I was both surprised and delighted to see Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines at the PlayStation Experience. After all, it wasn’t at E3 2014, and is the last of the three Vita games Sony announced on April 14, 2014. Sadly, it wasn’t everything I expected it to be.
Before you start worrying about the quality of the game, let me assuage those fears. My unhappiness with the Oreshika demo at PSX had nothing to do with the game itself. It was a technical issue that became so frustrating that I had to eventually abandon the game. Namely, every few minutes, the Vita would leave Oreshika and go to a black screen, trying to make a connection. At first, I thought I was to blame and accidentally pressing the Home button, since it was running on a slim Vita and I have an original model. But, once it began happening every 2-5 minutes, I realized it was beyond my control.
The constant interruptions were a blight upon what would otherwise have been a very positive experience. The Oreshika demo started with a bit of a surprise. I was able to take a picture of myself with the camera and use that to create my avatar for the proceedings. Seeing that kind of character customization in a preliminary version of a game was an unexpected surprise. Granted, my heroine didn’t end up sharing my likeness, but still. “A” for effort and all.
As for the actual sampling of gameplay, it seemed more about teaching the basics of battling and dungeon crawling, rather than elaborating on the experience or setting the tone. My heroine had two companions with her, as well as a pet ferret. The three women were the primary attackers in battle, though the ferret was a friendly, supporting NPC akin to Nall in Lunar: The Silver Star. It’s a turn-based RPG, so any of you reading could easily jump in and feel comfortable, but there were a few elements that impressed me.
The first is how rewards for a fight are determined. Once a battle begins, slots start turning. Pressing X at the right times lets a player have some measure of control over the rewards will be earned. I didn’t quite figure out the timing, given the brief nature of the experience, but I’m sure others will and perhaps use it to their advantage.
It was also interesting to see a hint at relationship aspects between characters. When choosing what to do on a turn, party members will offer suggestions for attacks. Choosing or ignoring their opinions can influence their feelings toward the hero or heroine. It was unexpected, but makes a lot of sense when you think about it. I mean, if I was an RPG heroine in a party and the leader kept ignoring my ideas, I’d get miffed too!
What I liked most, though, was the way in which a battle can quickly be brought to a close. Each oni party will have a leader. If this specific creature is defeated, it’s an instant win for the player. While it isn’t as brilliant as Earthbound granting an instant win if the party is at a high enough level when running into an enemy, it’s still near the top of the list of “good JRPG ideas.”
It even improved on the time mechanic. In Oreshika, you’re part of a cursed family fighting oni, which means you don’t want to dawdle when it comes to accomplishing goals. Your character may die before anything important gets done! So, when I came upon a dungeon in the demo, I was pleased to see that once you’re in, it automatically takes one month off of your avatar’s life. Which may sound like a lot, but think of the Atelier series. You can spend a week traveling to a location, gathering items, and fighting battles. I’d much rather know right away that going in will take X amount of time, instead of worrying if every move I make could cost me valuable moments.
Admittedly, I didn’t complete the Oreshika demo. When it started seeming like the connection issue was happening more often, I flagged down a PlayStation representative and moved on to another Vita game when troubleshooting began. However, I will say that the time I did spent left me feeling more optimistic in the wake of all those harsh Japanese reviews.