Over two years passed from the time Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad was released in Japan to its arrival on US store shelves. It wasn't a good game when it came out in Japan and time has not been kind. With essentially no work done in dusting the code off, D3 Publisher has delivered a game that will make most everybody turn away in disgust. There is very little to like in this hack-and-slash action title so don't worry about missing out on anything special if you decide to pass on Onechanbara.
This is one of those games that hopes to sell itself to gamers based solely on the premise. In this case, the premise is girls in skimpy outfits fighting zombies with swords and guns which results in a lot of blood pouring this way and that. There is little in the way of substance or compelling gameplay to back up this concept.
In fact, Onechanbara is about as exploitative of the female form as console games get these days. Like most everything about this title, though, it can't even get that right. The game opens with a cutscene of a girl in a shower, teasing her private parts through camera cuts and steam. This pre-rendered cutscene is wrought with screen tearing and things only go downhill from here. The developers tried to add physics to the girls' breasts to give them some jiggle in their skimpy outfits but only ended up making them look creepy. There's also a dress-up mode where you can change the girls' looks and a view mode that unlocks after beating the game. There you can simply put a girl through any of her animations repeatedly and watch. Unfortunately, the animations here are downright bad.
But really, if near-naked girls are what has you excited about Onechanbara, I'd like to introduce you to Google
. It's free.
I would describe Onechanbara as a traditional hack-and-slash game, but in general I view the word 'traditional' as having somewhat positive connotations. There is very little here that could be construed as positive. Run down the list of what makes up a shoddy game and you'll essentially describe Onechanbara. Muddy controls, an annoying camera, ugly graphics, repetitive level design, little variation from one stage to the next, and an awful story are just the beginnings of the problems found here. Compared to today's sophisticated games, Onechanbara feels -- and looks -- like a dinosaur.
The game follows two sisters who carry the Baneful Blood, a curse/power that gives them great strength and makes them go into a rage mode when covered in too much blood. It's up to these girls, Aya and Saki, and their friend Annna (that is not a typo) to kill zombies and take down the evil Organization. In general, this involves slicing, dicing, and shooting your way through hordes of goofy looking zombies that oftentimes materialize out of thin air, followed by a boss fight. Sometimes the levels just end abruptly, but you'll come to expect such oddities after a short time with this game.
The gameplay follows the blood theme quite closely. With Aya and Saki, you'll have to monitor the amount of blood on the swords and the girls. Too much hemoglobin on the blades and they'll dull or get stuck inside a zombie. If the girls become covered in blood they'll go into rage mode, a state where they'll deal extra damage at the cost of taking more and suffering a constant slow life drain.
Most stages in Onechanbara can be played cooperatively locally (there is no online play here). With a frustrating camera, the more limited view that split-screen offers makes the game a bit more aggravating, but the game is significantly more fun with a friend. Nobody likes to suffer alone.
Not every stage can be played with a friend though (I think it has something to do with the convoluted story) which makes working your way through the game with a buddy a disjointed experience. While playing solo, you can swap back and forth between the two players, putting one in reserve and adding a bit of strategy to the game.
You can take a look at just a single screenshot or brief movie clip to get an idea of how ugly the graphics are. Even so, small snippets of the visuals can't fully convey how monstrously ugly this game is. It looks like a PS2 game blown up into HD, and a budget PS2 game at that. What's worse, you begin retracing your footsteps and visiting locations you've already seen at just the fourth of 20 levels. That is also the point where bosses begin getting recycled. Even with levels borrowing sections from previous stages, the average level can be beaten in about 10 minutes.
That is, of course, if you know what you're doing and don't pause to fight every enemy that pops up. Through most of Onechanbara, without the help of a walkthrough, you'll be frustratingly lost. This awful presentation is the final nail in the coffin. The entire package is very confused, straight down to the gameplay that oftentimes doesn't give any hint on what you're supposed to be doing or where you should go. Case in point: One stage puts you on a motorcycle. Ignore the fact that it handles worse than an old Honda CRX without power steering. The problem is that the game doesn't tell you how to control the bike. Strike one. It then doesn't tell you what you're supposed to do while on the bike. You might think you're supposed to kill the zombies in front of you. That is what you've been doing the entire game. You're actually supposed to just keep driving forward dodging attacks until the level ends. Strike two. Oh, there's also only one city block in the level. When you reach the end you can watch the background flash and suddenly find yourself at the beginning of the block again. Ugh. Too many strikes.
That's just one example of the poor presentation, but by no means is it the only one. There are moves each girl can do beyond simple button mashing, but play through the game and you'd never know it. There is no tutorial at the outset of the story mode and the manual offers no help. There's a Quest Mode that offers up a series of objectives to complete...which are only revealed after
you've already completed them. The story is complete nonsense, made worse by the fact that this is the first Onechanbara game to release in the States and there is no frame of reference provided for what happened in past entrants to the franchise. I could go on, but you get the point.
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