Release Date: February 10, 2009
Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers is a game that's pretty much all about fan service, plain and simple. Think of it as Dead or Alive mixed with Dead Rising, and you might have a somewhat decent idea of what this title is all about.
As the game name implies, there's a lot of zombie-killing going on here, and not much in the way of clothes associated with it. There are two characters to pick from, sisters, with one being decked out in the titular bikini outfit, while the other goes for a somewhat more conservative schoolgirl outfit. There's even a story involved, believe it or not, of these two sisters trying to track down the source of this zombie outbreak, and how it's tied into their ancestors, but it's hardly a major selling point of the game. If you have any interest in Onechanbara, you just need to be rest assured that the gameplay is actually fun, if ultimately a bit repetitive.
The game is based on a series that hasn't really seen the light of day until now, between this release and the Xbox 360 title, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad. There have been a few more games based on the Simple 2000 series of titles that were released in Japan, mostly on the PS2. Those are all budget titles, some of which have garnered a sizeable fan following, and another popular series has also sprung from these games: the Earth Defense Force titles, which have seen a couple of releases in the U.S.
If you want something easy to compare the gameplay to, think of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. It's not exactly like that, but there are a lot of on-screen enemies for you to lay waste to, and they don't move around a whole lot, other than to get hacked apart by your swords or other bladed weapons. As you run through each level, you'll slowly build up a counter based on the amount of blood you spill (or get on yourself, really), which will in turn unlock a rage mode that lets you dole out the violence a little faster and with a bit more finesse. It's hardly something that you'll find necessary, though, aside from a few boss fights.
The stages do not play out in Dynasty Warriors fashion because they're pretty linear affairs that take you from point A to point B; the objectives won't change, and you won't see additional missions crop up. A few levels culminate in boss fights, which are really just larger versions of the zombies that you've taken on throughout the levels, only with minor variations. However, just as many levels end with nothing other than you reaching your goal and watching the next cut scene unravel.
Combat is performed by primarily shaking the Wiimote to emit different slashes with your sword. There's no attempt at doing something with a one-to-one ratio, though, so don't expect to see your movements mimicked on-screen. The combat reminds me of the lightsaber combat from The Force Unleashed on the Wii, minus the different combos you could perform in that game. While it is fun to mindlessly hack away at the various zombies the game provides you with (even those are repeated a little too much), it would have been nice to see a little variety, or even some type of bonus represented by a fleshed-out combo system. As it stands, though, the fighting in Onechanbara is pretty basic stuff, and there's not nearly enough variety to keep the game interesting, even though the quest clocks in a fewer than 10 hours.
The same could be said of the visuals, and while I understand that this is a budget action title, it's not really doing the Wii any favors. The visuals are straight out of something you'd see on the PS2, and while it performs well enough with multiple enemies on-screen, I ran into enough issues with the frame rate to make the experience somewhat frustrating in the end. Along with that, the environments in which you fight feel a little too similar, and there's not nearly enough variety among the enemies, so you'll really feel like you're going up against the same cookie-cutter stable of zombies in each stage you encounter, which doesn't help the overall design of the game.
The music, likewise, is pretty bland and largely forgettable. I will give the developers credit, even if it was most likely a money-saving move, that they didn't bother trying to spruce up the game with English voice actors. All of the original Japanese voice acting is intact, with English subtitles, so purists will be pretty happy. The only thing you're really treated to is a single image screen with scrolling text that's voiced, so don't expect much from it.
Bikini Zombie Slayers supports local co-op, which is definitely a nice feature to have here, and while I'd love to see some online support, I can't say that I really expected it out of this title. Local support works well enough, and while there are only two players to select from, they both handle in nearly identical ways. Along with the basic single-player story mode, there's a survival mode that just tosses wave after wave of zombies at you, and then a basic Freeplay mode that allows you to go wild with your zombie-slaying. The game also features a limited "achievement" system to give you some specific goals, something that's nice to have in the Freeplay mode. Both of these modes offer up co-op as well, so you and a friend can go at it with every game mode that Onechanbara offers up.
Going into Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, you need to have a basic idea of what to expect. The game is priced at $30 for a reason, and these titles are rarely going to compete with top-tier action titles like Devil May Cry, God of War and Ninja Gaiden. They're meant to be low-key affairs, with character designs that are simple fan service attempts designed to draw in a particular type of gamer, and while it seems that the Japanese gaming populace is a bit more accepting of these design decisions, there's no reason Onechanbara can't find a niche market in the U.S., like it has over there. Don't go into the game with high expectations, and you won't be too disappointed. The game has its fair share of flaws, a lot of which I've pointed out in this review, but it's still fun to sit down and waste a few hours with it, and that's exactly what I got out of it.
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