Onechanbara is one of those bizarre, yet wildly popular franchises that makes absolutely zero sense without the disclaimer "Japanese fan favorite." The series is so popular that not only has it spawned games on the PS2 and Wii, but also an admittedly awful feature film of the same name. Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad, however, is the first installment to make the leap to HD on the Xbox 360.
The visuals pay off almost immediately. Loading up the game triggers a gratuitous cutscene, wherein brooding anti-heroine Aya languishes in a steamy shower as her sometimes rival and little sister Saki watches a news report of the latest invading zombie horde. Aya, hearing the news, bolts out of the shower sans bikini and ready to fight. Sadly, this is the longest of the few cutscenes. Most action sequences are related through text seemingly penned by a budding fanfic writer.
Skipping past the cutscene and straight into gameplay treats you to some svelte graphics provided that you only look at the playable character models. Aya, Saki and later Annna, an unlockable character and sometime Resident Evil stand-in, are rendered in loving detail right down to Aya's trampstamp tattoo. For the curious, yes, breast physics make an ample appearance. Everything else is lamentable. Graveyards, deserted avenues and parking garages provide a drab backdrop against which you'll splatter zombie puree to a grating soundtrack of shrill guitar riffs and Castlevania-ripped organs.
The combat in Onechanbara ties directly to the story and mostly satisfies. Sisters Aya and Saki each possess the Baneful Blood, an enriched lifeblood that grants speed and strength. You mash the X button to execute various cuts and swipes with either Aya or Saki's katana blades. The sisters' interface also includes a gore meter that increases the more zombie blood you spill. Once it tops off, the Baneful Blood triggers a rampage mode which increases speed and damage at the cost of a few health per tick. There is a tiny bit of gunplay with Annna but it's incredibly inaccurate due to single plane aiming system.
Yes, the combat works, but hacking your way through thousands of zombies is mind-numbingly easy as there's no swarm AI and most enemies are content to stand around waiting to be dismembered. You'll gore your way through roughly six hours of story-mode, unlocking twenty chapters which can be replayed in free-play or survival mode. These chapters do have some replay value, though, as there are tons of hidden unlockables.
Each chapter funnels you through short, linear levels. The few bosses you do encounter are fun the first time around for the kitsch factor alone (name the last time you fought a zombie killer whale?) but most are just your standard ensemble of Yakuza-wannabes that appear over and over. Indeed the entire game seems like little more than an excuse to ogle Japanese girls, especially considering the dress-up mode, or as we like to call it, the Real Doll Creator. There, you can strip Aya, Saki and Annna down to their skivvies, change their hair, skin tone and eye color (sorry, proportions remain a constant) then dress them up in clothing articles you've unlocked. Models can be twirled and rotated in any which way and the game certainly doesn't discourage you from taking a peek down a blouse, or up a skirt.
Quite fittingly, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is gaming's equivalent of a cheesy B-movie. Sure, the production values stink, but for anyone with a fetish for zombies and/or samurai bikini cowgirls covered in blood, it's worth a few bucks. Rest assured, though, we won't judge as we had a bit of guilty fun ourselves.
Feb 20, 2009