Game Title: Onigiri Online
Company: Cyber Step
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital (Free to Play)
Battery Life: 4 – 5 hours
Cloud Save Support: No
Download: 4.8 GB

MMORPGs on consoles are something I’ve rarely gotten the chance to dive into, and even rarer on handhelds. The PS Vita version of PSO2 never came to the West and I tried to play the “Cloud” version of the same game on the Switch, without success due to connection issues across countries. Honestly, I’ve been hoping and praying for a Switch version of Star Trek Online than anything else.

But when it comes to MMOs, something else randomly just came to the Switch one day, which I was familiar with from the PS4, Onigiri Online. When a Switch version was announced, I got pretty interested and excited, not knowing what truly awaited me.

Now that I’ve had time to spend a good, long time with it, here is my review of the free-to-play MMORPG, Onigiri, for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

oni 2 - story

Set in an alternate version of Ancient Japan, where the Sun Goddess Amaterasu sealed away demonic beings known as the Kamikui. When one of the seals containing these beasts is broken, an Oni sets off on a quest to defeat the revived monsters before they can wreack havoc upon Ancient Japan.

The story here isn’t bad, overall. Each subplot is interesting on its own, many of which take actual Japanese folklore and meld it into the Onigiri world, and there is a pretty interesting variety in party members you get across the game. However, there are some small issues with the game’s translation. Many scenes aren’t worded or spelled properly, and some NPCs don’t have hardly any of their dialogue translated outside of Japanese, making it difficult to understand what’s going on for certain side-quests.

Gameplay

oni 3 - gameplay

Onigiri Online is a hack-n-slash MMORPG. Across its entirety, you’ll be running around online servers with other players, exploring various dungeons and fighting monsters in real-time battles.

Like its PS4 release, it’s worth noting that Onigiri on the Switch is a completely online game. The Single Player option present in the Xbox One version is nowhere to be found here. So, even if you wish to just play solo with an AI partner, you’ve gotta be online to play Onigiri. This is an important factor for the Presentation section, which I’ll get into later.

Basic progression in the game is pretty simple. You have multiple “Hub” towns you visit across the game’s storyline, all with NPCs that give you quests, be it for the Main Story or Side Quests. As you complete story quests, you unlock more quests and gain access to more locations, slowly increasing where you can go, what you can do, and who you can recruit into your party.

oni 4 - leveling

Being an MMO, though, there’s a lot to this game. Outside of just doing quests, you’ve got a ton of NPCs that do different things for you, like Yoshitune being able to repair and upgrade weapons, and Lady Shizuka being able to help you manage your inventory storage for when your bag runs out of room for new items and materials. You’ve also got a bunch of player interaction you can do, from forming parties with others to hosting your own shop in a hub town to sell excess inventory for special currencies at rates of your choosing.

There’s a bunch of other stuff you can do as well, like using special Login Bonus items to spin RNG Lottery mini-games in the Special Shop to get unique skills, clothing sets, and AI partners. You can also get gift items to give to your party members to increase their levels, open up new questlines, and raise their trust levels when you’re out in dungeons with them. All in all, there’s just a ton of stuff to this game.

Exploring and Combat are what you’ll be doing the most, though, for quests. Be it alone or with a partner/AI partner, you can freely roam around the towns, fields, and dungeons of the game to fight off monsters. There’s even a fast travel “hub” of teleporters to let you go back to previous towns to access certain NPCs and finish side-quests you missed earlier on. Just like any MMO, you can pretty much explore anywhere you want, outside of certain dungeons that only unlock during the main story.

oni 5 - combat

The game’s combat is a hack-n-slash style where you have physical attacks you can do with your equipped weapon, and skills that are tied to that weapon, each with their own strength and cooldown/recharge time. You can also equip different weapon types, so you can change your weapon in real-time, be it finding an enemy that’s weaker against magic or your current weapon runs out of durability between visits back to town to have Yoshi repair it.

The thing I really like about the combat and dungeon system in this game is that each dungeon has difficulty levels based on levels. When you enter it, you can choose a Normal, Hard, or Hell version of that dungeon, dependent on what your level is and what level range you want the enemies to be. Without grinding, these levels do eventually catch up to yours, but it does let you choose how much the game will challenge you.

This formula does come together pretty well, but it’s a well-known fact that Onigiri has a knack for being packed with glitches. Even outside of performance issues I’ll mention later, I’ve run into a lot of them that have kept me from being able to do some side-quests.

oni 6 - loop

One big example is that some dialogue choices constantly rewind that character’s dialogue to the beginning, making quests impossible to progress forward with. You can restart the game to escape the loop, but one of these loops is in one of Yoshitune’s quests, so it doesn’t help that every time you try to repair or upgrade your weapons, she automatically tries to initiate that quest, making every upgrade and repair trip a forced restart.

Problems aside, though, there’s a lot of content here. The game is technically free-to-play, but you’ve got a lot of game. Even across just the Main Story quests, you’ll likely be spending at least 30-50 hours before you reach the end of the story, and much more if you keep playing for side content, like side quests, events, and the special temporal rift dungeons.

Controls

Controlling Onigiri is very weird and awkward, but at the same time, it’s a much more pleasant experience than with the PS4 controller on that version of the game.

You basically has 2 different “Modes” in the game: When you’re controlling your character, and when you’re going through menus. The Menu mode lets you use a literal mouse cursor as it moves around on the screen just like it would on PC. The arrow buttons do try to lock onto certain menu items, but they’re not very consistent, and it’s made more awkward that you can’t just plug a PC Mouse into the Switch Dock and use it that way.

On the bright side, there is full touchscreen support, which makes navigating menus in handheld mode a million times more comfortable than in Docked Mode and in the other console releases (at least without plugging in a keyboard and mouse for those versions). Sometimes, the items on-screen are a bit small to get the touching precise, but it is way more comfortable than navigating with the cursor.

To make matters worse, the cursor also has a glitch where with button controls, the cursor may randomly reset to the chat window every time you click a dialogue box, making going through cutscenes a task of manually moving the cursor every time someone talks until you get through that scene (or undock the Switch so you can use the touch screen to override the glitch).

Now that we’re past that, lets talk the actual controls. You move your character (or cursor) around with the Left Analog Stick and the camera with the Right Stick. The Arrow Buttons are used to cycle your weapons. The R trigger is used for normal attacks and L is used to activate skills. The ZL/ZR triggers are used for cycling which skill you want to use.

Then, the face buttons. A lets you interact with objects and characters and B is used for jumping. Finally, Y is used for using Healing Items out in the field.

Presentation

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Here’s where things really go south. Graphically, this game could look worse, but it definitely doesn’t look that great. THere’s a lot less detail and a lot more jagged edges than any other version, even without turning down the graphics settings. Honestly, it looks like a PSP game rather than a Switch game.  It’s also difficult to read from how small its text is and how often dialogue windows clash with the chat window.

Performance, though. Let’s talk about all the stuff wrong with performance. First of all, the frame-rate is never steady, outside of dungeons. When you’re running around the hubs and fields with other players running around, the fps is almost never even up to 30 fps. Once you get into dungeons, it smooths out for the most part, but even in the smoother dungeons, it dips down under 30 fps pretty often and some enemies’ attacks (especially the Centipede burrow attacks) really tank the fps down to an almost unplayable level.

This is why the Single Player option being missing is important. From what I’ve researched, it was a way to be by yourself with the NPCs and not have a bunch of other players running around, which would help stabilize frame-rate in a lot of areas. It being missing here means we don’t have that option in what is clearly the least-optimized port of this game. Granted, the PS4 version doesn’t run perfect, but it does run quite a bit better than on the Switch.

Unfortunately, that’s just the start of our performance problems. The game also crashes a lot, sometimes randomly but some story scenes always crash when they appear, making you hope and pray you can skip them at the end of a dungeon so it doesn’t crash and make you re-do that same dungeon again just to crash again.

The final performance issue I’ll mention is the input lag. Onigiri requires an extremely stable online connection to keep from lagging out pretty hard. Outside of the normal fps drops, if I ever have anything else downloading on, say, my phone or PS4, Onigiri starts having attacks hit enemies but not do damage to them for a good 2-3 seconds after they hit, making battles last longer and the player never know what their health is really at when they aren’t sure if an enemy attack just hit them or not.

Battery Life

Let’s get into something a bit more positive, Battery Life. The lower graphical prettiness of the game didn’t stabilize the game’s frame-rate, but it did give it some pretty decent Battery Life. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 05 minutes

Low Brightness + WI-Fi – 5 hours, 08 minutes

If nothing else, this game gives you a lot of battery life, which furthers the emphasis on playing the game in handheld mode to take advantage of the touch controls for menus.

In conclusion, Onigiri Online is a cute, Japanese MMO that feels like a musou game and has a ton to do. On the downside, there is an overwhelming amount of problems with this version, from translation errors and endless dialogue loops to very bad frame-drops in hub towns and very frequent game crashes. It’s certainly possible to play through and enjoy, but it will take a lot of effort to do so.

Final Score: 4/10