Kininkou Maroku Oni was recently translated by aishasha and Stardust Crusaders with help from Spot Translations. It’s a 1990 Gameboy RPG from Winkysoft and published by Banpresto. The Oni series was highly popular, and the read me file for the translation mentions about nine games. However, this game definitely has some rough edges.
Most Gameboy RPGs have a save anywhere feature. They tend to be quite grindy or they have maze like dungeons. This adds playing time without making larger maps. Kininkou Maroku Oni has maze like dungeons, but the world map involves a fair amount of landmarks, and not a massive amount of walking time. Unfortunately, the game definitely feels like the playing time was padded with the need to grind.
For example, you start the game with some clothes and a copper katana. The katana will sell for 5 ryo, and you have 100 ryo for your starting cash. To buy a better sword, you need 250 ryo. Enemies drop 2 ryo, 6 ryo, and 7 ryo. If you head to the cave, you’ll get the occasional 10 ryo fights at the cost of an enemy that can hit for 80 hp a hit. If you assume 7 ryo a fight, and 4 fights per using the inn, it’d be 121 fights to get fully upgraded. Admittedly, that doesn’t sound horrible. In practice, it was about three hours of fighting to end up as a level four guy who still needed to visit the inn every four fights. To get to another equipment shop, the hero would ideally be level seven.
Plotwise, the game explains that some people have an oni inside of them, and they struggle to control this their entire life. The hero is an orphan who begins the game trying to get people to not be frustrated with him. People repeatedly describe him as sullen. The start of the game involves a fair amount of “and then this happens to you.” For example, you’re told to bring a letter to the elder to make him happy with you. He’s happy to see you and gives you something for the neighboring town. It’s promptly stolen from you.
When you get back to town, the shop and inn are normal, but the townsfolk have vanished, and the elder says the town was attacked. He explains they adopted you, and tells you to get a stone in a cave. While traveling, you’re told another person has a stone in a neighboring town. When you go to investigate that, a giant monster tries to threaten you for your stone, and you wake up half dead in someone’s house. The next clue takes you to a mountain – where the hero holds up the stone and gets accused of being a tanuki because he turned into a monster. It does feel like there’s plots afoot in the world, but the writing feels a bit like the game doesn’t know how to explain them. For example, why have a “you can’t win this fight” fight with no one in town mentioning the massive monster that beat you up? Or that you were half killed? Why the sudden ninja to steal your letter while on the way to that other town? Is it to force you to go home and find the attack? Why no destroyed buildings or even running away monsters to imply an attack? Why hold up your rock on top of a mountain and get accused of being a tanuki (other than the fact that they then demand you fight the tanuki on the mountain)?
Graphically speaking, the game looks pretty attractive. Your starting area is a hidden village among some trees, and you end up heading into a rocky hills to enter the mountains. The next area has a different form of trees to the south, and sand dune like hills around the big mountain in the area. Compared to the sea of pines in Final Fantasy Legend II, it’s pretty ambitious. The fights involve your large hero and pretty detailed enemies (admittedly, there’s a lot of “same enemy but stronger” going on, but that’s not uncommon.) The sound effects and the music aren’t particularly amazing, but they’re not awful.
I will try getting farther into the game, but the sheer amount of time it takes to grind for money and experience and the way your hero basically can’t do anything feels annoying. I’m curious what the later game feels like, once you get past the game going “yokai are terrifying and you have mysteries.”