Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers - hands-on

When deciding which game should sit on the illustrious Wii previews page we reached a zombie-scented fork in the road. Do we cover Onechanbara or Dead Rising? Hands-on with Capcom’s effort sees it shaping into a disappointingly wonky ride, so we opted for the underdog.

Onechanbara is not game-craft par excellence – you’d be kind to label it par okay-ish – but what do you expect from a franchise born from the Japanese ultra-budget Simple series? Designed as a piece of pulp entertainment, it has aims no loftier than the title – it gives you girls in bikinis, zombies in their masses and ample opportunities to kill the latter with the former.

Considering 73% of the game’s appeal is ogling our lady killers, it’s little surprise to find a bevy of hidden dress-up options. By completing bonus quests – rerunning old levels while trying to meet targets – their wardrobes expand. In addition, completing the game unlocks you two more jigglesome killers. There’s a dash of RPG in proceedings, such as stretching the health bar or making your blade more resistant to blood damage.

Combat is no great shakes. Or rather it is great shakes and little more than that. While slender cowgirl Aya picks from one or two swords, her demonic sibling Saki can opt for fists over blades. You flick the remote and your chosen lady eviscerates the polygonal meat-sacks that make up Tokyo’s undead. Time it just right and massive combos open up – hypnotic murdering grooves where the blades dance back and forth, back and forth.

As the blades spin, things turn a little ‘lawnmower versus zombies at the end of Dead Alive’ and the blood begins to flow, splatting on the screen and dribbling down in gooey trails. You’d think these zombies were pressure packed with the ferocity that the red stuff arcs out. Imagine hitting a raspberry jam doughnut with a rolling pin and you’re halfway there. That’s 30 raspberry jam doughnuts at any one time – onscreen zombie numbers beat Dead Rising’s five-fold.

Capcom’s effort may have the budget and the pedigree, but Onechanbara had us smiling more often, albeit the crazy smile of a mindless death machine. It’s unambitious, but it hits those unambitions brilliantly. Dead Rising’s reach exceeds its grasp. Onechanbara is happy to use its grasp to seize and raise a Japanese schoolgirl’s skirt. Pervy. Bloody. Stupid. Who could ask for more?

Feb 2, 2009