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ESRB RATING: M
PUBLISHER: D3 Publisher
The bizarrely named Onechanbara has never made it to these shores before, but it’s a minor hit in Japan. The budget title series features young, nubile sword-wielding girls fighting off legions of undead creatures in incredibly bloody fashion… an easy recipe for success. The game’s so big that there was even a movie adaptation released last year.
Now the game’s hitting the U.S. for the first time ever on the Xbox 360 and Wii, for 40 and 30 bucks respectively. Is it worth the cash?
“One-chan” – Japanese for big sister
“chanbara” – Japanese for sword fighting.
That’s your basic plot- it’s about two half-sisters who kill zombies whenever they can, because they hate them. The girls aren’t normal individuals- they’re the last descendants of a bloodline that was cursed by the “Baneful Blood”. Most people are turned into zombies when infected by the Blood, but they survive it and get new powers. When splashed with enough zombie blood (and there’s a meter in the game for this reason) they go into a rampage mode which does enormous damage but also slowly kills them.
One of the sisters, Aya, works as an assassin and ran into her half sister during a job, and after fighting with each other now live together… putting dirty, dirty thoughts in any male that watches the opening cinema. Zombies are back and attacking the city so they run off to save the day.
(Note- this is a review of the 360 version. The Wii title, Onechanbara: Bikini Zombies Slayers, is actually a sequel to this. So if you want the full story you need to pick up both titles.)
CHUDTIP- Watch out for the sword meter on the bottome left- when your sword gets too covered in blood it will stick into zombies and have to be pulled out, leaving you open to attack. Get rid of the blood by pressing LB.
Get ready to wear out those thumbs, because this game is the definition of hack and slash.
It’s an incredibly repetitive experience. With the exception of one stage that has you riding on a motorcycle, every chapter faces you against dozens of dozens of zombies that must be chopped to pieces. The moves you perform on them don’t matter- despite the ways you hit the zombies they’ll be chopped apart in the same way. First they’ll be beheaded, then their arms will come off one by one, and then you’ll chop them in half through the torso. Their legs will stand on their own and even try to kick you till you hit them one more time. It’s to the game’s credit that this doesn’t really get old.
The enemies of course get harder as you go through the game, and you face many different versions of them (such as giant wrestler zombies, or police zombies that fire shotguns your way) but they all die the same way. Every few stages you’ll face a big boss character but with the exception of a couple of them you can go up and jam on the attack button to kill them with no problem.
But it’s really bizarre how the game doesn’t give you any idea of how to play. Only through the use of my reviewer’s guide that was included with my copy did I figure out that certain enemies could only be killed by “Cool Combos”- something sure to irritate people playing the game with the limited instructions and no tutorial.
CHUDTIP- To perform a Cool Combo, hit the A button every time your blade hits your enemy. The timing is very tricky but you’ll do massive damage and continue the combo far if you get it right.
There are a lot more moves and combos than you’d expect, which is good, because it gives you a lot of control over how to take out these zombies. There 20 Chapters in the game that will take you a fair amount of time to go through but a big number of those have you backtracking through the same levels trying to get around using the horrible map system. A few are simply boss fights.
Most levels make you pick two characters to bring into battle- they can be switched out at any time to allow the other one to heal a bit. Besides the two sword-wielding sisters (Aya and Saki) you’ll run into Anna, a cop who uses firearms and changes the gameplay up a bit. She wield dual pistols, or a shotgun-uzi combo.
CHUDTIP- The bosses may look ferocious but just get close to them and keep hacking away and they’ll go down with no problem.
During the loading screens between chapters and before cutscenes
there’s a litte minigame that allows you to chop up zombies in a 2d
brawler. You’ll get coins for killing them and it tallies how many you
get but the game is actually there solely to distract you from the long
and frequent loading times.
There’s just not much to the game.
This is a budget title, so don’t expect anything too pretty. There graphics are fairly blurry as you can see, although some of the character models are decent enough. I suspect they spent more time making sure the girl’s boobs jiggled realistically. And by realistically I mean that they constantly bounce in any direction regardless of movement, as if trying to free themselves of the torso they’re attached to.
CHUDTIP- Fighting zombies? Everyone knows a cowboy hat and feather boa is the best way to protect yourself.
The music is disposable J-pop fluff, but a few of the tracks are damn catchy.
There is a good amount of replay value for people who get into the game. Beating the game on Normal mode unlocks a higher difficulty, and there are three more to go through above that. There’s a survival mode which pits you against countless zombies, and a co-op mode which allows you to take a buddy through the entire game splitscreen.
The Achievements are hard as hell to get, so if you want those points you’re going to have to work for them. Some require you to beat a level or boss with a certain condition so you’ll really have to experiment to get those points.
Over the course of the game you’ll unlock new items for the DRESS UP mode. Yes, that’s exactly what you’d think it is- and almost as horrifying. You’re given a view of each (sometimes teenage) character in their bra and panties and can decide how much (if any) clothing you want them to wear. I of course only tried out the mode in the interest of checking out everything the game for the review. Of course.
CHUDTIP- If you’re in a relationship and want to keep it that way, don’t let your girl (or boy) see you dressing up your video game character in nothing but a bra and ripped pantyhose. Trust me.
Onechanbara definitely has its moments and manages to be an entertaining and bloody time, but it gets bogged down in repetition and cheap enemies. The bloody violence and sex appeal makes it a complete guilty pleasure, but it’s got nothing on D3’s other budget titles like Earth Defense Force 2017 (which you should all pick up!)
You could do a lot worse, and you won’t see schoolgirls getting covered in gallons of zombie blood anywhere else, but it would have been nice to see a little more polish here.