Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers
Release Date: 02/11/2009
Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers or Oneechanbara Revolution is the 4th game in the Oneechanbara series, but it’s actually the sixth game to come one (Two of the games were re-releases with extra content) The third game, Oneechanbara VorteX, is the Xbox game that was released here in the states on the same day. It’s actually done pretty well as a franchise in both Japan and Europe and it’s nice to see D3 bringing some of the “Simple Series” to North America finally.
You may have noticed when I refer to the Japanese games there is an extra “e” in Oneechanbara. That’s because that’s how it is spelled (correctly) in Romaji. As such, when I talk about the series as a whole, I’ll be spelling it with the extra (correct) e and when I talk about this specific game, I’ll use the Engrish spelling. Oneechanbara basically translates into English as, “Big Sister Sword Fight,” which sums up the games perfectly as they are the adventures of two sisters with swords that run around murdering legions of zombies.
The series has been compared to Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, Nightmare Creatures, and God of War, but for many Americans, it’s hard to get past the fact your protagonists are in sexy fetish-based outfits like naughty schoolgirl or bikini cowgirl. Of course it never hurt Lara Croft to be shooting dinosaurs in a tank top and short shorts, eh?
So now that the Wii is developing quite a nice selection of M rated titles (Umbrella Chronicles, HotD: Overkill, Madworld), how does the latest adventure for Aya and Saki hold up?
There are an amazing amount of options with this game. The main mode is of course, Story Mode. At first you can only choose between Aya and Saki, but after you beat each character’s respective story, you will unlock another character, for a total of four playable ladies. Each one has their own unique story and boss fights, although the story consists mainly of a narrative before the start of each chapter. Still, four unique tales are great, especially for a budget game and each level ranges from one to twenty minutes depending on your skill level. Story Mode is also the only place you will encounter Blood Mist Phantoms which can drop special items if you are good enough to kill them.
Free Play is where you and a friend can run through each level that you have unlocked in Story Mode. In Free Play you can only advance as far as your characters have gone in Story Mode, but you can complete Quests in Free Play. Completing Quests can earn you new costumers for your characters, although you can’t know the specifics of the quest until you’ve actually completed them…which kind of sucks.
Survival Mode is just that. You just keeping killing hordes of the undead in different locations until both your characters die. The key here is to switch back and forth between your two playable characters. This can also be done co-operatively.
Practice Mode is just that – a chance to practice your unlocked moves and combinations.
The neat thing about all the above modes save practice, is that you are constantly earning experience points for your chosen character. These points carry over into each mode and you can then spend then on increasing your combo max, weapon reach, damage or hit points. It’s a lot of fun and as you’ll be able to do this with all four girls, expect a lot of replay value from trying to make the baddest lady on the block.
All in all, I was impressed with the amount of options, especially since this is a “Simple Series” game, which are generally well made but streamlined budget titles in Japan. With the Wii version of Onechanbara, you get a lot of high quality options for your buck and it’s going to take me some time to unlock everything for each girl.
Story/Modes Rating: Great
Although we all tend to poo-poo the Wii’s graphical power compared to the 360 or PS3, Onechanbara is actually quite impressive looking. It’s very similar to the visuals of a late gen PS2 game (Which is where the series started), and there are a nice array of enemy zombies and some impressive gorey visuals. You can slice every body part off from a zombie, although my personal favorite is slicing off the top torso and see a pair of legs just walking around holding on to the last bit of life in that enemy.
Although the game is not as visually impressive as say, Umbrella Chronicles, Onechanbara is quite impressive for a budget title, easily overshadowing a lot of full price Wii title graphics. You get a nice amount of gore, both serious and comical, and all four player characters look very impressive and hold up nicely compared to the 360 installment of this series.
One of the other impressive things is the lack of slowdown, even when there are thirty or so zombies on the screen. That’s a lot of character for a third-person action game, but Tamsoft handled this perfectly.
If you’re looking for top of the line visuals for your Wii based zombie killing, RE:UC and the latest House of the Dead are the best you’ll find, but those are also high budget titles. The fact that Onechanbara is a budget title and can still compete with the best the Wii has to offer is mighty impressive.
Graphics Rating: Good
The voice acting in Onechanbara is wonderfully done. Each word is enunciated perfectly and the voice actresses have amazing intonation. However, the voice acting is in Japanese only, so for those of you who only want English dubbed actresses will have to look elsewhere. Trust me though when I say it’s probably better this way.
Sound effects are marvelous as well. Whether it’s the slashing of a katana through the skull of a zombie or a hand strike ripping the heart from a Mudman, everything is nicely done here. Because the action is so frantic a lot of the individual sound effects are lost over the kicking, stabbing, and slooshing noises that occur when you’re mutilating multiple zombies at once. Still, in those areas where you’re only attacking a small pack of beasts or exorcists (zombie types), you’ll find a nice array of noises.
Finally, there’s the game’s music. The score for Onechanbara is decent, but none of the tracks are what i would call memorable. It’s also hard to really listen to and appreciate the individual tracks considering that you’re constantly killing things and listening to them die.
The aural aspects, like the rest of Onechanbara are nicely done and very impressive for a budget game. You’ll find yourself really getting into the game thanks to the voice acting and sound effects.
Sound Rating: Good
4. Control and Gameplay
Generally it’s very hard to get a well made third party game that lives up to the potential of the Wii’s controls. I’ll admit that when I first saw the control layout for the game I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a GCN or classic controller option. However that was before I actually played the game. I’m happy to report that Onechanbara has the best third person controls I’ve played on the Wii outside of a rail shooter or DDR title. I should warn you though that all the slashing with the wiimote and numchuk can be a pretty tiring experience considering the length of the level and that this game is basically an old fashioned button masher. It’s just instead of mashing buttons, you are flailing pretty rhythmically with your arms. It’s a lot of fun, but if you’re not someone that regularly exercises, you’ll probably wear yourself out after a level or two.
You have two modes of combat. Aya for example has a sword and kicks, or double sword mode. Saki has sword or Fist of the North Star bad ass beat down mode. Reiko (a hidden character) has guns, and so on. You use your main form of attack by swinging or thrusting the Wiimote in various ways, while the numchuk is used for kicks and special moves. The Analog stick on the numchuk is how you move and the Z button allows you to lock onto an enemy, but it can also reset the camera.
Camera angles can be a bit wonky, but as there are three ways to move the camera (+, -, and Z buttons), it’s far less of a problem than in most games like this. The 1 button allows you to do special attacks in conjunction with swinging your wiimote or numchuk and even the D pad lets you do things like taunt, or throw knives. I was shocked at how many control options there were, and even more shocked that the odd layout actually worked and felt fluid after a few minutes. It’s a great use of all the buttons on the wiimote/numchuk combination and I’m still a bit surprised it works so smoothly.
There are four main gauges to watch. The first is your health bar. The second is your sword gore gauge. This fills as you slaughter enemies. The higher the gauge rises, the slower you will attack and sometimes, your weapon might even stick in the enemy. To prevent this you need to clean your weapon on occasion. It doesn’t take like, but you are defenseless when you do it. There is also the ecstasy gauge which fills by doing combo attacks. A special attack takes one bar from the ecstasy gauge. Finally there is the splatter gauge which fills up based on how much blood is on your character. When it fills, you enter berserk or berserk 2 (depending on what you did right before entering) mode. Here you do extra damage and are much faster but you also slowly lose health and you take more damage.
Again, there is a lot to watch on screen, which is impressive for a budget game but even more impressive at how easy it is to keep track of everything and how well done the engine and control responsiveness are. The only time I had trouble doing anything was getting the pattern down for doing hand strikes or maelstrom attacks, but once I did, there was no problem going on. I think it might have even been that I had to unlock the ability to do these in story mode as once I encountered an enemy that needed it, it was as if my ability to do this finally switched on. Either that or it was such eerie coincidence. Ooo-eee-oooo.
Onechanbara features amazingly solid controls and a wonderfully built engine. When you play this, you’ll be surprised that it is not a first party game for the Wii. Hell, after playing the first two Onechanbaras for the PS2, I can honestly say I prefer the controls here as they really suck you into the game and make it all the more fun to play.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
With four levels of difficulty, four possible player characters, forty quests per character in Free Play mode, three quests in Survival mode, and the ability to play by yourself or with a friend, Onechanbara offers an amazing amount of replay value for your dollar. It boasts solid controls, awesome gameplay, a lot of gore, an amazing amount of options. The fact that your XP levels carry over from one mode and/or difficulty to the next means that you can work your way up from each difficulty setting to unlock all those fabulous costumes. Jeez, it’s like Shadow Hearts Covenant all over again. You can spend as much time with Onechanbara as you could with an RPG and still not have beaten everything.
This one’s going to be in my Wii for quite some time…
There are four difficulty levels in this game, but the two hardest must be unlocked. There is also a noticeable difference between the levels, which is all the better than your XP carries over from one mode to another. I beat Easy, then beat Survival mode and then when I went back to Normal I found the game to be a LOT easier because I had experience on my side, both real world and level based.
Each of the four playable characters has their own distinctive fighting style and moves, which makes the game a lot of fun as you try each character out and see who you are strongest with. No matter who you play with or what difficulty setting you choose, you’ll still have a lot of rings to collect, quests to complete and a nice amount of challenge trying to 100% the game. Like everything else about Onechanbara, the balance is solid and there is always something to offer you a challenge in one way or another.
Balance Rating: Good
This is the sixth game in the Oneechanbara series, albeit it two of those were remakes. However, all four of these girls have appeared in other “Simple Series” games to the point where they are D3/Tamsoft mascots akin to Sonic for Sega or Jack Frost for Atlus. All four games are very similar as it’s just mindless zombie hack and slash with minimal plot. What saves this particular Oneechanbara game are the awesome wiimote controls which add a whole new level to the series. I realize that for most North American gamers, this series will seem like something completely new and off the wall, but Europeans and the Japanese have been getting this for years so it may seem a bit of old hat to the rest of the world, especially the 360 version as it offers nothing new.
Like most franchise/mascot series, there’s little here that has changed from the previous games in the series, but with new facets like the splatter gauge and the new control scheme, it does feel like a nice house with a new coat of paint.
Originality Rating: Mediocre
Here’s the thing. There’s not a lot to this game. It’s mindless hack and slash where only the quests or character changes. My god though is it hard to but down the wiimote. At one point I played until my felt my right arm was going to fall off at the elbow. I played through four levels and a game of Survival and that ate about two hours. Two hours of madcap swinging. The only reason Is topped playing was because I knew it was in my own best interests to.
It’s like playing Streets of Rage, Captain America & the Avengers or Marvel Ultimate Alliance. None of these games requires skill or a lot of quick thinking. It’s just mash, mash, mash, or in this case swing, swing, swing until you die or beat the game. There’s just something about beat ’em ups that make the hard to put down, especially when they are well made. I haven’t been this sucked into a Wii game in some time, and with this, Overkill and the soon to be released Madworld competing for my time, it’s a great time to be a Wii owner.
Addictiveness Rating: Great
9. Appeal Factor
How can you not love a game featuring hot Japanese ladies in provocative outfits slaughtering the undead for a few hours. God bless the insanity of the Japanese. For those of you complaining about a lack of well made third party games, here you are. For those complaining about a lack of M rated titles for a “Kiddee” system (Which is stupid because there are a LOT of T and M rated games for the Wii), here’s a well made one that puts a lot of gorey violent games for the PS3 and 360 to shame.
This game will be a guilty pleasure for some to be sure, but for myself and others who revel is the bizarre but well made, Oneechanbara Revolution is a match made in heaven. It’s cheap, it’s insane, and it’s well made. What more can you ask for? Just you know…don’t show it to your mom of girl friend if they already disapprove of the time you spend with your gaming consoles.
Appeal Factor: Good
There’s so much to love about this game. The fact that we finally have an Oneechanbara game in North American, the sheer insanity of title, the excellent transition over to the Wii with remarkably solid (and fun) controls, and the fact that the game offers you a ton of modes and unlockables for only thirty dollars. If you’re looking for a good hack n’ slash, M rated game, or just something totally wacky, then Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers is for you. I hear the 360 game that comes before this one isn’t as good, which would make it the black sheep of the series, but don’t let that dissuade you from getting this cheaper installment if you own a Wii, particularly as it is the best the series has ever been.
Now let’s get D3 to bring over more of the Simple series, yes?
Miscellaneous Rating: Great
Control and Gameplay: Great
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Onechabara: Bikini Zombie Slayers is a good old fashioned hack n’ slash reminiscent of the button mashers of old, except here you’re swinging your arms like a nut. It’s a nice light arm workout and it’s easily the best in the Oneechanbara series…even if D3 of America misspelled the series’ romaji. Whoops. At thirty dollars, this may not be the best zombie killing or M rated game to come out for the Wii, but it’s still a great buy for the buck and I heartily recommend it as one of the best titles I’ve played for the Wii from a third party publisher in quite some time.