Name: Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad
Platform: Xbox 360
No, you didn’t already read this review last week. There are actually two Onechanbara games out right now. How we managed to survive so long without any of the Onechanbara games making it over here is something only the world’s foremost scholars can answer. Me? I’m just glad that the Onechanbara rush is over.
Despite the Xbox 360 version of Onechanbara, Bikini Samurai Squad, not sharing a name with the Wii version, you’d be hard pressed to find many differences outside of the way the game controls. Since the 360 game is a port of the 8th game in the series, the context of what’s going on may be lost on a player. Onechanbara is a long-running Japanese video game series focusing on a bikini wearing, samurai sword-wielding, cowgirl named Aya, and her little sister Saki, a sometimes assassin, who team up to fight zombies. Apparently it has something to do with their blood. I think. Like the Wii version, there isn’t exactly a lot of explanation of previous events, and what little explanation there is of current events actually just confuses you more. There are apparently different factions out there trying to obtain some of the girls’ blood in order to… well… they want to… I have no idea. In fact, the only thing that’s truly clear in the game is that Aya and Saki need to kill a ton of zombies.
Upon starting the game, you have the option to play through most of the Story levels co-operatively or alone. Sharing the Onechanbara gameplay experience with another person can either be a blessing or a curse depending on how tolerant your co-op partner is of mindless violence. Should you choose to go it alone, for a good percentage of the game, you’ll be able to switch back and forth between the two characters you’ve chosen to take along with a simple button press. Both Aya and Saki dish damage with swords. Aya eventually earns the ability to dual-wield katanas, while Saki can use some grappling as a second technique. A third playable character, Annna (it’s not misspelled. There really are three ns in there), also opens up after a few boards. Annnnna’s a cop who can switch between dual pistols, or a shotgun, uzi combo. Both options have unlimited ammo. Saki and Aya will occasionally be overcome with the sheer amount of blood they spill, and go into a “Blood Frenzy,” which is like Hulking out. They’ll become super-powerful, but at the expense of slowly draining life. The only way to stop is by touching a statue, or reaching the end of the board. Of course, the only reason I know this is from playing the Wii version. Compared to the 360’s amount of instructions/tutorials, the Wii version is like the Encyclopedia Britainica of Bikini Zombie Slaying.
The actual controls are pretty simple. One face button jumps, the other three attack. You can switch characters with RT, and you can target lock with RB. Attack styles are swapped with LT, while LB reloads/cleans your swords. Combos are pretty simple, particularly if you’re a button-masher like me. The game isn’t very forthcoming with telling you what button combos do what, so I find that experimentation with putting my fingers on as many buttons at once as is humanly possible is the best, and easiest solution. You’ll find as you traverse the many repeating locales that fighting isn’t always worth the time and effort, so you can just run around from point A to point B. Or rather, you could, if you ever knew just where those points were. Sometimes the map is moderately helpful, other times it’s just there to take up screen space. But that’s not the map’s fault. There are times when the game doesn’t tell you what you need to do, or where you need to go, which can get annoying. For example, there’s a motorcycle level relatively early on in the game. Overlooking the fact the motorcycle handles indescribably poorly, the level consists of one long stretch of road loaded with zombies. All you actually have to do is drive to the end of the road. You don’t have to fight off the hordes. You would never know that though, so if you’re like me, you’ll keep driving in circles (you can’t get off the bike) trying to kill all the undead. The level doesn’t actually have the end marked, so if it seems like it ends rather arbitrarily, that’s because it does. This isn’t the only time it happens, but it’s certainly the most blatant.
Onechanbara on the 360 looks terrible. I forgave a lot of the graphical problems the Wii version had since it was a game on the Wii. No next-gen game should ever look this terrible, even if it does only cost $40. The CGI cut-scenes are embarrassing, and the game barely looks sharper than the Wii version. There’s less pop-in, but the textures, character models, and animations all have the polish of a budget game from last generation, which is to say it’s not very polished at all. Yes, I’m aware this game is a hack-and-slash, so repetitive looking enemies and surroundings are to be expected. That doesn’t mean they have to look this bad. Honestly, I’m not asking for Capcom zombies here, but you have to put a little effort into it to maintain interest, don’t you? Surely the lure of seductively walking around in a bikini, and hacking zombies to bits isn’t enough to keep players coming back time and time again. Difficulty wise, the game is a bit simpler than the Wii version. Particularly once you gain the option of Annnnnnnnna in your party. Being able to lock onto a boss, and circle strafe has never worked as well in any other game as it does here.
Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is not a good game. Like the Wii version before it, I had a strange fixation on playing it, but now that I’ve taken it out of my disc tray, I don’t think I’ll ever put it back in. There’s an audience out there for this game, as evident from the number of sequels, but that audience doesn’t include me. Even as a budget title I have a hard time recommending this to anyone without an inordinate amount of expendable income. Though you may get more entertainment out of burning your $40 in front of your friends just to see what kind of reaction you’ll get.