Death, in most games, means game over; in Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, death is just the beginning. With many RPGs available on the Vita, Oreshika stands out with beautiful graphics and the return to traditional turn based combat.

The story goes like this; in 12th century Japan, the country is on the verge of destruction when six artifacts go missing and the gods go just a bit crazy. In order to please the gods and bring some semblance of normalcy back to Japan, the emperor decides to sacrifice your beloved clan.

Against the emperor’s wishes, the gods decide to bring back your clan to retrieve those missing artifacts (and bring a little bit of payback to the hired hand, Seimei). Once a year after this, the gods transport you to another dimension and pit you against Seimei’s beast of choice in an event called The Feast of Demons. A win against this beast will net you an artifact, and you need six to reclaim them all and in turn calm the proverbial storm.

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But how will this all play out? Well; during the sacrifice, Seimei left your clan with both the Curse of Ephemerality and the Curse of Broken Lineage – which means that each of your clan members have only 24 months to live an entire lifetime, and cannot reproduce with other humans. These curses lead to a very important mechanic of the game however; mating with the gods.

In order to mate, you must collect devotion, which is earned by going through dungeons and defeating demons. Stronger gods are worth more devotion, so there’s the added pressure to save up the devotion to have a strong bloodline. It’s more important to have better stats than just pure numbers when it comes to shaping your clan.

After mating with a god, your character and the god will both pass along attributes to the offspring. While things like the curses will always be handed down in full, other things like traits, skills and heirlooms will pass down with the same sort of rules as actual mating – you get some from your mom and some from your pop. This is something to think about when growing your clan as the more good inheritance you have available, the better off you’ll be when it comes to dungeon crawling.

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At the very beginning of the game, you are tasked with creating your initial three-person clan. After building your “base” clan members with full physical customization and class choices, you are teamed up with the cute and funny weasel Kochin, who serves as your personal assistant. While Kochin is able to hold your hand through the entire game with pre-made choices like equipment load out and town building, not all the choices that she makes are wise for the situation. There are times when she gives you bad advice, such as the time when two of my clanmates had died and she made the ridiculous recommendation to go grinding with only three members of my party. For the micromanagers out there (and in these sorts of situations) however, fret not; you can disregard her choices and do everything manually when needed.

In addition to the Kochin-based help, Oreshika also offers various difficulty options for those who like it easy or very hard. The easier difficulties make the game shorter, lower the HP of enemies, and boost the XP earned from battles while the harder difficulties obviously take these attributes in the other direction.

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Moving on to the action, battles in Oreshika are quick and to the point – with everyone in your party taking their turn in sequence. During the fight, you are given suggested options such as single or team based attacks, and following these instructions helps build the trust between you and your clan. Usually they end up working, but there are times when it’s needed to make your own choice – just like when dealing with Kochin. The battle system itself is as basic as it could get. With each enemy mob that you face (there are no random battles – if you want to fight, you simply run into the enemy of choice), you are met with a slot machine reel that determines what you receive as your battle spoil. Once that’s over, it’s a classic turn-based system that has you take turns as a group. Before each fight, an enemy is deemed the leader and if you defeat him before anyone else, the battle is over. For more XP, you can simply beat everyone else and save the leader for last. The system isn’t complex, and it fits perfectly in the fast pace that the game is going for.

Grinding out the dungeons for XP is essential to tackle the Feast of Demons, and while you may feel that you are breezing through the game, the difficulty spike that rears its nasty head around halfway through will definitely make you rethink your strategy. While the passing time and the threat of your clan dying off shouldn’t deter you from grinding away, it certainly gives importance to shaping your clan with stats and classes that’ll work out for the years to come.

Dungeon time is measured in torch symbols, which fade away as the time passes by; fighting, running, and standing around wastes days of time – and when the torch goes to zero, the game lets you know that a month has passed.

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Ignoring the option of going back home too often can have consequences such as fatigue and permanent death. When a member of your party is extremely low on fatigue, he or she can die prematurely and this may cause you to lose a year or more shaping a newborn in battle. Time management is extremely essential here, as aside from wasting time in that manner you can also miss important events that cannot be done again until the year has passed.

Graphically, this is one beautiful game. It’s extremely colorful and clean looking, making it almost a shame that the game moves so fast it’s hard to take a moment to enjoy the sights. It’s refreshing to see art like this in a video game where it doesn’t depend on half naked girls to open your eyes. Also, cutscenes are shown in traditional anime footage and dialogue driven events. Even though the game looks great, seeing the same environment all the time can get a bit tiring and I wished there were more variety in where you can go while preparing for the next feast of demons.

As for the sound, Oreshika is (mostly) fully voiced in full Japanese, and therefore complimented with English subtitles. The voice acting is well done, but Kochin’s voice can get annoying as she seems to repeat the same lines over and over again. The dungeon music is superb though, and it’s one of the best I’ve heard in a Vita title – especially with regards to boss fights.

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Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines is a wonderful, deep game that any RPG fan can appreciate. The initial heartbreak from the death of your best clansmen hurts, but knowing that his or her offspring can take over where they left off makes it much easier to cope. With difficultly levels to suit players of any experience, I cannot help but to recommend this game to anyone who likes a great story and mechanics – and at $19.99 on launch there’s no reason why you should pass it up.

  • Alex Jones

    This can be LOVE…

  • ThePalacePlayer

    Definitely giving this a try. Know nothing about it (apart from this review), but so was the case with Persona 4, and I haven’t looked back since

  • Slizarus

    I’m glad you liked it, I was surprised it was a budget title tbh but I’m happy about that, it offers a great justification of JRPG Need vs Cost

    I’ll grab it some time, I think I’d like it.

  • Chizu

    Kochin is adorable and I want one, but her advice on what to do kinda stops being helpful very quickly :v I stopped letting her handle actual goals after the first couple months, and she always wants to unequip my heirlooms. I need to use to level them up Kochin, stahp :'(
    Games fun though and well worth the budget price.

    Oh, also I really wish this game didnt disable the ability to take screenshots normally, theres screens where its ingame method cannot be used and it makes me sad :v, though I appreciate the autoscreenshot feature so you end up with this depressing record of everyones last words in your vita gallery.

  • scwiffy

    Can’t make my mind up about this one. 1 things for certain, it looks lovely! Love the water-paint graphics. Will probably pick up in the sale, I’ve still got Final Fantasy and God of War to play