“Quit twiddlin’ your tits!”
For years I’ve heard about Onechanbara as a series (though I was the dumb guy who said “one-chan-bahra” instead of… you know, how it’s properly supposed to be said), but I hadn’t played one myself. It seemed like a bestseller on paper: four women slaughtering zombies in fetish wear—bikinis, lolita dress, schoolgirl outfits—using multiple different weapons and scouring the planet to save humanity. Oh, and sometimes they say cheeky things to one another, like “quit twiddlin’ your tits." (It means “hurry up,” in case you’re confused at all and are thinking about something else entirely.)
I sat down to play Onechanbara Z2 Chaos with that breakdown in mind, and again, on paper, it fits the description. There are four characters to choose from: Kagura, the redhead on the cover, and her sister Saaya, the schoolgirl, who are both vampires with “Baneful Blood; and their sworn rivals/enemies/frienemies Aya, with the black cowboy hat, and her half-sister Saki who punches stuff, like, hard. Given the stage, you can control either two or all four of them interchangeably. Hot-swapping is encouraged, as each girl has her own life bar and stamina, making it smart in both saving power and increasing the combos to absurd numbers.
That’s sadly about as interesting as this game gets. The AI hordes are, from the first stage through the last, amazingly stupid. I could actually take a break behind a monster while another one watched me and nothing happened. Both refused to budge. I ran around a little, and still nothing. The bosses had their attack routines in place so they were always moving and attacking, but the run-of-the-mill baddies—which graced every single level no matter the location on Earth and looked exactly the same (c’mon, even a palette swap would’ve made a difference!)—were to strategy in the same way that a sea slug is to NASCAR.
By and large it looks fine, the main characters at least. A lot of care has been put into shadowing, uncomfortable-looking outfits and cowboy hats to make them presentable. The environments stand out in contrast since they look like bland, painted-on textures with no interesting design. And what makes this even worse is the stereotypical environments they’ve chosen to create. The first stage I chose was LA, because hell, I was there about a month ago and played this game’s demo there, and I was amazed at the utter lack of details. LA is known for smog, human-congestion, and traffic, none of which was on display. Instead, it was just an empty beach, a dock, and way too many parked cop cars and taxicabs.
Dubai was even worse. Dubai, home of some of the tallest, most garish-looking buildings ever constructed, was relegated to the most generic desert landscape I’ve ever seen… with the same batch of generic cop/army zombies, blonde bikini zombies, werewolves, and something that resembled a sand-swimming shark’s dorsal fin and a naked mole rat all traipsing around in the summer sand.
The bosses have more to them, but they’re still nothing interesting, with the sole exception of the baddie I cut in half and then had to kill its… legs. Attached to its ass. It hopped around, didn’t seem to attack at all, and yes, it bears repeating, was a pair of legs and an ass. I’ve already suspended my belief, but fighting an ass and werewolves in the desert? That much fur on a 130-plus degree day? That beast’s got heatstroke.
The combat is generic, which isn’t a point for or against it. Mash one button, occasionally mash the other button, and sometimes press the two buttons together. If you like jumping around to fight, which works well in a crowded hall, you might be as annoyed as I was at the jumping-dash mechanic that automatically happens when holding the jump button for more than about a quarter-second. It’s reminiscent of Lollipop Chainsaw in the basics, but LC did a bit more with special techniques and just… character. The two girls with swords, Kagura and Aya, play almost identically, while the other two are slower and, in Saaya’s case (with her chainsaw primary), more awkward. Even after they have attained their transformations into the odd near-naked grouping of werewolf-ish woman, a couple fairy/bug-looking people and Madam DePunchYouLots, they handle exactly the same with more power and speed.
After the campaign is over, there isn’t any reason to go back beyond working for a higher score. And with a game as short as this—15-or-so chapters with five selectable stages and a few others forced upon you—it’s only good for either “I sucked on that level, let me try again” or “Wanna see weird, inhuman-looking pixel-y boobs?” That doesn’t make for a great replay. There is one perk out of this—the story is constructed barely enough for cheeky one-liners between characters, but that's about it.
There’s not much to love here. I suppose the main character models are alright and the fighting is incredibly simplistic, but hey, I still sometimes fire up Dynasty Warriors so that’s not bad nor good. But the reason I haven’t talked about the characters themselves is that they’re simple stereotypes: two girls who dislike each other, the quiet innocent one, and the few-words-let’s-do-damage lolita. They don’t say anything worth remembering… outside of “quit twiddlin’ your tits," "stop dragging your tits," and well, you get the idea. With so many “story” sequences done in that comic-strip styling of Lollipop Chainsaw (which the more I talk about it, the more of what Onechanbara obviously strives to be), instead of showing any actual characters speaking to one another in a cutscene, I couldn’t find myself caring about what anyone in this entire game did. I’d seriously like to know just what they were thinking when they were dressing up for dangerous zombie-slaying world-saving.
If ever a game was made to put (mostly) buxom girls in bikinis and have them fight, this is the culmination of that. And hey, there’s a time and a place for such things (again, LC comes to mind). Otherwise, there are so many other, better, more fulfilling beat-’em-ups to dive into. Why bother with this one-trick pony?