Oreshika is my new favorite Vita game. I’m delighted by how it plays. Even though there are time constraints, I never feel bound by them. Instead, they’re more of a background challenge, an incentive to keep me pushing my characters forward.
Oreshika begins with Abe no Seimei arranging for the player’s entire clan to be blamed for the theft of Celestial Instruments. Rather than this being an end, it’s instead a beginning. The goddess Nueko gives the family a second chance. There’s a price for this boon, however. The entire line is subject to two curses. The Curse of Ephemerality means each person only lives about two years, while the Curse of Broken Lineage means members can only breed with gods or other cursed individuals upon reaching 8 months of age.
What follows is best described as a game that is part resource management and part dungeon crawler. The goal is to clear the family’s name and break the curse, which will of course prove more difficult than it seems. Kochin the weasel is a personal advisor, ready to offer advise on what goals to consider from month to month. The basic flow is as such. You start in your home, with an option to check on characters, decide on training, and visit town to restock or invest in various businesses. Once menial chores are done, you determine whether your family will fight in festivals, hook up with a god or other cursed character to create a child, or go into a dungeon to earn Devotion points for fusions, collect skill scrolls, find new enemies to fight, or take on a boss fight that will advance the story.
Once a course of action is decided, either by letting Kochin decide everything, working with her on a plan, or doing it all yourself, the family heads into a dungeon. There, they have one month to accomplish that area’s particular goal. Spoiler alert – you’re always defeating oni. Flames in the lower right corner of the screen, surrounding the map, show how long the player has before the month ends and if the oni are in a frenzy.
Battles are my favorite part of Oreshika. They’re fairly traditional, turn-based affairs, but a number of matters make them more interesting. To start, a roulette at the beginning of battle determines your reward, which you won’t get if the opponent’s leader runs away with them. Family members that aren’t the captain will offer three suggestions of actions they’d like to undertake in the battle, as in Criminal Girls, though you can dismiss these and have them perform whatever action you’d like. The easy way out, if you want to quickly complete goals, is to defeat the leader. That immediately ends the battle. However, it’s often beneficial to take out as many enemies as you can, as that can lead to setting new gods free.
The characters’ classes help quite a bit, too. There are eight total, but you start with three. They vary in terms of power, defense, and skills they’re best suited to, as well as their range of attack. I began with a dancer, martial artist, and gunner, as the dancer had a ranged general attack and was good with skills, the martial artist could deal 1-3 hits to a front line opponent, and the gunner had good range. However, there are no wrong answers as to which classes to pick as starters, and eventually additional classes are ulocked as random drops from battles.
Success comes from perfectly balancing out all of Oreshika‘s gameplay mechanics. Grinding for Devotion is key early on, as you’ll want and need as many points possible to ensure good fusion with gods. I wouldn’t worry too much about standard weapons and armor, as they often drop as spoils in battle. It’s far better to save money for heirloom weapons you can eventually bequeath down through generations. Having your favorite and best characters pop out kids around their first birthday is a good idea too, as my characters had a habit of dying around 19 months of age.
Then, there’s the Nueko issue. Perhaps it’s because this is my first ever encounter with Oreshika, but her presence didn’t perturb me. In fact, I actually appreciated and welcomed it. You can get attached to your family members. I know I especially developed a fondness for the heads of my clan. However, they’re all rather faceless and generic. Having a character like Nueko, or even Kochin, helped me connect and set down roots. They’re comforting constants.
Yes, that means having to have Nueko with you sometimes, or spending Devotion Points so she can be reborn. But honestly, she does grow to be a rather useful character. Also, you’d end up spending those Devotion Points eventually. It isn’t as though they’re difficult to earn. I always had a healthy surplus of cash and points, despite making my clan pop out kids with gods whenever possible and continually investing in the town and heirloom equipment.
But then, I was switching between two of Oreshika‘s most accomodating gameplay modes. Rather than relying on difficulty level, there are game modes that adjust enemy stamina, money given by enemies, experience doled out from battles, and how quickly time passes. Keen and Fortunate are good for people with little time, as it means the game can be beat in about 30 hours. Serious and Dedicated are average, and Fanatical claims to offer 100 hours of gameplay. I really appreciated how everything was laid out and the ability to switch between modes at my leisure.
Honestly, it was the time issue that bothered me most about Oreshika. Even then, it was a minor annoyance rather than a truly cumbersome ordeal. Set dungeon events and bosses happen at specific times throughout the year. If you can’t find the shrine to the story boss fight or Nueko is dead, then sometimes you have to wait an entire in-game year for the opportunity to arise again. I actually found it more frustrating when the former happened.
See, dungeons can have doors or hidden means of getting to certain rooms and paths. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to find the key or item that allow you to see everything, then it’s entirely possible to spend a month in a dungeon and not find the boss fight. Or, by the time you run through the dungeon and reach it, realize your party’s stamina has been depleted from all the running, and you’re out of healing herbs.
As I’ve said, though, this is a minor setback. One that didn’t at all dissuade me from absolutely loving Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines. I mean, this game let me have a member of my clan hook up with a bull god to make a kid with what can only be described as elf ears. How could I not love that? Even more important—Oreshika is a “one more round” game. One last dungeon crawl. One more breeding session. Just one last festival. Really, I mean it this time. I need 15 minutes more.
Food for Thought:
1. If you leave the menu screen open, sometimes Kochin will sing. It’s adorable.
2. Oreshika is a beautiful game with a distinctive style and region appropriate music. I especially loved how opponents burst into ink clouds when defeated.
3. This is a great game for people who typically don’t have time for JRPGs. It really works to suit your schedule.