Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad Review

On paper, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad sounds like an adolescent male's fantasy come true. Hot, scantily clad women? Check. Over-the-top blood and violence? Check. And they're cutting down ZOMBIES with those swords!? That perfect combo should have an adolescent male twitching on the floor like after an overdose of Mountain Dew and Pixie Stix. On paper, is unfortunately as close as this sticky cheese-fest can get to perfection.

Bikini Samurai Squad tells the story of two sisters, Aya and Saki, who have cursed blood, known as Baneful Blood, running through their veins. This special blood gives them superhuman strength, agility, and power, which is why a shady organization wants to capture them and use the Baneful Blood in experiments to increase their own power. How can they do this, you ask? They draw out the girls by unleashing a flood of zombies on their home town, of course! As you can tell by now, the story makes almost no sense, and the writing is a complete joke. Remember that kid in junior high who insisted everyone listen to the stories he/she wrote, who insisted their fiction was epic, when it was truly abysmal? That's the caliber of writing on display here... I simply cannot recall more poorly done or cheesy dialogue, and I've workshopped a lot of junior high fiction in my day, thank you.

Someone should speak to Aya about her battle attire...

The action will be instantly familiar to hack-'n-slash fans, as players run around and cleave their way through legions of brain-dead enemies. Saki and Aya are both melee characters, with slightly different sword styles, while Annna (yes, there really are three n's) shoots foes with pistols, a shotgun, or an Uzi. The sword sisters are easy to control, but there is little depth in their combat, with the action mostly boiling down to spamming the X button for eternity. As they kill more enemies, blood builds up on their swords, making them less effective against the undead, to the point that a fully bloodied sword will get stuck in zombie bodies. A simple press of the left bumper will clear the blood away, allowing the mindless slashing to continue. Blood build-up on the sisters can also cause them to go berserk. In berserk mode, they deal much more damage, but their health gradually drains away. Annna's controls, on the other hand, are borderline broken. Without locking on to enemies, Annna is nearly impossible to use, as she stupidly fires straight ahead. While the lock-on system drastically improves her utility, there is no way to choose specifically which enemy she'll target, or switch targeted enemies without canceling the lock-on, which means blindly blasting away is more practical than selecting targets.

Besides the main twenty-level story mode, there's also a practice mode to work on improving button-mashing skills, and a survival mode, which pits players against wave after wave of zombie enemies. Survival mode works as a series of 56 waves, with more and more enemies per wave coming the deeper players get into the mode, with rematches of the story's boss fights every few waves. Once all 56 waves have been cleared, players graduate to the next difficulty level, and the cycle starts over. With five total difficulties, that would make for 280 total waves, which likely take eight or more hours to complete. Thankfully, you can save and quit, then resume at a later time. There's pretty decent enemy and spawn-point variety between the waves too, which keeps things interesting for much longer. If you do enjoy mindless hacking and slashing, survival mode is the game's premium feature, and the best way to level up characters, so I can't complain about this mode.

If dicing up the undead gets to be too much, there's a "Dress Up" mode (or, for most of you, "Undress Mode"), which allows players to take the edge off and unleash their inner nerd by changing what the ladies wear, as well as their hair and eye color. This is probably the first and last time men will ever be seen accessorizing anything. Sex sells, and I'm sure the ability to make already scantily clad women even more so will appeal to a segment of the gaming population with a penchant for pixelated princesses. These changes are purely cosmetic, as none of the clothing items provide stat bonuses or have any impact on gameplay.

Saki stares down the brainless undead.

Public enemy number one to confront while playing this game is its camera, which is horrible until you get used to it, at which point it graduates to really bad. The camera is stiff and extremely slow to respond to player input if you try to move it around manually, meaning it's often better to turn your character around and click the right thumbstick button to re-center the camera than try to pan the view. Locking on to an enemy is another way to quickly refocus the camera when needed. Still, I found myself frequently hacking away at enemies I couldn't see based on the red dots that showed up on the radar. The camera's tendency to jump around in enclosed spaces is also troubling.

Loading screens appear far too often and last too long. There are load screens when starting the game, loads when starting up levels, loads within story mode levels, loads between waves of survival mode... there are loads for everything. Nothing breaks up the action more than waiting to get to the next area, and even installing the game to the xbox's hard drive makes little difference. Wait times are so bad, the developers added a cheesy cartoon zombie killing mini-game to loading screens to help pass the time. Instead of investing the time to make a loading screen minigame, perhaps they could have worked out a way to reduce load times... it's a crazy idea, I know.

Graphically, this game is hideous. The girls look more plastic than Pamela Anderson, with light reflecting off their skin like they've been pre-oiled for some zombie slaying. No, that isn't a good thing. Annna's strafing while locked on to enemies looks patently unnatural, and breast jiggling (yes I just wrote that) looks like something from another universe, where our laws of gravity and physics clearly don't apply. The enemies, environments, and blood effects all look like they came from a PS2 game. Sure, the game was originally released in Japan in 2006, but even then it would not have made a good impression. The music is of the cheesy up-beat style this game merits, but there isn't much of it, and with lackluster sound effects thrown into the mix, it won't be long until custom soundtracks replace the game's own audio.

Mmmmm... Bottom dollar blood effects...

There's actually more variety in the achievements list than the titles and descriptions suggest. Each of the quest achievements involve completing various objectives three different times, such as killing bosses quickly, killing tons of zombies in a single story stage, and more. Most of these are reasonably easy to obtain, but a couple are quite hard. Since completing these achievements unlock costumes for each character; the three achievements for collecting all of the accessories for each girl are almost, but not quite, terrible "unlock every achievement" achievements. Onechanbara requires at least four playthroughs to complete, as each difficulty has to be completed before the next hardest one becomes available. The majority of these points can be earned by anyone with patience, but it'll take some skill to get the full 1,000.

The "story" can be completed in under five hours per difficulty, and a fair amount of that time is spent backtracking through areas previously visited, in the time-honored gaming tradition of chasing after one key, then another, and another, in order to make any progress. There simply isn't much content here. While survival mode is a nice addition, this game has little going for it. The game's instruction manual and in-game tips are practically useless, so expect to be searching the internet for information if you need it. Hardcore hack-'n-slash fans will probably still have fun with this (I managed to), but for everyone else, I cannot recommend Onechanbara.

When you can hear it, the music is of the cheesy and peppy variety that a game like this merits, but custom soundtracks are the better alternative to this game's audio.

The ladies look more like plastic toys than people, and the low level of detail here and general blurriness make this game look like it belongs on a PS2.

The camera is garbage, the targeting system does not allow players to select targets, and load screens pop up constantly. Players who need help learning about the game won't get much from the instruction book or the in-game tips.

Survival mode is fun if you're into mindless slashing, but the story itself lasts under five hours, and a lot of that is spent backtracking, and hunting down a key to open the next door. The story here is a farce, and the gameplay is of the kind we would have expected from early PS2 titles.

There's fair variety in the quest achievements, but having to do each objective three times is a bit of a drag, and nobody should have to sit through this game four times for all their points. The achievements for collecting all the accessories for each character are practically "get every achievement" achievements... I'll pass.

The concept of scantily clad babes cutting down zombies with swords may appeal to some, but its gameplay and delivery are flawed in so many ways that only the most hardcore hack-'n-slash fans will have any fun here.

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