Who would have thought the Hack n’ Slash genre could get this sexy and chaotic? Straight from Japan we join two skimpily clad pair of sisters who try to put their differences (and boobs) aside as they battle hordes of the undead across the globe. Can they unite against a common enemy or will their squabbling prove too much? Read on to find out!
Game: Onechanbara Z2: Chaos
Publisher: NIS America
(Review code provided by publisher)
Onechanbara Z2 Chaos is the latest title in a long line of games from the Onechanbara series. The name Onechanbara is actually pronounced OneeChanbara, a play on the Japanese words Onee-chan (おねえちゃん) and Chanbara (チャンバラ) which roughly translates to sword fighting older sister/young woman. Now unless you are familiar with the series (which is unlikely as the last title in the series to reach western shores was back in 2009) do not expect the story to make any sense! The confusion is only made worse as Z2 is a sequel to the ‘Z Chapter’ in the series which never made it out of Japan. As a newcomer to the series myself, I had to do a little research into the plot history in order to understand what the hell was going on other than mindlessly slashing things up.
The story picks up right where OneeChanbara Z Kagura With NoNoNo! left off, a fight between the original protagonists of the series Aya and Saki and the new pair of sisters Kagura and Saaya. Aya and Saki descend from the Baneful Blood clan which utilise tainted blood whilst Kagura and Saaya come from a lineage of Vampirics, inhuman monsters that feed on blood. These two clans have been locked in war, fighting for supremacy until they unearthed a plot that provided them with a common enemy. This however does not mean they get on, with both pairs continuing to battle it out. Under command from Anna at the Z.P.F (Zombie Police Force) these four sisters must team up to tackle a new global threat from the undead, find the mastermind behind these new attacks and restore peace. Whilst this doesn’t seem too confusing at first, the lack of backstory provided for the characters and series history leaves you feeling a little bewildered and asking yourself ‘why?’. Not only that but by the time you reach the end of the game it is clear that this is only another small snippet and the story will continue into further titles which we may likely never see.
This confusion is somewhat uplifted thanks to the games soundtrack, which includes a variety of energising electro pop and rock tracks and a main theme with a beat that is rather catchy. A rather nice surprise was the dual audio, providing full English dub and the original Japanese voice actors which can sometimes be a rare inclusion for Japanese ports. One thing that bugged me however was when the English dub VA’s would sometimes shout random phrases in Japanese. This is not necessarily a bad thing but if I want to hear things in Japanese I would just play the game with the original VA’s from the off. The game also utilises the speaker on the controller, where intercom communications from Anna will come through. Whilst this is a little gimmicky it’s still a nice touch which provides a little immersion, just make sure the volume is right up or lowered on the TV so you can actually hear it!
When it comes to graphics, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos still clings to its B-movie exploitive roots. The OneChanbara series was one of the few popular titles from D3 Publishers Simple 2000 series, a series of low budget produced console games. It’s fair to say that the character models will gain the majority of your attention and not just for the titillation. It is clear to see that this is where much of the production time went in and not just on the girls but the undead too, with a variety of crazy designs and dismembered limbs running rampant. Sadly the same cannot be said for the locations, which are few in number and look more suited to the PlayStation 2 than current gen, with flat, unappealing textures and invisible walls that leave much to be desired. That being said, once the chaos of battle ensues there won’t be much to look at as the screen becomes engulfed with undead and their blood splattered all over the screen. Interestingly, as the story quickly develops narrative is often provided by VO and comic book panels. Sadly the graphics are certainly a let down, causing many
I wish I could say that the gameplay was masterfully planned out and required some expert combat tactics to make it through, sadly I cannot. Whilst it may provide some brief entertainment, sadly, briefly is all it is. There are 5 stages that you can complete in any order on top of the other unmarked locations you are automatically directed to. These locations are sparse, offering next to no exploration with linear direction. Not only that but you get locked into cordoned off areas with the undead, unable to leave until every last one is ‘dead’. This is not an easy task when they somehow get stuck outside the barriers or it turns into a game of hide and seek as they camouflage themselves in the edges of the map. Overall I managed to complete the game in well under 8 hours and I dare say that anyone with a spare 2-4 hours could complete the game in one sitting. Hack n’ Slash titles usually encompass a plethora of complex combos for you to pull off to gain maximum damage and style points, certainly in titles such as DMC. Onechanbara Z2: Chaos from the start however encourages you to button mash to see what results you get. It is sad to say that this technique often proves more fruitful than carefully executing combos, where hordes of undead are easily dispatched in a matter of minutes, only increasing in difficulty on harder modes which contain increasing numbers of undead, only taking slightly longer to rid. Each wave and mission provides you with a ranking that can be compared on a worldwide ranking for those of you that like to test your skills against others. This ranking is scored based on your damage, consecutive skills, item usage and cool combinations which is gained by perfectly timing your buttons which seems to come naturally even in button mashing.
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos allows you to toggle play between all 4 characters, all of which have their own play style and combinations. Aya makes use of a single sword whilst Kagura slashes away with twin blades. Saki is great as a melee combatant whilst Saaya is perfect for cleaving through enemies with a rather large chainsaw. Each character can also make use of long range weapons and also have unique set of ecstasy combinations. Ecstasy combinations are activated by filling a gauge by the use of combinations then pressing the triangle and circle buttons together to produce more devastating attacks. During your relentless assaults on the undead it is important to keep your eye on the stain gauge, represented by your weapon on the left side of the screen. As you cleave away your weapons are drenched in blood, becoming slower and less damaging and require you to shake it off to reverse the effect. Besides their basic and individual attacks, these girls have more tricks up their (sometimes non existent) sleeves. This is where the touchpad comes into play. When the word ‘ready’ appears under the character portraits, a tap of the touchpad will unleash a cross merge combination where up to all 4 characters come into play at one time to create glorious carnage! Another use for the touchpad comes into play during boss battles. Once worn down, you can press square and X together when prompted. which allows you to sit back and perform a series of special movements by swiping the pad in the direction of the blue arrow on screen. These small cinematic sequences are a quirky use of the PlayStation 4 features, though sadly it took me quite a while to figure this out, frantically pushing buttons before the screen crumbled as it was not explained in game. (I have saved you this trouble, you are welcome!) This raises an important point that instruction manuals should be read, as another instance proved. As mentioned before ecstacy combinations can be performed and new ones can also be unlocked, however it was not made clear how to switch between them. Upon reading the e-manual a simple press left or right will switch between the 3 icons above your health bar.
Moving on to the health bar, you may notice the outside gradually turn red, this is your Stain Gauge. Each character possesses powerful transformations besides going berserk, which are sure to help you out in a pinch. Banefuls have access to Xtatic and Vampirics have the Dare Drive, a reaction to blood exposure. Once transformed, besides a hot new look, your speed and damage increase along with being able to hand more damage to those less responsive to basic attacks such as Mudmen. This mode however slowly diminishes your vitality gauge that can only be recovered using special items. As you defeat enemies or smash up your environment you will gather Yellow Orbs. These orbs work as in game currency which can be redeemed via Goddess Statues located throughout the stages. New combos can be purchased here whilst also upgrading current ones. New equipment can be purchased but no stats are shown going on the premise that these new weapons are obviously better than what you had before. Accessories that boost your offensive and defensive powers are available, along with items to replenish health or reduce and boost your stain gauge.
Now you may be wondering where the all important character customisation comes in besides the equipment. Yes I’m talking about costumes! Onechanbara Z2 Chaos offers quests which can be achieved throughout gameplay. These range from utilising specific attacks and techniques to interacting with statues. Once a quest has been completed, you will unlock new items to coordinate with. Now if you find these ladies are revealing too much skin there are options to cover them up in more decent attire. Of course the opposite goes too, where clothes are virtually non-existent but replaced with a mere piece of string, paint or DLC which includes provocative strawberries and bananas! Other than customisation, as you complete quests you can also unlock music tracks, harder game modes and illustrations including some concept art.
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos had the beginnings of a great game but sadly falls incredibly short. With the out of date visuals, it is not what you would to expect from a PS4 title, not to mention the storyline, which is so hard to grasp. Whilst it can be understood that not every game arrive in the the west, when it comes to a series where each title contributes to the greater whole, releasing the odd one makes little sense and alienates the audience. As a sequel, it makes little sense as to why the previous two titles in the ‘Chapter Z’ segment previously unreleased in the west could at least not be bundled in to create one game. The lack of narrative and sparse, linear gameplay leaves you feeling like you’ve missed something and the short duration makes you think “oh, is that it?” at the end. The combat is shamefully easy once the controls are figured out, with no real sense of a challenge other than shear numbers. It does offer some re-playability thanks to quests requiring you to complete it a number of times or to unlock new outfits and maintain your leaderboard ranking, however the length of the game itself means even this wont hold your attention for long. If the series could evolve from its Simple 2000 roots it could be a great series like DMC. Sadly there are still many kinks that need to be ironed out.