There comes a point in each console generation where one system becomes the go-to platform for any game that gets made. Sure, all the systems will get the big-budget titles, but there’s usually a system that’s ahead of the pack enough that it becomes the default for anything else. The Playstation 2 was this system back in its day, and the Wii took on the crown during its time at the top. Now, with the shape of the current generation finally becoming clear, that system will be the Playstation 4.
Back in the Playstation 2 era, the best signifier of this was perhaps D3 Publisher’s Simple 2000 series, a successor to an earlier series on the original Playstation. These were generally cheap and cheerful games that the company sold for 2000 yen. Quality-wise, they ranged from unplayable to actually pretty decent and fun. Sometimes they’d pick up solid ports of arcade titles (such as Double Shienryu), while other times they brought completely weird concepts to life (The Maid Clothes and Machine Gun, The Daibijin). Only a few games ever made it out to the West, and of those, only a few became good enough to earn the title of ‘cult classic’. One of these was Simple 2000 Vol. 61: The Onechanbara, which made it to our shores thanks to 505 Gamestreet (who also brought out The Daibijin under the title Demolition Girl) as the PS2 title Zombie Zone.
The Onechanbara is a pretty good example of what most Simple 2000 titles were like – flawed but enjoyable, with a healthy dose of Japanese craziness. The idea is to play as one of two bikini clad young ladies who’s goal it is to slaughter as many undead minions as possible. It was simple, surprisingly fun and a little bit exploitative, like the video game equivalent of a B-movie.
It also became extremely successful and developed something of a cult following in the West. This allowed it to get an updated remake (Simple 2000 Vol. 80: The Onechanpuru), a PS2 sequel (Simple 2000 Vol. 90: The Onechanbara 2, which also got an update as Simple 2000 Vol 101: The Onechanpon), sequels on the Wii and Xbox 360 (Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Squad and Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers), A PSP game (Onechanbara Special), another Xbox 360 sequel (Onechanbara Z Kagura), which also turned up on the PS3, and, finally, the game we’re looking at here, Onechanbara Z2 Chaos. (There is even a live-action Onechanbara movie that’s about as so-bad-its-good as you’d expect.)
It’s a lot of history for a series that can be summarised as “bikini-clad girls slice up zombies with samurai swords”. Especially considering that, for the most part, there isn’t a lot else to them. The early games were marred by somewhat clunky combat and a diabolical camera. This improved from title to title to a point where the games could, at the least, be considered fun to play.
Onechanbara Z2 Chaos is the best Onechanbara game that I’ve played. The combat is far more fluid and responsive, and it actually ends up offering a lot of mobility around the battlefields. It’s surprisingly satisfying to build up big damage combos and high scores, and the game’s scoring system is set up to encourage players to exploit it. There’s still the odd quirks that the series has had from the beginning, like needing to clean all the blood off your weapon, but overall it feels much more polished and complete than previous entries.
There are still serious flaws, however. Often, during fights, every enemy will appear to be dead, save for maybe one that’s spawned right at the edge of the combat area that you then need to track down and finish off to continue on. Perhaps the biggest flaw, however, is that it’s too easy to take damage without realising it. Your characters very rarely recoil or get hit stunned, and while you can dodge attacks, this isn’t useful when you’re in the middle of a huge crowd of enemies and can’t easily tell which enemy is hitting you.
Boss fights have a tendency to drag on, with bosses having huge amounts of health and often multiple phases. There’s usually moments during these fights where you can trigger a quicktime event that will result in some section of the boss being violently detached. Interestingly, these events often involve swipes on the Dualshock 4’s touchpad.
Beyond the combat and the boss fights, there isn’t much else to the levels. Every stage is short and linear, and there’s not a lot of secrets or side areas to find. There’s a shop that allows upgrading and purchasing of skills and abilities, new weapons, recovery and buff items and rings that offer statistical enhancements or special abilities like making combos easier to achieve. The game also has a huge number of costumes and cosmetic items to unlock (and there’s also some available as paid DLC).
The Onechanbara series has always revelled in its crassness and ridiculousness. It isn’t ashamed of the fact that it’s basically putting scantily clad women in the midst of a zombie apocalypse for, essentially, the titillation of the people who play it. There’s no well-rounded female characters or role models for young girls to look up to here. The cast (which is exclusively female) are all actually pretty unlikeable, and often bicker and insult each other as the game progresses. You can even hear the bickering in the original Japanese or an absolutely abysmal English dub.
Onechanbara Z2 Chaos delivers pretty much everything that the series has always promised. It’s not going to get high critical praise or game of the year awards. This is a crass, exploitative and simple game that appeals almost exclusively to people who either already like the Onechanbara games, or just have a love of things that fall into that awkward category of so-bad-its-good. If that sounds like you, then go and check it out.
A vast improvement over previous Onechanbara titles
Actually pretty fun combat
Still some clunky rough edges
Shamelessly crass and exploitative, not for everyone