|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tamsoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: D3 Publisher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Each zombie slayer has two different combat styles that can be changed out on the fly by pressing the C button. Aya, for example, can use just one sword, which frees up her other hand to throw knives from a distance, or she can dual wield and execute powerful, area attacks. In contrast, Saki's alternate style allows her to grab enemies and either pile-drive them into the ground for an instant kill, or swing them around to take out other, nearby enemies.
There are eight chapters to play through for each of the four characters, and the levels are straight-forward affairs in which you're simply mowing down wave after wave of zombies. There are no puzzles or clever platforming romps, but the action is completely satisfying in short bursts. Additionally, there are quests you can complete in either Free Play or Survival mode, which will score you various unlockables; either mode can be played cooperatively with a friend.
Onechanabara's production is perhaps where the most criticism can be levied against the game, though considering the price and the arcade nature of its gameplay, folks are still getting an impressive package. The graphics are strictly PS2-quality, and the characters, though they're attractive and animate fluidly, don't move with the same level of grace we've become accustomed to seeing in many other current-gen games.
The map system, too, often leaves you guessing whether or not you're headed in the right direction. There's a mini-map on the screen at all times, but it offers little in the way of keeping you on the right track. If you want to do any useful navigating, you'll have to first open the menu screen and select the full map. Even then the map doesn't highlight areas you've already been to, and it's easy to end up running over the same ground.
The steady framerate was particularly impressive, though, considering the large number of enemies onscreen at any given time. Granted, zombies disappear off screen almost immediately after they hit the ground or get sliced apart, but the game still runs delightfully smoothly.
It also helps that the character models for the bikini-wearing, zombie-slayer chicks look good. Let's face it - you aren't going to be buying this game for its prose. The girls all animate nicely during combat, and it's especially cool to watch them as they execute their various evasion techniques. As a character's splash gauge fills up (blood covers their bodies, as well as the screen, and they eventually go into a rampage mode), they'll start to drip blood on the floor and move in a more fatigued manner. There's also a fairly wide variety of enemies, with unique behaviors and attack patterns, from chainsaw-toting pedestrians, to mudmen and blood-mist zombies.
Though English text scrolls along the bottom of the screen whenever the characters are speaking, the original Japanese voice work has been carried over to this American version. The music is a mix of heavy metal, J-pop, and hip-hop, which works fairly well alongside the rest of the game's campy presentation.
Of special note, of course, are the sound effects. They add a megaton to the amount of satisfaction you'll get out of the game's combat. It's seemingly a small consideration, but the audio (and rumble) feedback makes all the difference in the world when you're required to waggle your way to victory.
All told, Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers was a total surprise for me. Before even playing the game, my arm was sore just thinking about the notion of gesture-based combat. However, I came away amused and delighted. This is not a game you invest a lot of emotion into, nor is it a long-lived experience you'll likely rave about for years to come. But for $30, you're getting a lot of instant gratification. It's modeled after great arcade-action games of the past, and if approached as such, you'll likely find yourself having an embarrassingly fun time with Onechanbara.
CCC Freelance Writer