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Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad (Xbox 360)
Let’s have a little back story to the Onechanbara series of games. D3 Publisher in Japan releases a ton of budget games for different systems called the Simple series that covered a range of general themes and were budget in every sense of the word. As the series progressed, the developers started on more unique games and by the 61st game the original Onechanbara appeared. What was basically a hack ‘n’ slash game with basic presentation quickly gained popularity for it’s main character which wandered around in a bikini, slicing the undead into little pieces. After two releases on PS2, an Xbox 360 version has arrived and it seems to follow it’s budget roots quite closely.
The game is a relentless hack and slash action game, where the object is to cut a bloody path through waves of zombies using either the bikini wearing Aya or her school outfit wearing sister Saki. That’s pretty much it. The enemies get bigger, the levels more complex to navigate, but in the end it’s all about you going from room to room to slaughter everything in sight and cut everything up into little pieces. As you progress, your blade will get covered in blood and needs to be cleaned every so often to make sure the blade isn’t dulled or gets stuck in zombies, leaving you open. Also, as your character gets covered in the red stuff, they will enter rampage mode which increases attack power but will also slowly suck your life away. Once you’ve mastered these basics and started the killing, you’ve played a good chunk of the game already.
That’s not to say that Onechanbara is a bad game, but it is repetitive and the obvious budget nature of the game starts showing through. While there is plenty to unlock, there isn’t much variation to the gameplay. A third character that uses guns does appear, but it does little to add variety to the slaughter. Not only that, but the game suffers from some horrid issues - Screen tearing is the main culprit (where the screen seems to dislodge when something moves on screen) which seems to appear in everything from the FMV to in-game combat. Not only that but the game can suffer from slowdown and constant graphical glitches which just do nothing but help to destroy the fun of the game. If you are a real fan of the technicalities of a game, who demands perfection and gets bent out of shape when a game is not in true widescreen, then Onechanbara may very well make you see red and not just from the onscreen blood.
There is plenty to unlock in the game however. By fulfilling the challenges in-game (which also tie in with the Achievements), you can unlock additional costume pieces for all three characters so that you can dress them up any way you want, though I doubt you’ll find anything more skimpy than the bikini. You can also play in co-op with a player taking control of both characters to slaughter the masses, though this does little to stop the repetitiveness. The game even has an array of downloadable content which features new costumes and play modes. Some you do need to pay for and playing through the main game is a good idea before deciding to buy this content.
Those looking for the pure Japanese experience on the other hand have been well catered for, as the game is voiced completely in Japanese with no option to switch to English. Though this seems more like a move to save on localisation costs than actually appealing to fans of Japanese culture, it’s still an unexpected surprise and should keep haters of English dubs happy.
It is quite hard to recommend this game to more or less anyone - While it is fun to play for the first half an hour, it quickly dawns on you that it is very repetitive and has no real sign of letting up at any point. The story is about what you would expect from a game about carving up zombies and does little to add anything to the game. If you’ve had a few beers and are wanting to play something bloody and violent, then this would be a good rental game. It may look interesting as a hype-violent anime-looking game, but it isn’t really worth buying and if you really really want to buy it, at least wait until it inevitable drops below the £20 mark.
An average hack and slash marred by technical issues and a lack of variety.