It's not every day that you get to break the news that a game will be coming to consoles, especially if your site's name doesn't rhyme with Pie-G-N or Flowtaku. Last December we got our chance, though, when Windows Central scored the exclusive announcement that Japanese-language MMORPG Onigiri would be launching in English territories on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 sometime in 2015.
It's even less often that we get to play an MMO before it opens to the public or even other media outlets. In the months since that announcement, Japanese publisher Cyberstep has made significant progress towards the English console versions of Onigiri. So significant that they've given Windows Central the exclusive first English access to Onigiri for Xbox One.
Read on for our first impressions with screenshots, plus a YouTube replay of our exclusive livestream!
Travel to mythological Japan
Onigiri is a Japanese food made from rice and seaweed. But the kanji characters the title is written in actually mean "Oni slaying." The Oni-slaying kind of Onigiri happens to be a popular Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) from Japanese publisher Cyberstep.
The game takes place in an ancient Japan populated by mythological characters and monsters. A race of gigantic monsters called the Kamikui once threatened the land and its people. The sun goddess managed to seal the monsters away for a time. But now one of the seals has broken and the Kamikui return to destroy the world. Only you, a young Oni (ogre), and your friends can protect the land and stop the Kamikui.
Creating an account and character
Being an online game, Onigiri requires Xbox Live (on Xbox One) or PlayStation Plus (on PlayStation 4) to play. Players will also need to create a game-specific account before they can play. Be warned that at present on Xbox One, this game-specific account becomes tied to your Xbox Live profile after creation. You won't be able to change it, not that most people would ever need to do so.
Next you'll create a male or female Oni character. Each gender has four body types to choose from. The male models leave something to be desired, but between all eight possible choices I'm sure everyone will be able to find one they can live with. Customize the character's face, hair, clothing, and voice, and then you'll get to name the character.
Then it's time to select the character's type – essentially a starting class. Each of the five types has a different balance of the five key stats. The stats affect weapon proficiency and play style. But keep in mind you can distribute stat points whenever you level up, so don't fret too much over your starting stats.
Finally, you can choose to play Onigiri in single-player or multiplayer mode. The game works the same either way, but you won't be able to see or interact with other players in single-player.
Becoming a demon slayer
After character creation wraps up, the tutorial begins. Our Oni hunter will enter a marshy area and do battle with a Durama, a traditional Japanese doll come to life. There the game instructs players how to perform basic attacks (Right Trigger) and activate Skills (Left Trigger).
Interestingly, the Japanese version's tutorial battle against a giant crab is missing from the English game. That battle doesn't show up in the English PC version either, so it's either a legacy element or simply a regional difference.
New players will then leave the watery area and encounter a woman being attacked by a gigantic monster. The only thing to do is save her by fighting off the beast. Simply wail away at it for a while and it will depart, dropping a few items for your trouble. When boss battles like these end, the game awards a rating based on a number of resurrections used (like Warframe, you get a fixed amount of free lives per day) and completion time.
The proper game begins in the hub town of Onigashima. Here players will meet a pink-haired lady from the tutorial, Lady Shizuka. She'll join up as an AI partner on your quest to stop the Kamikui from wrecking the land. As the game continues, other companions will join the team. Besides fighting alongside players in battle, each fulfills a non-combat role as well, such as identifying items, repairing equipment, and more.
Onigiri plays out like most MMORPGs. Players accept quests from the NPCs who dwell in each town and then set out to complete them, usually by killing a number of enemies or collecting a certain item. You'll encounter other players in towns and the overworld. Up to five players can join a party, questing or exploring instanced dungeons together.
Although Onigiri doesn't do much different from other games in the genre, it still has a lot going for it. For starters, the Japanese mythological setting and anime-style characters give this game a much different personality than Neverwinter or Elder Scrolls Online. The graphics are simplistic by current gen standards, but the vibrant colors and character designs have an unmistakable charm.
Onigiri's combat is quite solid as well. It plays a bit like Phantasy Star Online and its offshoots, with players engaging in simple combos against the local monster population. One unique aspect is that players can carry all of the game's weapon types at once, switching between them at will. For example, you can fire away at a demon with your bow until he gets too close, and then whip out a spear or sword to finish the fight.
Last but not least, Onigiri is one of the most fairly monetized free to play games around. You can play for hundreds of hours without ever making an in-app purchase (IAP). That's not to say that the game doesn't offer useful items in the Shopping Plaza. The most useful purchases are inventory expansions, but players can also buy a variety of boosts and restorative items. Finally, the "NyhankoroPon" is a gacha-style gambling mode where players can try to win premium clothing and power-ups.
Coming soon to an Xbox One and PlayStation 4 near you
Onigiri is already available for Windows PC at Onigiri.Cyberstep.com. It has also launched on Xbox One in Japan, with Japanese language only, of course. It has taken some time to prepare the English version of the game for consoles. Cyberstep tells us they were waiting for a major content update to launch in Japan before localizing and certifying the games.
Now the English versions are undergoing testing, which means they should launch relatively soon. We can't say exactly when that will be just yet, but it shouldn't be much longer.
We do have a new piece of information for Achievement hunters. Although we originally reported that the English and Japanese versions of Onigiri would have two separate Achievement lists (and thus be "stackable"), that will no longer be the case. Cyberstep decided to share the same list between both languages.
However, servers will still be segregated by language. This means that anyone like me who has played the Japanese version will not be able to re-earn Achievements we already unlocked. On the plus side, any tasks such players knocked out in the Japanese game (such as blocking 1,000 times) are done and don't need to be worried about anymore.
We'll have more Onigiri console news for you soon! In the meantime, why not watch us play the game before it launches?
Watch our exclusive Twitch stream!
You can be among the first people to see the English console version of Onigiri in action simply by tuning into our special preview stream tonight on Twitch. It's also a rare opportunity to see a live MMO before the servers become populated; ONLY the Windows Central stream team will be playing!
To join us, please follow us at Twitch.tv/WindowsCentral and Twitch.tv/Eastxtwitch. Then tune in at 8 pm Central (9 pm Eastern, 6 pm Pacific, 2 am GMT) for two hours of Onigiri! You can watch the stream right here in this post, from the Twitch website, or using the console or mobile Twitch app of your choice.
Don't fret if you miss the stream. After it wraps up, we'll upload it to our YouTube channel and embed it here in this post for convenient viewing.
Extra special thanks to Cyberstep for granting us early access to the game. Thanks also to our awesome Twitch regulars who volunteered to participate in the preview, and everyone else who watches the stream!