Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Tamsoft/D3 Publisher
I remember first learning about the Onechanbara series when it debuted on the PS2 back in 2004. I was into import games, especially obscure ones, however this was a series that I ended up not playing until it made its western debut on Xbox 360 as Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad. Just from the art and screenshots, I had an idea of what I would be getting myself into.
Before I go into Onechanbara Z2: Chaos, I want to give a brief premise of this story. The series stars Aya, a dual sword wielding cowgirl in a very revealing bikini that is part of a vampire clan that hunts the undead with her sister Saki and various other female protagonists. The story has always been wacky and for some, hard to follow. Over the years, the series has had 7 entries on the PS2, Xbox 360, Wii, and now the PS4.
This time around, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos looks and plays much more polished than its processors with an upgraded combat system. A solid framerate makes the combat smooth and accurate even with a large volume of characters on screen at once which happens regularly. You start off with two out of the four playable sisters and as you progress in the story mode you will eventually be able to choose from all at one time which can get crazy on the screen. Between your characters and all the enemies that populate at once, I can see why they added “Chaos” in the sub-title.
I have to say when I first picked up the game; I was concerned because of my previous experiences with the Onechanbara titles. Even after the first half hour of gameplay, I felt the game dragging on as I forced myself to complete levels. Part of the reason for this was the dull level design and generic zombies you fight in most of the levels. Hack n slash games are not known for these features and usually are not a bother to me usually.
In this case, the Onechanbara main characters are “Fleshed” out and look much more detailed this time around and everything else visually doesn’t compare for the most part. There is an occasional boss fight where the design seemed to be more thought out than the rest and that was disappointing. Some of the bosses looked like they were rejected concepts from games like Bayonetta and DMC which left me underwhelmed at best after many boss battles.
Onechanbara does have some qualities that helped me enjoy the experience. For one, the combat system was polished and refined, with the ability to actively change characters in the middle of battle was a welcome feature. When you use one character, the others will rest and gain some of their health back. When they are ready to fight again you will be given a “Ready” next to their icon. What I did appreciate the most was the ability to call for the other three characters to fight with you simultaneously. At this point you end up doing some serious damage, especially in big boss fights.
Running at a 1080p resolution and 60fps helps the re-defined combat and character selection work the way it does and I rarely saw drops in the framerate. The one thing that you need to invest your time in is the leveling up system. The currency you collect in the form of orbs are used at Statues that periodically appear in the levels. Here you are able to purchase new main, secondary, and sub-weapons. On top of new weapons you can unlock new skills and combos. For me, this is where the game piqued my interest. As I upgraded and played around with the different character styles and weapons, I began to see the depth Onechanbara could have.
A word of advice. Pay attention to the load screens, as this is where you will be reminded on how to do more details attacks that you may forget as you play. And don’t fret; you will see the load screen a lot when you move to the next part of the level. The loading isn’t long, but does show up often. Outside that, once you get some new weapons and skills, the game picks up and can be a lot of fun.
Out of the four characters, my favorite was Saki, a chainsaw wielding schoolgirl with an attitude. Playing as her reminded me that I need to go back and finish Lollipop Chainsaw — a much underrated game. I love playing games that allow me to use a chainsaw, and Saki uses it with ferocity. Between charging full force with the chainsaw into a horde of the undead to having lightning speed with her secondary weapon, knuckle dusters. She has a good balance between the weapons and this makes the game more enjoyable because each of the characters have their own distinct playing style.
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is a grindhouse movie with boobs, blood, bikinis, and zombies, with a Japanese twist. If you play the game with that perspective, you will not be disappointed. Fans of Dynasty Warriors, Bayonetta, and even the original Onechanbara games will feel right at home. As an added bonus if you purchase the physical release you will get the Banana Split Edition that gives you a soundtrack for the game as well as previous games giving you over 80 tracks. You are also giving a costume that consists of banana and strawberries. I will just leave you with that.