Idle Sundays can be both a blessing and a curse. In the former, it’s nice to have that break after a crazy week and blow off some steam. In the latter, I enjoy blowing off said steam from time to time wandering the isles of the local second hand stores, pre-owned game stores, and bargain in search of odds and ends. Sometimes you get lucky such as my friend Louis does from time to time and you find a treasure trove of old movies for dirt cheap, other times you find a bit of random curiosity that seems like a good fit at first but eventually causes your brain to hurt. Such is the case with “Onechanbara”.
At first glance, the case of this XBOX 360 game seems pretty clear cut; chicks in bikini’s hacking up zombies with samurai swords! It’s pretty easy to see how I fell into this one. I happen to like zombies quite a bit. I have a long standing love for old samurai films from Kurosawa to Misumi. I even happen to enjoy females in bikini’s! “So why not?” says I to myself, and home I marched with visions of scantily clad zombie slaughter dancing about my brain. These visions would soon prove to be the highlight of my gaming experience with this odd little dingleberry of horror and video games.
To start things off, let me make this clear; by no means is this a full review of the game. I’ve only managed to spend roughly an hour and a half with Ms. Aya and her sister Saki, and Saki got herself kidnapped about half way through. This is more of a first impression because as these things go, this one’s a doozy.
Among the first things to jump out at me about “Onechabara” is that there is a loading screen for damn near every disk read on this game. Sure, they give you the token little 8-bit game to keep you entertained while you’re waiting, but holy cow. Early on in the game, I was concerned that I would be spending more time hacking up zombie sprites instead of the 3D foes that were promised on the box. Once the game finally managed to load, the first head scratching issues began to show themselves; the 3D foes weren’t much better off than their 8-bit counterparts. The graphics in this game are down right bad. Most zombies are all variations on one common theme. All of them shamble about in in slow motion with the same hunched back and outstretched arms. They’re not very bright nor aggressive either. I’ve played through four levels of the game so far and I’ve yet to feel like any of the enemies have really pressed on me much at all until the level bosses show up. They do manage to mix things up a tiny bit with the addition of ‘mud men’ and ‘blood mist zombies’ but those are few and far between. In they case of ‘blood mist zombies’, they’re just down right infuriating. The rest are easy to dispatch though. Apparently because my toon looks great in a french cut and can handle her sword fairly well.
The second and most glaring flaw in this game is that I simply have no idea what in the hell is going on. Japanese titles can be quirky. It’s expected; that’s part of the draw. You generally like to have this quirkiness in characters and story though. For “Onechanbara”, there is no tutorial level. That’s right, no tutorial. You’re simply thrown in with your thong and your cowboy boots and hoping for the best. Now, it doesn’t appear that there is much to figure out in this game as the controls appear to be fairly simple. One button swings, the other kicks. It was when I ran around a corner into a random crowd of undead and my blade became lodged in the chest of the decaying Old Man Smithers stand-in that the issues began. Why the hell did my sword get stuck? This little icon over here is all red, I wonder what that means? It wasn’t until the beginning of level three that I finally discovered that you have to swing the blood from your swords when the gauge is full be holding in the LB button.
This is all well and good in practice, I just wish I was told about it sooner.
There are a lot of other little odds and ends that crop up like this that just simply leave me scratching my head. For instance, after every kill you have to wait for a second or two for a yellow or red orb to appear from the slain body. Once these appear, you run around and pick them all up. I have no idea why, but I’m a completionist when it comes to games and can’t run away leaving something that fell out of a dead body go to waste. I ran into my first ‘blood mist zombie’ early on and frankly thought it was an image glitch at first. After digging around and managing to find a guide for the developer online, I figured out that you need to perform a specific number of ‘Cool Combos’ to eradicating these red blobby bad guys. I’m still digging to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to perform a cool combo, let alone four of them in a row. It’s these clunky matters and a dated graphics engine that makes this game a challenge outside of the game play. Yet, I still find myself continuing on level after level.
The game is simply bizzare and as a curiosity alone, it manages to keep my coming back from more. For more than just the jiggly Japanese swimsuit girls. Really! Sure, the game is blatantly trashy and the story has yet to make a whole lot of sense, but you get a feeling that there could be some good old fashioned Japanese genre storytelling going on here. There is no real narrative built into the game outside of the odd cut scene; the story is literally a break with a wall of text you have to scroll through before moving on. It is still interesting though as they seed you with tidbits about how the sisters Aya and Saki come from a cursed blood line which causes them to hulk out into a ‘rampage’ super power mode as you splatter their lithe bodies with zombie blood. (I’m not joking.) So early on at least, the game has a hook. And boobs.
So, “Onechanbara” is far from a great game…hell, who am I kidding, it’s far from a good game. It’s still quirky enough to work at these early stages but I can see this one will definitely be a challenge reaching the end which is due in no part to its difficulty level.
Note: I am aware that this game is based on a movie of the same name. I’ve yet to catch this flick yet but it is definitely now on my vaguely curious list!