilarious stereotypical eighties side-kicks, and villains inspired by Terminator and Mad Max, the narrative is irresistible. It doesn’t build the kind of anticipation that will leave you waiting with bated breath, but the impressively directed cutscenes are definitely something to look forward to. Like a thrilling popcorn flick, you are just excited to see what lies around the next corner.

In terms of production values, Oniken is brimming with veritable 8-bit charm. The animation is classically stiff but full of personality, sprites clip for that extra layer of believability, and the soundtrack really sounds like it was made on ancient synthesizers. More NES love letters could stand to learn from Oniken’s devotion to authenticity. In fact, many older gamers will probably want to petition developer Joymasher to manufacture cartridges. Oniken has the kind of classic appeal that is ripe for merchandising T-shirts and posters, it’s that awesome.

This same appeal holds true for the terrific gameplay design, which would please any fan of diabolical eighties action games. It is your typical mold of Strider, which is comprised of running, jumping, and slashing. Each level is broken into 3 parts, scaling progressively in difficulty, and you are allotted three lives to succeed. Dying during a section sets you back to the beginning of that particular part, losing all your lives resets the entire level. This of course means an abundance of trial and error learning. Picking apart the seemingly frustrating patterns of enemies and subverting them with ever-growing skill satisfies in a way only retro games can. Also, navigating through unforgiving fields of deathtraps with tight platforming is both tense and exhilarating. Zaku can be swatted like a fly at a moments notice, so you are forced to keep alert. Boss battles are something you prepare for by managing how many resources you pick-up throughout a level. Grenades and sword enhancements are something you try not to fumble. The only conceivable issue with Oniken’s design is that it might be a bit too punishing at times. If you have a potty mouth, you will fire a barrage of obscenities at this game before its over. It extremely easy to lose your patience and quit altogether. However, like any brutally challenging game worth its salt, you will be too addicted to stay away.

If you like action-platformers, Oniken needs to be in your Steam library. It takes only a few hours to complete the main missions, but additional levels and difficulties are unlocked thereafter. Additionally, it is a bargain at only $8. Now let’s just hope and pray an Oniken 2 is on the way.

Review: Oniken
  • Oozes eighties authenticity
  • Outrageously fun
  • Captivating cutscenes
  • Sometimes too hard for its own good
9Overall Score
  • Wow! This makes me think there are actually people out there studying games that work and not just flailing at keyboards and flagellating themselves with their mice in hope that they will just magically and randomly produce the next serviceable game.

    Image searching Oniken led me to another game not yet released called Odallus that looks even more promising. I will definitely try these out if they hit GoG.com or the PSN. This gives me hope. If we can still make good 2D games, there’s hope that we will one day be able to make good 3D games. Give it 50 more years and we’ll see 🙂