Onechanbara Z2: Chaos PS4 Review
Hey! Hang on a minute! Don’t just turn away after clicking the title. You clicked it, so you might as well stay around and see what I have to say on Onechanbara Z2: Chaos, the latest in a series of video games that involves a main female character dressed in a bikini. You would think she is ready to hit the beach and get a tan, but that is not the case with the Onechanbara series, which pits the bikini lady against hordes of the undead, as she pummels them into showers of blood and gore. This is pure B-movie entertainment, stuff that will probably entertain anyone who enjoyed the likes of Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl and Versus – those crazy over the top bloodbath action films that have a crap plot, but somehow manage to bring some fun to the viewing. Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is a similar experience, and while the Wii game, Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, was a poor game with monotonous action, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos brings some actual worthwhile improvements that ascends it above its poor predecessors.
It is probably expected that a game with such a simple premise as ladies dressed in bikinis is going to have a ridiculous story, and it’s true. The game begins with Kagura and Saaya from the Vampiric clan and Aya and Saki from the Baneful Blood clan continuing their kins ancient feud by battling one another. As the hunters duel, an unexpected guests arrives and breaks up the fight by smashing the ground and causing the heroines to fall into the caverns below. Due to splitting up with their sisters, the ladies decide that working together is for the best to flush out those who attacked them, in turn putting peace to the centuries old battle between the clans. While not exactly becoming best of friends, the protagonists do end up having a amusing relationship during the game’s story by having a dig at each other through jokes and sarcastic comments. Kagura is the big loud mouth who loves taking pot-shots at Aya, while the two other sisters are more level headed in their speaking.
The dialogue is cheesy to bring cheap laughs, but it adds a layer of smirking chuckles while you give a beat down to the zombies. I’m surprised that this western release came with English dubbing, as being part of D3’s publication in Japan, a company that delivers plenty of budget titles, I would have thought sticking with a Japanese only option would have been a given to save cash, but it was nice of the English publishers to add it in, as the translation brings some of that campiness to the otherwise gibberish plot. Apart from the start and end sections, the story is throwaway nonsense about travelling the world as part of a special task force (Z.P.F aka Zombie Prevention Force) to put a stop to the undead attacks. It’s clear that the focus of Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is not the story, but the high octane action that surprised me with its competence after my dire experience with the last game.
In the beginning, the first taste of the action makes Onechanbara Z2: Chaos feel similar to a Dynasty Warriors game, due to the blend of brain dead enemies (That originally wasn’t a pun, seriously) and their inability to attack in any worthy manner. They are cannon fodder for the player to slice and dice with light and heavy attack buttons. You can mash the light attack (square) to produce simple light combos, or do the same with the heavy button (triangle) to perform more damaging combos, splitting zombies in half, but animating slower to counterbalance the high damage. A third button (circle) activates a sub-weapon, while X is the jump button.
You can get away button smashing between square and triangle to eviscerate enemies, it works on most difficulty settings for fodder enemies, but a new mechanic for the series, dubbed COOL Combo Attack, offers people who learn the timings of the combo chains to hit the button at the specific time to activate the state. This causes a blue aura to appear around the hands of the player character, adding stronger and faster attacks, and if you manage to correctly time each hit in the combo chain, then a special finishing move will unleash at the end. Finishing a COOL Combo Attack will also clean the character’s blade from its blood coating, which skips the need to find a quiet space to clean slowly with L1.
There are a lot of systems built on top of what has been explained so far to add more depth. One extremely fun mechanic is the ability to switch characters on the fly. Normally a mission will either include all four characters or at least a minimum of two. Up and down on the d-pad switches between the characters, and because each character has their own health bar, it is, in essence, an extra life to play with. Damaged characters have a chance to recover health if switched out, refilling a recovery portion that makes up a percentage of the damage lost. Characters can also be switched mid combo, but it is usually best to perform the switch at the end of the combo chain, as doing so nets more damage and combo extensions. Any character that isn’t in use slowly builds up a metre that once filled will flash “I’m ready” next to their name. This means that the character can be called out by pressing down the touch pad, allowing the computer to bring in the character to fight alongside you. I found it best wait until all three characters were ready for action, then release them and watch the fountains of blood unfold. What is interesting is that the assisting characters copy what you do, so in reality you are controlling all four, similar to the cherries in Super Mario 3D World. It’s messy, but it does cause for some wonderful chaos.
Metre representation is one thing Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is not short of using. There are metres for health, special moves, where a bar charges up while fighting, but depletes when out of battle, so it’s best to cast the ability before it’s lost. Another metre fills up around the health to represent how much blood the heroine is covered in, and once filled can perform a transformation, a la Devil Trigger from Devil May Cry, by clicking down both sticks to engaged this overpowering ability. Blood also causes trouble for weapons that have acquired too much, where cleaning is required to give the weapon its sharpness back or risk the chance of causing no damage when the weapon is drenched. The game makes it easy for you to get around to the fighting, such as the implementation of holding jump, which launches the character in the facing direction, scooping up enemies from the ground into the air for a quick combo – great for clearing a room of throwaway bad guys – and you can also cancel any move into a dash to escape danger or extend combinations.
While the game might be a budget title, Tamsoft has certainly put a lot of thought into the battle mechanics and customisation, since there are plenty of new skills and weapons to purchase, plus a decent editing mode, so you don’t have to be a bikini wearing badass if you don’t wish, as four default costumes are accessible at the start. Want an army of maids or school dresses? Go right ahead and change it. You can place items on various parts of the body, up to ten at once, so prepare to come up with any crazy fantasy you have, even if it involves a pink afro and a slice of toast.
Right now, I have made the game sound decent enough, and it would be fine, but the game suffers issues outside of the combat and customisation, as it feels like the developer poured all their resources into that category and forgot about what else makes up a great game. Level design is flat as a pancake – absolutely boring – with some of the plainest environments you will see on a current generation system. You are supposed to be travelling to all these wonderful locations, and while the colour scheme is packed with variety of bright colours, the levels themselves are budget scenes that always result into linear arenas for combat. Enemies are mostly just as bland, with lacklustre AI that does not put up a challenge, leaving only the larger enemies and bosses to bring the stylish combat truly to life with meaning, rather than to showboat. On the content side, the game is rather short, taking around 3 and half hours to finish the story on normal. There are harder difficulties to unlock and beat, plus a mission mode that comes with 20 normal and 20 hard challenges to overcome, but I felt I had my fill of the campaign after beating normal, leaving myself to take up the challenge of the mission mode.
I also had some camera issues, mainly with the lock on, as this changes the movement of the character to be slower, bringing a style that makes you focus on the enemy target by locking you from running, leaving with dodge and a jump as a way to escape danger, but it is incredibly awkward to adjust to, as I wanted to use my speed to get around. Don’t even bother using it in a group, as it’s hopeless to target a specific enemy without getting caught by the others, all thanks to the awkwardness of the lock-on system and slower movement when engaged. Larger enemies also cause issues for the camera, as your view becomes obscured as the camera tries to point to the hight of the enemy. It really comes down to poorly throughout design. Sure, fun, extensive combat mechanics are good – an area that Tamsoft are clearly proud with, as the game features a 30+ page guide for it – and so are pretty lady models that bring a bit of fan service to people who like that, but it would have been nice to spare some cash for fixing problems that surround the rest of the game. At least we can commend Tamsoft for some catchy J-Pop style songs and for going with 1080p 60fps, but even then, you will see some frame rate drops when a large zombie army is getting slaughtered by four sword wielding fighters.
It really is a huge shame that Tamsoft could not bring the quality of their combat mechanics to the rest of the game, because you’re left with feeling that what if these mechanics where in with a game that had everything else backing it up, games with brilliant level design and smart enemies, rather than lifeless, throwaway environments and apathetic bad guys. I can clearly say I had fun with Onechanbara Z2: Chaos, because in the end, it just manages to bring shameless adult fun with a slap of fan service, but even though I liked my short time with the game, it clearly needs work on its issues to bring a Onechanbara game that is more than just a mediocre game with deep, stylish combat to butter up the overall package.