In the weeks and months leading up to the release day for D3's latest title, my anticipation grew with everything I heard, and then the early reviews hit. Everyone panned this game and likened it to the video game equivalent of being kicked in the nuts, something you just don't want. I thought that it couldn't be anywhere near as bad as people were saying. "Maybe it was just being misunderstood. The reviewers must have had no idea what to expect!" I convinced myself. Nope, every word was true. Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is a terrible game from start to finish and it's a fail that borders on epic.
The whole sordid affair takes place at an undisclosed point in time for a franchise most gamers in the States have never heard of. There's virtually no story to catch everyone up to speed except for the fact that it starts out with two sisters who see a zombie outbreak on TV and decide it's up to them to do something about it. Aya and Saki are sisters who share a cursed bloodline, which basically means they don't have a choice when it comes to killing zombies. As they get covered in blood, they gain more power, and they use this power to stop the bizarre force at work behind everything. It's a convoluted mess from start to finish and I must admit that I wound up ignoring the cut scenes completely. They just weren't worth the headache. Unfortunately the rest of the game follows suit soon enough and there's very little in terms of redeeming qualities.
Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad plays like you'd expect a budget title would, with the exception that the $40 price tag doesn't really indicate bargain bin material. To put it in looser terms, if you were to base a game's price on the quality of its gameplay, Onechanbara would come up in the $5 to $10 range. It's just that much of a sloppy mess, and I can't believe that D3 didn't attempt to fine tune things before releasing it here. This game original hit stores in Japan in the latter part of 2006, which should have given the developer/publisher plenty of time to work out the kinks. I guess it just goes to show that this title's release in America was totally an afterthought.
When you start the game you'll have access to Aya and Saki, but there are other characters that become available as you progress through the campaign. While each of these characters plays slightly different, uses alternate fighting styles, and even a variety of weapons, the fact remains that the core gameplay is flawed from the ground up.
With regards to the character control, you'll swear you're trying to maneuver a robot. None of the girls walks the way they should or as smoothly as you'd expect them to. Getting them to go from one end of the stage to another feels rigid and unnatural, which is, you know, kind of a small problem. Making matters worse is the camera which flails wildly and refuses to move the way that you want it to. Just expect to constantly get stuck on things, walk into walls, and get hit from behind all thanks to the shoddy controls and the camera.
Combat is another problem with the game. The sad part is that the constant button mashing isn't so much a negative, as is the rest of the fighting system. Zombies will just stand there and let you hit them. I mean, they behave like you'd expect zombies to, lurching around and whatnot, but the game contains virtually no challenge with regards to the regular enemies. For all intents and purposes in this game, the zombies are bowling pins that appear out of thin air for you to knock down. It's repetitive, boring, and completely lacks any semblance of depth. Making matters worse is the stiff way your characters attack, and a sword that constantly gets covered in blood and stuck in your opponents. It's annoying to say the least, and downright cheap when you're in the middle of a boss fight. Oh, and the camera also wounds the combat system too.
As you play from one meaningless and frustrating level to another, you'll realize that the game's design hardly ever expands beyond its original means. By that I mean the developers, Tamsoft, did nothing to add variety to the gameplay. Sure there are boss fights, but they are terrible exercises in frustration (See Zombie Killer Whale for a prime example of this).There are also vehicle levels which have you driving backwards and forwards for seemingly no reason, and with no direction. A co-op component has even been tossed in for good measure, but it's spotty at best and suffers from core gameplay issues. Tamsoft even included some experience building, leveling up, and costume changes, but these touches are cosmetic at best. No matter how you slice either of these concepts, they hardly add to the depth of Onechanbara and do not help save the game from itself.
The bottom line is if you want to play this game, don't. Busty, scantily clad women who kill zombies for a living may be tantalizing, but the low quality is something that should make you want to stay away...far, far away. Crummy controls, a terrible camera, dumb as dirt AI, frustrating bosses, and little in terms of incentives simply do not make for a good game, or a compelling experience.
Virtually all of the achievements in Onechanbara are impossible to obtain. Unclear objectives and bizarre rules for just about every achievement mean that only the dedicated will receive much of any score. Even then you have to search the web for strategy guides on how to get these meager points. Just like the actual game itself, the achievements aren't very rewarding.
While the game came out in 2006 in Japan, and was just localized for an American release, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is butt ugly. Launch title Dreamcast games had better graphics than this one has to offer, and if this were a PlayStation 2 title it would be mediocre at best. Muddy textures, sloppy animation, glitches, terrible design, barren levels, and buckets of fake looking blood all come together to make one of the worst looking games in recent memory.
While the female characters in this game may be its most enticing feature, once you see them in motion you'll only be able to laugh. Tamsoft wanted to add to the sex appeal so they added some breast jiggle. Well, they got the mechanics horrifyingly wrong, and each of these boobies wiggles like a Jell-O mold that has just been slapped. It's weird, disturbing, and even Saki who has no bust to speak of has the jiggle effect. It's also worth noting that the game is offered with 1080p output. Unfortunately, once you take the in game graphics into consideration and add god awful shearing during cut scenes, you'll wish it wasn't in HD.
Equally as dismal as everything else in this game is the sound. The soundtrack is insipid and grates on the nerves after a very short amount of time. Seriously, you'll want to shut the sound off once the music starts repeating itself after a while. The game's Japanese-only language dub is fine enough and offers up the necessary amount of camp to accompany the story. Otherwise the sound effects are bland and the presentation is muddied at times with some glitches as well.
Onechanbara had a lot of things going for it in my opinion. The over-the-top concept is daft enough that it actually works on some level, the game never takes itself too seriously, and who doesn't like killing zombies. Sadly the game that was constructed around this idea fails in every regard. The gameplay is downright abusive and archaic, the graphics are dated and ugly, and the sound is obnoxious. The collect-a-thon mentality of the dress-up component holds some replay value, but it's been done before, done better, and in games that offer other compelling features. Just save your money and play something that is actually worth your time.