You can say many things about Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad, but one thing you can’t say is that the game doesn’t know its audience. It’s easy to imagine the conversation that birthed the title:
“Hey Takeshi, what sort of things do you think 13-to-24-year-old males like in a game?”
“Well, they like scantily clad women.”
“Also, they like zombies.”
“They also like lots of blood and gore. Oh, and swords. But I guess some of them like guns too, so we’d better throw in some guns.”
“Great! Scantily clad women, zombies, lots of violence. We’re all done here – let’s grab some takeout!”
Unfortunately, beyond that, Onechanbara doesn’t offer much else at all. The game starts out by giving some clunky exposition, bringing players up to speed on the story thus far. It’s your standard B-movie drivel, with evil organizations and a mysterious hereditary power possessed by the game’s heroine sisters Aya and Saki, and then – Bam! – there are zombies. Go kill them.
Killing the aforementioned zombies is equally straightforward. Aya and Saki both use swords, while the game’s third character, Zombie Protection Force policewoman Annna – no, that’s not a typo – uses firearms. While each of the three characters ostensibly plays differently and has one or two unique abilities, the game could essentially be played by taping down the X button and then eating a sandwich as you move the characters around with your feet. Combat in Onechanbara frequently boils down to this: reach an area, have a fence come up preventing you from leaving said area, kill all the zombies in the area until they’re all dead or a key item drops, at which point the fence will disappear, letting you progress on to the next fence-enclosed area.
The game does have one unique spin on the combat. As Aya and Saki slaughter zombies, their swords will become gradually caked in blood, making the blades duller and harder to swing. Once the sword is completely bloodied, it will become stuck in enemies, rendering the girls temporarily helpless. Fortunately, cleaning the sword is as simple as a single button press.
Beyond the repetitious combat, Onechanbara feels entirely half-assed (or, full-assed, in the case of the opening cinematic). The game’s Dress-Up mode, beyond feeling slightly creepy, can’t be used unless you’ve unlocked outfits for the girls by completing Quests – sort of like a separate, internal set of Achievements. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t tell you what the criteria to unlock the Quests are until you’ve actually done it, making it a moot point. So unless you plan to immediately look up how to do the various Quests on the Internet, you’ll be left playing Onechanbara far longer than most people in their right mind would want to.
Earlier in the review, I compared Onechanbara to a B-movie, and that’s pretty much an apt comparison. No one can honestly say that Bikini Samurai Squad is a good game. Beyond the shallow gameplay and frustrating Quests, the presentation is deeply flawed: framerate issues plague even the cutscenes, and even the font that the game uses for its text is hard to read. There are loading screens everywhere you look – loading screens when you first start the game, loading screens before cutscenes, loading screens after cutscenes … Thankfully, there’s a little loading minigame that involves a tiny cartoon Aya whacking waves of equally tiny cartoon zombies. It’s strangely fun and … oddly adorable. Good thing, too, since you’ll be seeing it pretty damn often.
Like a B-movie, though, Onechanbara has its moments where it’s somehow enjoyable. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is – boobs, zombies, and gore – and if you can turn your brain off for a little while, you might well be able to enjoy the gallons of blood spattering across your screen. And then you might feel like taking a shower.
Bottom Line: Onechanbara can be mindlessly entertaining at times – but with shallow, repetitive gameplay and a horribly flawed presentation, if you’re expecting anything more than gore, breasts, and zombies, you’ll be let down.
Recommendation: Might be worth it if you really, really like zombies (and the wholesale slaughter of said zombies), but don’t give it more than a rental.