ONECHANBARA Z2: CHAOS
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on August 24, 2015
During our time at GamesCom 2015, we visited the booth of NIS America and saw all kinds of cool games, filled with wondrous stories, cool graphics, unusual gameplay and women with huge…ehm… personalities. One of these games is positively bursting with aforementioned personalities, so I thought I might take a closer look. The game I'm talking about is Onechanbara Z2: Chaos. With its European release coming up on August 28, it is about time we got hands on with this game!
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is the latest installment in the Oneechanbara series, a horror oriented hack and slash game series, originally launched for the PS2 back in 2004. Or, as developer Tamsoft calls it: "the newest title in a long-running series of B-movie zombie-slaying bikini vampire opuses", which I personally think describes this game perfectly. Onechanbara Z2: Chaos features sexy Vampire sisters Kagura and Saaya, who are forced to combine their skills with their sworn enemies, the Baneful (assassins) sisters Aya and Saki in order to battle against hordes of zombies that are taking over the planet. This causes, as you might expect, a fairly uneasy alliance. I mean come on, I like women. No really, I do! But I don't know any four women that could agree on something, especially if they were sworn enemies! But hey, it’s for the greater good, so they put aside their differences (somewhat) and unite against the common enemy!
In order to fight off the invading undead, you can make use of your katana, chainsaw, dual blades or other weapons the girls have in their arsenal. Your objective is to reduce your enemies to tiny bloodied pieces. Happily hacking away, you will send limbs and blood flying all over the place, all in gruesome detail. And because you have cool physical attacks, acrobatic maneuvers, go berserk and occasionally transform into a demon, there are tons of moves and abilities at your disposal. Every character of your so-called ‘Bikini Zombie Squad’ has its own unique abilities, upgrades and weapons.
A very cool feature in this game is the tag-team mechanic. When you start the game, you take turns between playing as Kagura and Aya, or as Saaya and Saki. You can switch freely between the two (and later four) characters at any time you like. So when the character you are currently playing is low on health or doesn't have the attack you need to quickly decimate the enemies at hand, you simply switch to the other character. During the game, a gauge will fill up for each of the girls available in that particular level. When this gauge is full, they'll notify you that they're ready to join in the fight. With the press of a button, the other three girls, or at least the ones that are available and ready, jump into the fray to help you out. This mechanic makes for excellent tag-team gameplay, or even tag-team combos and moves. Because switching between characters is really easy, you'll be doing this a lot. And because each girl in our lovely quartet has her own unique attacks and powers, this tag-team feature lets you adapt to any given situation, especially later on, when all four girls are reunited and continue their journey together.
The character models are very detailed and truly well-made; each girl has her own personal style and appearance to match her personality. The enemies look cool and splatter nicely when you take them apart. The boss characters are all very imaginatively created and present a more than decent challenge for your Bikini Zombie Squad to overcome. The environments generally look good, albeit a bit dated. But then again, when your screen is filled with fast paced, blood-drenched hack and slash action, not to mention scantily clad girls, who's looking at the environment?! Yes, I know the level design could have been a bit more detailed and up-to-date, but it's not a game breaker by any means. Onechanbara Z2: Chaos focuses heavily on its relentless hack and slash action and its protagonists' sex appeal, and it never, I repeat, never drops the ball on either of these fronts. If you manage to get your hands on the 'Banana Split Edition', every bit of shame the game still has goes right out the window all together. In this edition, the girls' costumes are replaced by a few strategically placed pieces of fruit; a banana and two tiny strawberries 'cover up' the parts of the female anatomy one usually doesn't show in public. I have personally not played this edition, but I don't think the game gets any better because of a tiny fruit cocktail. But hey, if that's your thing, just go for it!
One could say that Onechanbara Z2: Chaos can be compared to a game like Bayonetta. And while this is certainly true, I cannot help but notice that Onechanbara probably didn't have quite the budget that Bayonetta had. You may see a really cool hall, lined with pillars, but try to walk between two such pillars and you'll quickly discover they put an invisible wall there. So every level you visit is basically a series of hallways or a small or large arena-like space with a number of invisible boundaries that limit you somewhat as to where you can go within the environment. It doesn't make the game less cool, it is just something we've come to expect from older games, but aren't used to seeing anymore in today's market. Also, the camera seems to have a mind of its own at times, and doesn't always seem to understand where it is supposed to go, taking the view away from the battle after a strike. This, however is something you get used to fairly quickly and can adapt to by using a dash backwards to get right back into the limb-severing action.
Cutscenes in Onechanbara are sometimes animated, and sometimes presented as a kind of comic book. This is a combination of different styles I can absolutely get behind, although the voice acting may sometimes sound unnatural and over the top. Now, I'm not saying it's excruciatingly bad. It's just that, at times, you get the feeling the character's heart just isn't into what she's saying. And by the sound of it, all four girls must REALLY enjoy just running around. But on the other hand, seeing as how Onechanbara is a Japanese game, unnatural and over the top is just what we've come to expect and cherish. And a little sexual innuendo never killed anyone! (at least, not that I know of)
So is Onechanbara Z2: Chaos a good game? In short: Hell yeah! Is it a game without flaws? No it isn't. But hey, am I a man without flaws? Well, I sure like to think so, but I'm fairly certain no one would agree with me. Nevertheless, for some people I can be quite fun to be around, the same way that Onechanbara is really enjoyable and fun to play if this type of game is your cup of sake. Visually, it looks cool. It may not be the best looking game in the world, but the colorful graphics and cool effects make it really fun to watch and play. And let's face it, the girls' appearances don't hurt the game either... The controls are pretty straight forward and get the job done. The fact that you can have all four girls taking part in a battle and are able to switch freely between them mid-fight, is a game mechanic I really like. The soundtrack to the game is filled with catchy tunes that enhance the on-screen chaos, and is generally very, very good. I would even go so far as to say that I would like to listen to it, even when not playing the game.
Granted, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos might have a few minor issues, but the sheer fun that is to be had when playing this game far outweighs them and makes it a really cool and enjoyable game to play. So bring on the undead, my Bikini Zombie Squad is ready to rock 'n roll!