The premise for Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is incredibly simple: sexy, bikini-clad girls slaughter a huge number of zombies. The game, from D3 publishers, is exclusively for the Xbox 360, and was released in conjunction with Bikini Zombie Slayers on the Wii. The gameplay, while diverting at times, is exactly what your low expectations would predict, if not worse.
Through a series of text expositions accompanied by Japanese voice-overs, and very few cut-scenes, you piece together the pretty straightforward story: the protagonists-a mostly naked woman, Aya, and her little sister, Saki-possess a special kind of blood, Baneful Blood, that an organization, called The Organization, wants because it gives people superpowers. The best way to go about getting this blood, apparently, is to fill the city with zombies.
Feb. 10, 2009
See also: E3 Coverage
Of course, you don’t really care why there is zombie slaying, you just want to get to it, and while the game may be seriously lacking in many areas, zombie killing is not one of them. There is something immensely satisfying in simply pressing a few buttons and watching a legion of undead literally torn to shreds in front of you. Even more so when it’s done by a bikini-clad supermodel assassin. There are times in this game when the hallways in front of you are literally crammed full of shotgun-toting undead, a few of which may be on fire, and you just tear through them with grace, ease, and a little unrealistic bouncing.
Aya and Saki both wield samurai swords, which easily slice through the endless waves of zombie assailants, though a “clean sword” function does mean that you have to pay some attention to what you’re doing. An unclean sword deals less damage, and can get even get stuck in a zombie torso, so every dozen kills or so, you essentially have to reload your sword. There are combo modifiers, which allow you to release wide-range “ecstasy attacks” after a certain number of kills in a row, or send you into rampage mode, which increases damage, but depletes life. A third playable character is Anna, the blond, also-scantily-clad police officer, who uses hand guns, shotguns, Uzis and grenades for a little welcome variation.
Typically in the single player campaign, two of the three characters are available to the player per level, and tag out in the middle of a fight. This allows for some minimal strategizing: Anna is better at ranged attacks, for example, but you’ll want a sword for close-quarters combat.
And yes, because I know you’re wondering, you can dress them up. Or down. There are “dress up” and “view” modes on the main menu, so you can play around with and ogle your characters’ costumes. However, new costume options are only available after specific achievements are unlocked, so costume alteration is really geared towards the more serious bikini-genre gamers out there.
An added little bonus is the charming 8-bit quality mini-game that pops up during the load screens, in which you play a tiny bikini samurai and can slaughter adorable little zombies that make sounds like chickens when they die.
Beyond that, though, the game kind of falls apart.
The zombies are many, and their designs and weapons more varied than I was honestly expecting (some zombies have hand saws, some have miniguns), but there’s never anything to them that really forces you to alter your strategy, not that you could if you wanted to. Sure, there are a few variations on the standard sword slash, like you can slash standing up, or slash while jumping, or…the others will come to me, but the game is lacking a few notable functions like, for example, a way to defend yourself.
There is no actual way to block any incoming attack other than not being in its way to begin with. The only way to stave off potential damage is to kill everything in sight before it has a chance to move. A good offense is the only defense. It’s less of a problem with the slow, dumb zombies, but in the boss battles, of which there are many, you can get frequently trapped in a seemingly endless enemy combo with no way to escape taking damage.
The co-op mode does take the intense edge off of the boss battles, and allows for communal sharing in the glee that is zombie massacre, but is not without its problems. The game is clearly meant to be a single player experience, and having a second player on hand doesn’t compliment the gameplay so much as just cut the fun in half. The screen splits vertically, rather than the now traditional horizontal, which allows for a full view of the lovely protagonists, but severely limits the range of vision for people actually trying to find zombies to kill.
Furthermore, there are levels where co-op just isn’t an option. Occasionally, in the story, the protagonists are separated from each other, and you can only play through the ensuing levels as one or the other character. In single player mode, this is motivation to diversify the usage of your characters to keep their levels up, but in co-op it is an abrupt end to the fun for whoever is player two. The story is nowhere near good enough to warrant the sacrifice in gameplay.
A further quick list of grievances includes:
The eccentric targeting system, which is really only necessary when using Anna, targets less what the camera is centered on and more whatever the hell it feels like.
Rampage mode, which depletes your life and can only be turned off by, and I’m not kidding, statues of the Virgin Mary, of which there are only three in the entire game. The only other way to avoid dying once in rampage mode is to finish whatever level you are currently playing.
The level maps almost seem intentionally confusing, with many paths leading to dead ends or other whole map sections irrelevant to progressing through the level, with no indication of what direction you should be going. You signed up to kill zombies, not to get lost in a sewer. To make matters worse, several levels are played on the same map.
The motorcycle level, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is possibly the least involved video game level ever conceived. Aya hops on a motorcycle and drives in a straight line for a couple hundred feet, slashing at a some zombies wolves while in transit. ‚ The only thing necessary to pass the level is to hold the “go” button and mash the “sword” button. You don’t even need to use the joystick. Pong is a more stimulating game, for heaven’s sake.
To be fair, nobody expected a lot from any game called Bikini Samurai Squad, and nitpicking isn’t going to help anything. While this veritable cavalcade of glitches makes for frustrating gameplay at times, it ultimately doesn’t impede the amount of zombies, blood, or bikinis. However, the $39.99 asking price is still too much for the shoddy gaming experience. Onechanbara isn’t something you want hanging out in your gamer library, corrupting the innocence of your more impressionable games, but it might be fun for a night of drunken gaming if you have Gamefly or see it in a bargain bin somewhere.