Game: "Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad"
System: Xbox 360
Published by: Other
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: When you see a name like “Onechanbara”, you might be wondering what kind of game you’ll be getting. The picture of the bikini-clad girl wearing a cowboy hat and holding a pair of swords is somewhat helpful, but again, what’s the connection? That’s why the American publisher of the latest game in the series decided to add the subtitle “Bikini Samurai Squad”.
For the uninitiated, the title is a portmanteau of two Japanese words: one-chan, a term of endearment for an older sister-type figure, and chanbara, which refers to samurai movies. And so, what you get here is a samurai sword-wielding girl in a bikini named Aya who fights hoards of the undead. The reason this half-naked woman does so well against a veritable army of zombies is that her family bears the curse of the Baneful Blood. In a nutshell, she’s unnaturally strong and resilient, and she enters into a berserker rage whenever she gets too much blood on her. Lots of shadowy types want some of that blood for themselves, and one way or another, they find out how to raise the dead on a wide scale to aid them.
The whole of the game is based on slicing through hundreds and hundreds of zombies in order to make it to the end of each level. This can be done with either one or two swords at once, thus trading speed for power, or vice versa. In addition, you’ll also have the option of switching to one of two other characters during a stage: Saki, Aya’s adopted younger sister who wields a sword as large as she is tall, and Annna [sic], a policewoman with a limitless supply of grenades and ammunition.
In the course of fighting, Aya and Saki’s swords will slowly get gummed up with zombie blood, rendering them slower and duller until finally, the sword will get stuck in a zombie, thus requiring a few seconds of frantic pulling. The trick is to maintain a good flow of combat while occasionally taking a moment to flick the gore off your sword. If you do get into a situation where you don’t have enough time to safely clean your sword, you can mix things up by throwing some knives or kicking, but these attacks do so little damage you wonder why they were even included in the game.
Saki does have some interesting fallback attacks that allow her to split enemies in half and rip out the hearts of certain enemies (and then pocket that very heart for use later), but for the most part, you won’t really need them. You’ll mostly be facing Night of the Living Dead-style zombies; the kind that hit hard, but move and react very slowly. Their real menace is based on numbers, rather than the threat posed by individual members. Mixed in with the regular zombies are some zombies/creatures that are a bit more dangerous, as well as a couple creatures that can only be slain by using a few specific moves. One such enemy is the Blood Mist Zombie, a humanoid-shaped collection of red mist that can only be killed by executing a “COOL” combo.
What’s a “COOL” combo, you ask? Well, if you had asked me at the beginning of the game, I would have said “I have no idea”. If you had asked me after I finished the game, I would’ve said “... maybe one with a lot of consecutive hits?” The answer, I would later learn, is that a “COOL” combo is a combo wherein you hit the attack button at precisely the right time during each attack in an attack chain, causing the screen to flash and inflicting double damage to the victim. The timing for this requires you to be within one, maybe two, hundredths of a second, and messing up even once ends the “COOL” combo. As frustrating as that sounds, that’s not the problem I had; the problem is that the information about what a “COOL” combo is, and that you need to perform one to kill a Blood Mist Zombie, is stored in the game’s hint system. Each time both characters you control are killed, the game will present you with a hint, based on what killed you, or a random one if you die the same way two or more times. I believe there are around fifty such hints. After playing the game for maybe twenty hours, I had gotten a game over three times.
At its normal difficulty, the game isn’t all that hard. You can easily run past all the zombies, except for when the game suddenly pens you in with a group until you kill them. Bosses present a slightly greater challenge, but this is mostly because you’ve been lulled into a stupor by hacking away barely functioning zombies. You can obtain special bracelets that enhance your character’s abilities from the Blood Mist Zombies, assuming you have the patience to execute a long COOL combo, but you probably won’t need any if you’re planning on a single playthrough.
The game offers up some challenges that can be completed to unlock different costume options for your characters, but not much else. If the costumes do interest you, it’s worth mentioning that all three characters can be made to traipse about in their underwear (even the barely-adolescent Saki) from the very beginning.
For what it’s worth, the control scheme for the combos works very well despite relying on a single button. Precise button pushes get you COOL combos, but holding off for a few extra hundredths of a second allows you to execute long combos that have a wider area of effect. It doesn’t seem like much, but the variance there keeps the game from being too much of a drudge.
The game has some cool moments, not the least of which being the boss fight against a zombified killing whale, but overall, the game is pretty shallow. I have to wonder why so much important information about the game was hidden away in the hint system. Surely, players in Japan weren’t having a tough time with this game, right? Maybe they were just too distracted by boobs. The game does begin with a shower scene...
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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