As readers of this blog might know by now, I’m a fan of both anime and RPGs. While I’m not a hardcore player, I’ve spent many hours on MMORPGs in particular. Games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV account for quite a few missing days of my life, and it’s all time I willingly gave.
When I saw a free-to-play action MMORPG with an anime aesthetic pop up on the PSN, I figured I’d download it and get a few hours of laughs out of it. “What’s the worst that could happen? I waste an hour on some character creation and an off-brand Dynasty Warriors battle system?”
That was not the worst that could happen. The worst that could happen is Onigiri—the worst game I have ever played.
I’m not using hyperbole when I say Onigiri is the worst game I’ve ever played. I tend to avoid really bad games, and rarely spend any time with games that are difficult to play. Even then, I’ve never run across a game that is truly unplayable. I’ve never reached the ten minute point in a game and given up playing, save external influences stopping me from playing further. So how did Onigiri let me down? How did I run out of patience this quickly? How do I feel good passing judgement on a game I barely played?
Let’s start from the beginning. From the outset, Onigiri’s marketing within the PSN throws scantily clad anime women in your face. This isn’t a good start where I’m concerned, but a cheesecake aesthetic has occasionally sat atop an otherwise fun game, so I soldiered through.
Of course, this didn’t stop my wife from making fun of me from minute one.
When I first opened the game, I was greeted by a corporate logo that lingered for about a minute. Not a good start, as I had no idea if the game was loading or had failed. I closed the game the first time, afraid it had frozen before it even started, but eventually it progressed. I was then greeted by a decent Japanese mythological aesthetic. Calling to mind other, better games such as Okami or Oreshika, you’re quickly greeted with iconic sounds straight out of the Japanese theater and poppy, bright colors. I was immediately on board.
Then I pressed start, and it all goes to shit.
As an MMO, the game requires you to create an account and login. The process is pretty painless, letting you create an account in-game without too many steps. Well, painless except for the lack of a prompt to bring up the software keyboard. No matter how many buttons I pressed, nothing brought up the Playstation software keyboard to enter my information. Luckily, I keep a wireless keyboard plugged in for when I play the far superior FFXIV, so I typed it in, chalked it up to some failure of mine, and continued on.
During my time trying to get the keyboard working, I realized that using the control stick moved a mouse cursor on screen. Odd, I thought, but the directional pad still maneuvered between text entry boxes, so I shrugged it off and figured this game was a PC game to start, and this was just a holdover of the UI. Minutes later, I would laugh at the understatement here.
I was soon prompted to create my character. There was a variety of body types, some incredibly odd, but the female options didn’t seem as fan-servicey as the art implied. What I was struck by, however, were the graphics. While the game was running on a PS4, it is more or less indistinguishable from an early PS2 title. That might not even be fair—early on, the PS2 had some lovely games like Onimusha. Onigiri is more like a discount .hack game.
If you’ve ever seen a .hack game, let that sink in for a second.
It wasn’t long before I started seeing signs of how little effort had gone into making the game playable on a console. The “analog stick as a mouse” paradigm came back with a vengeance, as the d-pad proved utterly unresponsive. After jiggling the mouse cursor around a bit I was able to once again use the d-pad to toggle between selectable areas, but it still felt wrong. Perverse, even. Well, not perverse, that’s ridiculous, but unpleasant. The cursor could not deal with moving between rows with an unequal number of items, and the different creation options (hair, face, etc) were held captive in drop-down menus lacking any options to scroll down. Opening too many of these menus meant I was trying to select options at the very bottom of the screen, as moving my cursor to the bottom meant scrolling just enough to keep the cursor visible.
More difficult was trying to get a feel for the character I was creating. The UI must be ripped directly from the PC version: options for changing the character are to the right, while the left is taken up with your character model. Also to the left are options to zoom on your character and rotate the character. This doesn’t… quite… work.
In order to reach those buttons (which will be quite necessary, as you start rather zoomed out) you cannot use the d-pad. You have to drag the analog-cursor over, which is already a pretty slow process. Then, every time you press “X” to toggle the zoom, the cursor snaps back to the right side, on whichever option you had edited last.
Getting a good view of the face requires zooming twice, and the whole time the UI is desperately fighting against you, terrified that too close a view might show you the seams on the three polygons that make up a characters nose. Still, it’s better than trying to rotate your character—that shit just straight up doesn’t work. Trust me, I tried every button on the controller, they certainly didn’t think to map rotate to the shoulder buttons, and using the analog-mouse to hit the physical rotate buttons is pointless. I tried pressing, holding, dragging, everything one would expect to turn a character. All I got was a cursor desperate to return to its home on the right side of the screen.
I picked a relatively normal hairstyle and hoped it wasn’t a mullet.
By this point I figured the game wouldn’t give me a lot of playtime, but maybe the action would be some mindless fun. I was dropped into the tutorial area with no background, no plot, no real context, but that was fine. Just let me get to the slashing.
A friendly dialog box taught me how to move- I succeeded like a champ. The controls were a bit odd, requiring some aiming of your viewpoint with the right stick, but they did the job they needed to. The game then told me to hold R1 to attack, and to hit the small Daruma doll. I turned my body toward the doll, pressed the R1, and completely missed the little bastard. That’s fine though, the tutorial didn’t mind and just moved onto special attacks. Learning how to aim this time, I nailed the next little guy before the tutorial boxes decided this was sufficient and shuffled me into the next area.
Oh, and here’s where the plot kicked in—an anime girl with a squeaky voice was being attacked by some manner of towering hydra named “????”, and I needed to save her. It was a quick jump into a boss battle, but I figured that a longer combat would be a nice introduction. I swapped equipment to my dual swords, found my best special attack, and dove in.
He went down in about 15 seconds.
I was instructed to pick up the loot he had dropped, but before I was able to a voiced cutscene took over. The game features Japanese voices and English subtitles, which doesn’t bother me. However, the text auto-scrolls, and it does so at a genuinely hilarious pace. The squeaky-voiced girl I had just saved had not even finished her first line before the cutscene was done, and I spent the next minute looting and checking out my menus as the rest of the cutscene audio played in the background.
It’s worth noting that those menus also required use of the analog mouse, and were mostly unnavigable with the d-pad. Running around provided some laughs, as I found my character had a hell of a time stopping. It was as if the game treated me as going at a full run until the analog stick had been in the neutral position for a good second, eliciting some giggles at the icecapades I had inadvertently become part of. The game prompted me to go to a gate that would take me to the main city, and I obliged out of some dull masochism that was soon to be overwhelmingly fulfilled.
Onigiri saw fit to give me a sweeping view of the town I was entering. Unfortunately, the buildings on the near-PSOne graphics took some time to load and popped in at their convenience. No hurry, guys, I’ve got time! I was quickly thrown into a hub area with approximately one hundred billion other players, and was graced with a cutscene featuring up-close models of two NPCs, showing me their sparsely detailed faces in all their inanimate glory. I was given an excuse to go fight some monsters and was soon given control of my character again. I checked my mini map and ran toward the nearest quest giver
I picked up a quest, tried to equip some new weapons, but the game had defeated me. I couldn’t speak to anyone when a single tap of the analog stick would send me flying. I couldn’t see where I was going, because the game could not keep up with that many people, even with archaic graphical standards, and saw the best alternative as dipping down to a leisurely frame or two per second.
The game had defeated me. I give everything I can a chance, but I could go no further. I closed the game. Turned off my PS4. Toppled my entertainment center. Set fire to my house. Let my worldly possessions be cleansed in the fire. I took my family and left civilization behind, with naught but the clothes on my back and the knowledge that life could only get better from here.
This is my last missive, as from here I bid farewell to the internet and find my new life deep in the mountains of the Freelands, aided by the Hill Folk who have promised to teach me to hunt and farm in exchange for my limited understanding of category theory.
I leave you with this advice, and this advice alone: don’t play Onigiri.
Well, at least on PS4, maybe on PC it’s just lovely.