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Oni is a third-person action game developed by Bungie West, a division of Bungie. Released in 2001, it was Bungie West's only game. It broke new ground by blending third-person shooting with hand-to-hand combat, resulting in a unique, yet familiar game for third-person shooter enthusiasts. In 1999, while still in development, Oni won the Game Critics Awards for Best Action/Adventure Game. Due to difficulties in debugging and the general unplayability of a fighting game over any less reliable network than a LAN at the time, multiplayer was omitted from the released version.
The game's universe is heavily influenced by Mamoru Oshii's anime film Ghost in the Shell. The main characters Konoko and Commander Griffin look similar to the film's protagonists Motoko Kusanagi and Daisuke Aramaki. Dark Horse Comics published a comic-book version of Oni as a four-issue limited series, the first issue of which was bundled with the Windows version of the game.
There are ten different guns in Oni, including handguns, rifles, rocket launchers, and energy weapons. Power-ups such as "hyposprays", which heal damage, and cloaking devices, which render the player invisible, can be found scattered throughout the levels or on corpses. Since the player can carry only one weapon at a time and ammunition is scarce, hand-to-hand combat is also effective. The player can punch, kick, and throw enemies; progressing into later levels unlocks stronger moves and combos.
There are multiple classes of enemy, each with its own style of unarmed combat. Each class is subdivided into tiers of increasing strength. As in Bungie's earlier Marathon titles, tiers are color-coded.
Oni does not confine the player to fighting small groups of enemies in small arenas; each area is fully open to explore. The fourteen levels are of various sizes, some large enough to comprise an entire building. Bungie hired two architects to design the buildings.
The Oni engine implements a method of interpolation that tweens key frames, smoothing out the animation of complex martial-arts moves. However, frame slippage is a common problem when multiple non-player characters near the player are attacking.
Events Before The Game
The action of Oni takes place around the year 2032. The game world is a dystopia, an Earth so polluted that little of it remains habitable. To solve unspecified international economic crises, all nations have combined into a single entity, the World Coalition Government. The government is Orwellian, telling the populace that what are actually dangerously toxic regions are wilderness preserves, and using the Technological Crimes Task Force, its secret police, to spy on citizens and suppress opposition. The player character, code-named Konoko (voiced by Amanda Winn-Lee), full name later given as Mai Hasegawa, begins the game working for the police. Soon, she learns her employers have been keeping secrets about her past from her. She turns against them as she embarks on a quest of self-discovery. The player learns more about her family and origins while battling both the Technological Crimes Task Force and its greatest enemy, the equally monolithic criminal organization called the Syndicate. In the game's climax, Konoko discovers a Syndicate plan to cause the Atmospheric Conversion Centers, air-treatment plants necessary to keep most of the world's population alive, to catastrophically malfunction. She is partially successful in thwarting the plot, saving a portion of humanity.
Mission 1 - Syndicate Warehouse
It starts with an assault on laboratories by a criminal organization named simply as The Syndicate; who is being led by a mysterious, yet dangerous man named Muro. Konoko, through her neural link with the TCTF's AI Shinatama (actually known as an SLD, or Simulated Life Doll: an android programmed with Konoko's brain patterns), her connection with Commander Griffin and Dr. Kerr, moves in to investigate. All the while, Commander Griffin and Doctor Kerr are seen arguing over Konoko's situation, cut in from time to time by Shinatama reporting on her bodily functions (adrenaline spikes, likewise). Konoko ventures into the Syndicate Warehouse and the mole of TCTF, Chung, is found dead at the scene. Konoko clears out the warehouse, and then is sent to the Musashi Manufacturing Plant, belonging to the BGI Corporation, the company that used the warehouse previously. The Manufacturing Plant manufactures illegal technology. The BGI Corporation is some kind of "shadow front" for the Syndicate, and Musashi Manufacturing is BGI's daughter-company.
Mission 2 - The Manufacturing Plant
Konoko and her team are sent to the Manufacturing Plant. Inside the plant, Konoko and Commander Griffin realise that the plant is just a diversion/trap; while Konoko and her team are inside the plant, the Syndicate is attacking a bio-research lab. But later on, Konoko has to stop a deadly AI brain (not surprisingly, also called "Deadly Brain") which can potentially destroy the entire city if reaching full potential, or even dominate the entire digital world.
Mission 3 - The Bio Research Lab
Upon her exit, she is called to Vago Biotech, the Bio-Research Lab, which is under the attack of The Syndicate. Muro and his strikers are raiding the lab to steal experimental gene surgery equipment. Upon her arrival, Konoko faces Barabas; a hybrid creature (part human, part machine; possibly a Chrysalis Symbiote) that is one of the main figures of The Syndicate. Upon Barabas' retreat, Barabas messages to Muro, telling him that "She (Konoko) is too strong.".
Mission 4 - Airport Assault
Konoko was now after Muro (who had manage to escape the lab) and moves towards the Vansam Regional Airport. He was trying to escape by plane, while Syndicate troops attack the airport as a diversion. He was using the airport cargo hangars as a temporary base of operations.
Mission 5 - Airport Cargo Hangers
But Konoko was in hot pursuit. She loses Muro, but manages to land a tracking device on the plane. Muro, while departing, speaks to his henchmen, who inform him that "They do not know of the condition of the Chrysalis". Meanwhile, the TCTF loses the tracking signal from Muro's plane, allowing him to finally escape. Konoko then returns to her regular life.
Mission 6 - TCTF HQ
Shortly after, the TCTF Regional Headquarters itself becomes compromised by an excessive attack of The Syndicate. Reaching the rooftop of the HQ, Konoko finds out that Barabas has kidnapped Shinatama. Unable to control herself, Konoko first defeats Barabas, and then experiences a strange feeling overtaking her: what the game refers to as a "Daodan Spike".
Mission 7 - Atmospheric Conversion Center (Exterior)
Konoko tracks down Shinatama, and despite Griffin's objections, rushes to save her. All the while, Muro is torturing Shinatama to retrieve information in a nearby Atmospheric Conversion Center (a central facility to the recent civilization which filters poisons from the air).
Mission 8 - Atmospheric Conversion Center (Interior)
While venturing deeper into the facility, Konoko finally finds Shinatama. Shinatama says that she won't live, and in a heart-wrenching scene, reveals that Konoko's real name is Mai Hasegawa, and that she was involved in some sort of project. Griffin, in a desperate attempt to prevent Konoko from getting further with that information, sets the auto-destruct sequence of Shinatama, revealing that the tiny android was armed with a bomb with enough explosive power to be classified as a small nuclear warhead. Konoko flees, and TCTF starts pursuit.
Mission 9 - Regional State Building
Looking for her origins, Konoko goes to the Regional State Building, and there, is encountered by both the TCTF and the Syndicate. She finds a terminal to access to the information, but as she is doing it, Muro's elite ninja, Mukade (possibly another Chrysalis Symbiote) swipes away the data concerning her. The level segues into Rooftops with Konoko pursuing Mukade via a Syndicate zip-line to the adjacent building.
Mission 10 - Rooftops
Since previously escaping the Regional State Building, Konoko follows Mukade through the city's rooftops and corners him. Mukade states that they are one and the same; that they should surrender to their essence, and revel in it. Enraged, Konoko kills Mukade and retrieves the disk.
Mission 11 - Dr. Hasagawa's lab
Konoko goes back to Dr. Hasegawa's laboratory, where she discovers most of her past. Apparently, Dr. Hasegawa was a college teacher, and had fallen in love with a student of his, Jamie Kerr, who was also an activist who believed that the government was hiding secrets. One day, Jamie and Dr. Hasegawa venture into a forbidden zone of wild life (overgrown plants were covering it), and Jamie cuts her leg. However, in a matter of moments ("almost immediately", Dr. Hasegawa suggests) the wound gets infected and starts to kill her. Unable to bear seeing her in pain, Dr. Hasegawa shoots Jamie (to "ease her pain"). He has made a discovery through that incident, that the world outside of the atmospheric converters was extremely poisonous and destructive towards human biology. He leaves one note, "I will not let this tragedy happen again. Her brother will help me. He misses her as much as I do." Konoko learns that Jamie's maiden name was Kerr, and that she was Doctor Kerr's sister.
Mission 12 - TCTF Science Prison
Konoko infiltrates the TCTF Science Prison #112 to find Dr. Kerr, who tells her about the solution they developed. They had named it a "Daodan Chrysalis" which was basically a hyper-evolved form of a cancer cell. By implanting a person with the Chrysalis, they would let it adapt to the biology which contained it, and grow as the host suffered damage, or experienced negative emotions (which are met with hormonal spikes). However, further than that, over a duration of time, the Chrysalis would start to grow the host as well, replacing the organs of the host with its own extensions. As Konoko asks about her past, Dr. Kerr tells that The Syndicate had discovered it, and Konoko's father was killed. Dr. Kerr also reveals that, Muro is Konoko's brother, the child he left behind as he escaped with Konoko to TCTF; in order to use the technology of TCTF and establish their security. Griffin, however, opposed greatly to the self-sustaining nature of the Chrysalis and wanted it kept under strict control. Before he can reveal more, Dr. Kerr is killed by a TCTF Black Ops member, who attempted to shoot Konoko. After killing Kerr's killer, Konoko then decides to claim revenge on TCTF. To escape the Science Prison, she is forced to test the theory she has just heard, by attempting to escape through acid vats.
Mission 13 - TCTF HQ (Revisited)
Konoko doesn't stop; she infiltrates the TCTF Regional HQ single-handedly, all to learn that Griffin had used Shinatama to do something. Upon tracking Griffin down to his Omega Bunker, Konoko finds out that Griffin constructed his own security cell (a Deadly Brain) with Shinatama's brain, one that knows Konoko the best. As Konoko shuts Shinatama down, Shinatama begs Konoko to stop her, to kill her. In the end, as Shinatama's leftover body marches to Griffin, and Griffin shoots it down, Konoko takes the gun and holds Griffin at gunpoint. At this point, the player is faced with the choice of shooting Griffin or walking away. The choice has no effect on the overall plot, but changes the final fight sequence at the game's end.
Mission 14 - Syndicate Mountain Compound
After this, Konoko reaches the Syndicate Mountain Compound that Muro is using. Upon her arrival, she discovers Muro's master plan, Project "Sturmanderung": Muro is planning to reroute the atmospheric conversion centers to pollute the clean world; a disaster from which only the Chrysalis can save humankind. As Konoko quotes, "He's planning to kill everyone who doesn't sell his soul to him for a Chrysalis." Quickly devising a counter-measure, Konoko tries to reroute the atmospheric conversion centers, but doesn't interfere in time. Instead, she has a single choice left: destroy the mountain compound and the conversion centers connected to it. Then, she heads to the rooftop to face Muro. Here, if the player killed Griffin, the final showdown ensues between Konoko and Muro's new self as he has accomplished to pass to the next stage of Chrysalis evolution - the Imago stage. This choice makes the game somewhat more difficult to complete, as instead of fighting a large number of weaker enemies, one must face a superboss -- periods of invunerability, massive size and damage, etc. However, if the player chose to walk away, then Muro stays in human form, he and his henchmen face Konoko, upon which Griffin comes along to help her. The overall plot remains the same, the ending included.
After the explosion, Konoko is shown roaming the ruins of the city, and monologuing to herself that, the Chrysalis may save humankind in the form of evolution after the disaster that had occurred, but that the fate of humankind is unclear
- Amanda Winn Lee as Konoko, the game's protagonist.
- Pete Stacker as Commander Griffin, the Head of TCTF Headquarters and Konoko's boss.
- Anne Bowerman as Shinatama.
- Norm Woodel as Hasagawa, Konoko and Muro's father and college teacher of Jamie (Konoko and Muro's mother and a sister of Dr. Kerr).
- Bob O'Donnell as Dr. Kerr, Konoko's uncle.
- Kurt Naebig as Muro, the game's primary antagonist.
- George Adams as Babaras, the game's first sub-antagonist, encountered in Missions 3 and 6.
- Kevin Gudahl as Mukade, the game's strongest sub-antagonist, encountered in Mission 10.
Critical reviews tended to be internally divided over the game's pros and cons; on Metacritic Oni has a "metascore" of 73/100 from critics, but a 9.5/10 from the website's voters. Some reviewers were unimpressed by the minimal detail of the environment graphics, the lack of intelligence on the part of the AI in some situations, and the plot, which was occasionally criticized as underdeveloped. Finally, the game's difficulty in combination with a lack of savepoints was sometimes cited as a negative.
Moreover, many fans felt cheated because the game did not deliver on all of its promises. The most notable shortcoming was the absence of LAN-based multiplayer, which had been demoed at hands-on booths at Macworld Expos during Oni's development, but removed before release due to stated concerns over latency issues. This too contributed to some lower scores from reviewers. Some of the game's content was cut as well. This included the highly anticipated "Iron Demon", a large mech shown in-game in one trailer. Also, many of the weapons featured in the trailer and the game cover were not in the game.
However, Oni received the most praise for its smooth character animation and large array of fighting moves, as well as how it blended gunplay and melee combat. Thus, reviewers gave Oni mostly average-to-good scores in recognition of the enjoyment factor of the game.