What can easily be mistaken for a legit lost NES game, Oniken: Unstoppable Edition on Xbox One plays similarly to action classics like Ninja Gaiden, Contra, or Shinobi. This is an authentic old-school experience right down to the limited 8-bit color palette, chiptune soundtrack, and brutally high difficulty.
Playing as a badass ninja with a Cloud-like buster sword, this mercenary’s job is to slash anything that moves with a simple control scheme. With one button to attack and one button to jump, original Castlevania fans will feel right at home especially with the Up+Attack to throw the only sub-weapon, a grenade. Like Simon’s whip, the player can occasionally extend the length of the sword’s attack by collecting a power-up but this is fleeting and short lived. Every time damage is taken, any sword upgrades are removed. Combined with the scarcity of the upgrades in the first place and the ridiculously high difficulty factory, don’t expect to stay strong for long. The player can also trade-in this upgrade for a temporary power boost but damage will be taken before it can be used.
Oniken is a hard game. In fact, it is so difficult I was unable to beat the fifth level and it took me about a million tries to beat level 3. Each stage is littered with cheap enemy placement, tedious jumps, and bosses that make the game borderline unplayable. There is a checkpoint system they are spaced much too far apart and there are not nearly as many health drops as there should be. The worst part is, if you die, it is right back to the beginning where the player must struggle to through another ten minutes of pain and suffering just to die again in the spot that originally claimed the first continue.
This entire package, through and through, is a loving tribute to old school games, for better or worse. Players who cut their teeth on the difficult platformers of the 80s will feel immediate nostalgia from both the gameplay and presentation. However, any modern gamer will quickly realize how far game design has come and there are better ways of doing things while being respectful to the player and to the player’s time. There is no question that I truly appreciate the detail that went into the new NES-style game, but when I cannot beat a stage due to the unfair difficulty after trying a couple dozen times, rage quitting will conquer nostalgic charm.
Not As Good As: Blazing Chrome
Play It Instead: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
Wait For It: the Turbo Grafx-16 Classic