30 Games That Made Me Who I Am: 2001

Hey! Do you like anime?!  Bungie sure does!

There was a time, long long ago, when Bungie made things other than Halo and Destiny games. The most well-known is Marathon; but the best… is Oni.

I feel like everyone in the US collectively discovered anime around the same time, just before the turn of the century. Bungie certainly did, because Oni is the most anime shit ever made. It’s a third-person action game (I think the kids call them “character action” games now?) where everything is anime-stylized, the plot is ripped off big time from Ghost in the Shell, and… well, it’s called Oni!

It’s possible that Oni originally appealed to me because I was just developing an obsession with everything anime myself, and anything Japan-flavored was automatically cooler. But long after I realized anime was just another kind of thing, not better or worse than any other kind of thing — Oni is still one of my all-time favorite games.

This game holds a special place in my heart, I think because it seemed like my own secret, an obscure gem that I alone loved. In contrast to Diablo II, this was a game that no one among my friends had even heard of. My brother originally introduced me to it, but even he eventually gave up on it. The final level, if I recall, was too hard for him to beat, and so he soured on the game and cheated his way to the end.

That final level was too hard for me too — at least for a while. I tried at it over and over, learned how to get better at the game, and finally I did finish it fair and square. Then I kept playing and getting better. I got so good at Oni that I started imposing my own challenges; I had to beat levels with full health or full stock of healing items; if certain moves or weapons made fights too easy, I wouldn’t use them. Controlling the main character became as natural to me as walking. When I installed the game a few days ago to get screenshots, everything came back to me, like riding a bike. I knew the level layouts by heart, all the moves, all the item locations.

There weren’t many games before Oni that inspired me to work so hard at them. I could have cheated like my brother did, but that didn’t feel right to do somehow. If this was a secret little game just for me, as it seemed, I owed it to the developers to accept their challenge. A phase of complete commitment to never using cheats — never even looking at guides or walkthroughs — began with Oni.

Not that I’m saying it’s an entirely healthy philosophy, but there you have it.







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