Developer JoyMasher’s Oniken proved to be quite a blast when it was released to very little fanfare years ago on PC. I remember having a great time slashing my way through its many levels, quite surprised at how well they got the look and feel of an NES game as a (then) really difficult modern game. Oniken: Unstoppable Edition is basically a port of that game, now coming out for the Switch and later on for the other two consoles sometime later this year.
As with the usual indie game with a retro getup that gets ported to the Switch, Oniken looks unsurprisingly sharp on that screen. For some weird reason, it displays with a forced distortion filter that emulates an old CRT TV that you can’t turn off — at least I did not find an option to do so while playing — that makes everything look a little stretched.
The Switch’s controls aren’t exactly the best for precision movement in old style platformers, but they play very well with Oniken. The original version was that it controlled pretty tightly, so I expected the same demand for precision in this port — and it was sure there.
Difficulty-wise, this is a game that will kill you often if you’re sloppy. Like the NES games of old, there are plenty of spots where enemies will catch you unaware thanks to some cheap placement and pure attrition.
Oniken is unrelenting, so it pays to play accordingly. Enemies tend to keep spawning if you stop too long, and their movements are patterned in a way that allows you to continuously move if you can read them well, and even dodge them completely. You start off armed with a simple katana, but eventually pick up upgrades that allow you to be much more effective in dispatching enemies. You’re able to turn berserk every so often, allowing you to clear the screen more easily, but given the way that stuff spawns along the way, the relief is usually short-lived.
It’s exciting to see quality games like Oniken making their way to the Switch, especially considering that the only way you had to play it before was on PC. It’s also worth mentioning that JoyMasher’s newer title, Odallus: The Dark Call, the retro Castlevania-ish 8-bit epic (and my favorite of the two), is also making its way to Switch, and later on for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Oniken: Unstoppable Edition and Odallus: The Dark Call are also getting individual physical editions and a bundle pack that includes the two games.