Sex, Blood, and Bad Design
Comedian Chris Rock once commented that he loves hip-hop, but it’s hard to defend the worst elements in that genre. That’s the kind of queasy feeling Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad will evoke in video game lovers.
The game begins with a cutscene, in which one Samurai Squad member is watching TV in a schoolgirl outfit while the other takes a shower. A report of a zombie outbreak comes on the news, so naturally, the clothed one crawls toward the screen on all fours while the naked one runs out without even drying off. Soon thereafter, the girls writhe into their skimpy suits, in which their breasts jiggle even when they’re standing still, and go to fight the zombies.
There’s some text explaining the story. Basically, these young ladies have swords and know how to use them, and zombies are infesting their city. The player takes control and begins Chapter 1 in a third-person hack-and-slash adventure.
It should be clear by now that the game is pointlessly demeaning, bordering on pornography. Can any of the gameplay elements make it worthwhile for anyone but 15-year-old boys without Internet access? Not likely. There are only two difficulties available when you first boot up the game, the harder being “Normal”; this corresponds to “Easy” or “Very Easy” on virtually any other game.
You have three attack buttons, a punch, a kick, and a sword swing, and you can create combos by pressing them in sequence. Periodically, your sword will get too bloody, and you’ll need to shake it off so it doesn’t get stuck in enemies. Also, if you get too much blood on yourself, you go into Rage Mode, meaning you’ll deal more damage, but your health will slowly deplete. The only ways to get out of Rage Mode are to touch a statue, to pick up a piece of statue, or to finish the level.
There’s a reason so many of the game mechanics revolve around blood: there are buckets of it. Every time you swipe at an enemy, a cascade of crimson falls across the screen. You’ll slice zombies clean in half, and their legs will keep walking toward you. The game emphasizes the quantity of enemies over the difficulty of beating a single one, so you’ll be facing tens of them at a time. What good are over-the-top, sexualized female leads if they don’t produce over-the-top fountains of gore?
Even with so many enemies, there’s virtually no challenge to be found in the 20 story-mode chapters, save for a few levels’ cheap shots. You can dispatch just about any number of enemies without taking a single hit, so long as you make sure to keep shaking the blood off your sword, and many zombies drop power-ups. In fact, if you try to get killed, you’ll usually find it’s hard to. The bosses’ attacks require a little avoiding, but even they are usually quite susceptible to the “run up and hack at them a bunch” strategy. The only real challenge you’ll face is dealing with the ravages of Rage Mode, but the increase in power usually makes it possible to finish the level in time if you can’t find a statue. You can’t play the higher difficulties without beating Normal first, and while those difficulties can get quite hard, why waste time unlocking a worthwhile game when some other games are playable right out of the box?
Surprisingly, the ease of Samurai Squad’s story mode actually masks a lot of nuance in the fighting system. You can lock on to enemies, switch characters, and execute special moves. There’s even a practice mode where you can hone your techniques. It’s too bad you have to unlock the difficulties in which said techniques amount to anything more than mashing different buttons than you would otherwise.
Some other modes add replay value, but they don’t improve the game’s quality; since the title isn’t worth playing the first time, any replay value is wasted. You can fend off random hordes of zombies, try to accomplish specific feats, or play co-op locally. It’s frustrating to know that so much effort went into creating content for such an awful game.
This title’s overall presentation isn’t quite dreadful, but it suffers from a definite lack of polish. The graphics are OK in and of themselves; they depict the half-naked heroines in some detail (of course), and the 3-D environments, while they’re all similar to each other, don’t look half bad. Some of the cutscenes are downright impressive. The problem is that the game doesn’t run well, both when you’re in control and during some of the cutscenes, and as a result, you’ll sit through load times (during which you can play a 2-D hack-and-slash mini-game) and notice visual glitches galore. The sound is a good deal worse: cheesy, synthetic pop and rock tracks. Also, the text that explains the aforementioned story is awkwardly translated, and the voice acting isn’t translated at all.
The most that can be said in support of Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is that it’s mildly amusing, at first, to slice through countless zombies in quick succession, while watching the blood fly. From there it’s all downhill: the sex and blood represent a dedication to offense, not art; there’s no technique required in the hardest immediately available difficulty; the game was poorly executed on a technical level. If you’re reading this review, that means you have Internet access, and therefore you’re not a 15-year-old boy without it. Skip this game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
The images look good, but the game runs poorly, which leads to a lot of visual glitches. 4.4 Control
Push buttons. Kill zombies. 1.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Super-cheesy rock and pop tracks. 1.3 Play Value
Mildly amusing for about five minutes. The harder difficulties provide more challenge, but you have to work your way through the too-easy Normal setting to unlock them. 1.7 Overall Rating – Avoid
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.