Funny thing about games; sometimes genres can get stuck in time. Makes sense right? Everything is a product of its time and affected by what came before it. However, every once in a while someone, somewhere decides to try something different and a new mechanic is born/reinterpreted for a genre it never existed in before. Oreshika is one such game, but before we delve into that, maybe we should talk about what isn’t so fresh about this game.
For story what we have here is a little clichéd, but I’m going to assume that if you are reading this review, you don’t mind a few Japanese tropes. In fact I dare say you probably enjoy them? The basic premise is that you and your clan have been slaughtered for a crime you may not have committed. You’re then cursed by an unknown figure with immense foresight (because plot convenience) to live no more than two years (and you thought life was too short before). Enter the Gods! Two in particular who believe you deserve a shot at redemption and maybe a little revenge. Queue mass resurrection scene and a hunt for mystical instruments that hold the key to everything.
While the above story is pretty much what you would expect from a JRPG it does set up the main mechanic for the game -The idea of needing to reproduce to continue your quest. Time does not stand still in Oreshika. Most action that doesn’t involve a menu screens takes up in game time and eats into your precious two years. Of course reproducing with just anyone would be too bland and so you can only do the nasty with other cursed clans and Gods, all of which have a different affect on the stats of your offspring. It’s a novel idea and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
As you can imagine it can be quite easy to alienate players with time restriction at the core of your gameplay mechanics, but there is an option to change relationship between real world and in game time, effectively giving you more time to scour dungeons and the like. When you aren’t parading up and down maze-like dungeons you will be investing in your own land, expanding the inventory of stores, hiring blacksmiths to create heirlooms (armour and weapons) that can be handed down through the generations and making offerings to Gods. Once you get going the whole thing can give off a feeling of accomplishment. It is however a little bit of a missed opportunity that a lot of these activities are done via a menu. There is no hub world to speak of, just menus and a world map.
The main problem I found with Oreshika is that, while the management of time is important and allows for some freedom, there is often no benefit to managing this yourself. From the start you are given a helper in the form of a humanoid Wiesel that will literally plan your month for you and more than likely do it as effectively as you ever could. She comes with presets that enable you to change how she views the importance of all your “chores” and is effectively Siri on crack. It’s hard not to feel this undermines the whole idea, but it can also make this a more portable/manageable experience for those who like things simple. The problem is, what you are left with gameplay wise outside of the micromanagement is a dungeon crawl complete with cookie cutter layout and repetitive enemies when you look outside of the main bosses. The latter is made a little more annoying when you consider that the battle system is quite interesting.
When the battle begins the reels of fortune will begin to spin (effectively a slot machine) and you can decide what the spoils will be for the coming battle. All items are colour coded – white meaning already owned, yellow and green being where all the good stuff is. To get the green stuff you need to free trapped gods which means defeating a certain enemy in the group in a certain way, rewarding you for experimenting in battle. The battles themselves take place on a grid-based playing field meaning party formation is of utmost importance. Each class excels in different types of attack. Need to tank something? Throw a fencer up front. Want to hit the enemy back line without killing the front line? Well hello there Mr. lancer. Killing the leader will instantly end the battle, but there is also benefit in farming the whole group as well. The threat of ‘permadeath should you outright ignore the wellbeing of your subordinates also makes things more interesting. I just wish there were more enemy variety.
Oreshika is also not so bad to look at. The cell-shaded mix of 2D and 3D models is definitely pleasant on the eyes, you would have to be dead inside to not appreciate them, but there can be some slow down in some unexpected places, which I found quite weird.
In summary Oreshika has the potential to be so much more. A strong core mechanic and battle system is a little undermined by the games own help system, repetitive dungeons that require multiple visits and same skinned enemies with slight statistical changes. It’s hard to tell if these “issues” are a byproduct of wanting Oreshika to be a portable and accessible game, but they were enough to detract from the experience for me. If you are willing to take the leap you will undoubtedly find things to love about this title, but if you are weary of repetitive gameplay, this one might not be for you.