Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines Impressions
I have failed the noble clan of PSNStores. With the shortest length being an estimated 30 hours, and the longest being 100, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines was simply too much for me to handle. I hope the ever gracious gods will accept my offering of impressions.
While the end result of failure is shared, the circumstances are quite dissimilar to what happens to your clan in PS Vita’s new RPG from Alfa System and Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Studio. It is 1118, your clan in Kyoto was given the task of protecting the five sacred Instruments of Festivity – items believed to have been gifted from the gods. Then one day they vanish without a trace. The Earth is struck by various natural disasters and the arrival of hordes of demons. Kyoto no longer stands. Believing you have displeased the gods, the emperor is given no choice but to offer a sacrifice: your entire clan. Descending from the heavens, the playful god Kitsuto sees the altar of skulls. Laughing at this offering, he gives your clan a chance at revenge. Instantly the chattering skulls agree, and the mysterious Nueko revives the clan with two caveats: the gods, seemingly expecting your resurrection, have placed two curses on you. The first is the Curse of Ephemerality, which limits the lifespan of you and your offspring to just two years. The second is the Curse of Broken Lineage, which restricts your potential mates to other cursed clans and the gods themselves. With this knowledge your clan sets off to kill the one who wronged you and finally break the curse. Who knows, maybe along the way you’ll find those divine Instruments …
When you boot up Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, you’ll be greeted to an animated opening accompanied by Will, the game’s theme song. This enchanting piece sets the stage for the entire game. It touches upon the many gods you’ll encounter, the relationships you’ll forge and the battles you’ll both win and lose. It’s also an immediate reminder that this is a very Japanese game. You’ll notice the animated cutscenes brandish the beautiful watercolour look, and that’s to provide visual consistency with the rest of Tainted Bloodlines. The franchise is one of the few that attempts to mimick the look of traditional Japanese watercolour paintings and woodblock art. This decision shines on Vita’s screen, with a luscious colour pallet that brings the world to life. You’ll often read video game coverage that states game xyz is beautiful for the hardware it’s on. Tainted Bloodlines isn’t one of those games, because it would be gorgeous to look at on any platform.
You may have noticed I said franchise in the last paragraph. Tainted Bloodlines is actually the second in a series of games dating back to 1999 on the original PlayStation. The first entry, as well as its 2011 PSP remake, were deemed tough sells in the western market, and were never localized. Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines is an entirely accessible beginning to English speakers who’ve never experienced the series. I can say that from first hand experience. Having never played a prior release, I haven’t felt confused about the plot, or felt the game expected me to already know what certain things are.
When you start the game, you begin your clan by designing the head of the family. After selecting your desired sex, you then build your appearance. You can use the PS Vita’s front facing camera to try to recreate your face, but frankly I didn’t feel that was very faithful to how I looked. I instead decided to build Jonathan of PSNStores through the game’s various customization options. The feature is fairly robust as it allows you to choose the hair and eye colour, eyebrow shape, mouth position, etc. Then you choose which of the 8 different classes you want your leader to be. There’s the fairly standard RPG stuff like the swordsman, gunner, archer, but there’s also some lesser seen trades like the the halberdier. Like other RPGs, these serve as the basis for which items you can equip, the skills you’ll learn and how you’ll take on battles. For my first save, I chose the fan touting fencer class. I’m not going to lie, that’s entirely because the idea of a facsimile representation of myself running around fighting demons with an exposed midriff made me chuckle. Then you repeat for the next two members of your clan.
Battles in Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines are what you’d expect. It utilizes a fairly standard turn-based system with two lanes of enemies, as victories are determined by defeating the entire opposition or its leader. The rows of enemies play into the job classes you chose earlier. Some of your clan are good at attacking the first row, some have strong enough range attacks to hit the rearguard, while others can face the entire squad. The weapons and potions you’ll equip will aid you, as will special skill attacks and secret arts. Carrying on the idea of your party being your family, there are a variety of attacks that can be charged and unleashed in unison. Early on, I’ve felt these offered the most devastating of blows. After the battle is won you’ll receive an item or currency that was selected pre-battle from a randomized slot machine. Sometimes the spoils include a powerful weapon or a new skill to learn.
What I didn’t expect from Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines was everything else. Oreshika isn’t like your standard Japanese role-playing game. Yes, there’s a narrative the game will guide you through, as well as tonnes of stats trees and demons to slay, but it’s a lot more, almost intimidatingly so. Battles and the exploration to find them will take up the majority of your time, but it’s just a small portion of what Oreshika offers. As the Curse of Ephemerality limits each of your party to a two-year lifespan, the game is played through individual months. In these months you can go out and vanquish demons, choose a god or similarly cursed clan to reproduce with, review the status of your party and send them off for training, equip better items, or you can build the town your clan currently resides in. Yeah, Oreshika has some very basic town management where you invest in the specific areas you live in to better the items you can buy in the shop. At first these choices kind of overwhelmed me. I didn’t know which I should choose, and I suspect the developers expected that. One of Kitsuto’s companions, a weasel (who can take human form) named Kochin, can handle all the decisions for you. I’ve played Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines for more than a handful of hours, and I’m only slowly weening myself off of Kochin’s aid.
It’s in the labyrinths where I quickly burned through months. Discovering the secret passageways and fending off demons in an attempt to increase your levels feels rewarding. The lush visuals make you want to explore everything. I encourage you do, because occasionally the game will require familiarity with the labyrinths. When you explore them you’ve got to be mindful of one very important thing: each party member has a stamina bar. The stamina bar acts as your HP in this game, but it can be lowered by more than just battles. The labyrinths in Oreshika can be fairly large with a lot of sections to run through. You may want to sprint and evade visible enemies (the game doesn’t use random encounters), but doing this lowers your stamina. If your stamina reaches 0 during a battle, that party member becomes incapacitated. If it reaches a low level, the stamina then begins to decrease your vigor, which may result in the death of clansman upon your return home.
The game promises a bunch of network features, like being able to visit the towns of others players, but those features weren’t online for this post.
I still have a tonne of Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines to play, but I’m encouraged by the hours I’ve spent. It’s been a learning experience and given the genre it’s in, that can often turn into being a chore. It’s a testament to the game that I want to learn and firmly grasp everything I can. While you’re going to have to wait for the full review, I’d say Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines looks to be a steal at its launch price of $20. I meant that in the figurative sense; you don’t want the gods to curse your lineage!
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.