Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers Review for Nintendo Wii

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers Review for Nintendo Wii

February sure has been shaping up to be the month of the zombie-fest. With the announcement of free downloadable content for Left 4 Dead, “the hardcore [Wii owners] have been waiting for” with House of the Dead: Overkill, and now Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, there’s been a whole lot of undead gaming action going on. So, how does this chanbara-based hack-n-slash fare on Wii?

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers screenshot

Would it surprise you to learn that gesture-based combat on Wii can actually work? Would it surprise you further to learn that it’s also a total blast? Well, that’s the truth of the matter. Onechanbara does everything you wish Soul Calibur Legends had done and more. The story (and character outfits) may be only skin deep, but the simple Wii-waggle action is satisfying on many levels.

I was totally prepared to dislike this game. Sure, I loved the idea of half-naked chicks spilling gallons of blood, but the prospect of motion-controlled combat was a total turn off. Games such as Kung Fu Panda: Legendary Warriors and Sonic Unleashed had left me without hope of ever acting out my combat fantasies with the Wii Remote on any level that was truly rewarding. How delighted I was when I started playing Onechanbara and experiencing how responsive its controls are.

The one thing I believe most other games like this have missed out on is feedback. Too often you either get little or no rumble feedback or sound from the Wii Remote, and/or you’ll be forced to swipe the controller so forcefully that it only takes a few minutes before your arms and hands feel real fatigue.

Onechanbara scores with its controls by offering subtle sound and rumble, but more importantly, you only need jiggle the controller(s) – no heavy-handedness required. Additionally, gesturing is very reliable, and most times when you input an attack or movement, your character performs the intended action. Some of the more intricate combos will take time to nail, but the game’s practice mode makes honing your chops a fairly painless proposition.

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers screenshot

From the outset, you can play as either Aya or Saki; the two sisters are the protagonists of the game. You’ll eventually unlock two additional characters, each with their own story mode and unique move sets.

Onechanbara is a third-person, action adventure that’s a bit Diablo and a bit Dynasty Warriors – set in a chanbara universe. The characters each have what’s called the Baneful Blood coursing through their veins, and it’s what gives them their strength and power throughout the game.

Movement of your character is handled with the analog stick on the Nunchuk, and each character has a basic combo that’s performed by jiggling the Wii Remote up and down. Again, you’ll never be forced to swipe hard, and combat feels really satisfying. You can lock onto enemies – hordes of various types of zombies – with the Z button, and when locked on, you can evade by pressing the A button. You can also jump (or double jump) by pressing A while free-running. It’s a simple system that, for the most part, works really well and offers some serious zombie-slaying enjoyment.

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers screenshot

The camera takes a little getting used to, as you’ll have to constantly use the Z-trigger to reposition the view behind your character’s back, but it plays into locating and locking onto enemies, so it quickly becomes second nature. What might turn some players off, however, is that Onechanbara is pretty much a one-trick pony. It’s all about slicing dudes and zombie chicks, but it’s a fun ride regardless. The game offers no pretense about what it is, and if you’re into this sort of gaming porn, you’ll likely find yourself totally getting into what Onechanbara has to offer.

In fact, it has a lot to offer. There’s a unique story progression for each of the four characters, though it is, admittedly, a straight-on, zombie-slaying fest regardless of which flavor you choose. The levels are pretty much the same for each character, though you’ll move through levels in a slightly different order. However, each character has her own set of unique moves, and it’s definitely worth playing through all of the characters’ modes.

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.

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers screenshot

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.

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers screenshot

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.

Great by PS2 standards; passable on Wii. We won’t lie, though – the level of gore and gratuitous bikini shots do a lot to enhance the appreciation of this game. 4.1 Control
Mark this as the first Wii game with full-on, motion-based combat that works. It will take time to master the more complex moves, but controls are ultimately very satisfying. The way in which the sound and rumble are implemented into combat are key elements to the game’s level of enjoyment. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The original Japanese voice work will likely prove to be a plus for the otaku crowd, and the music, though cheesy, works well with the game’s overall presentation. Sound effects have a huge, positive effect on gameplay. 4.0

Play Value
Onechanbara is an arcade game for your console. It does one thing really well, and if you go into the game with that mind, you’ll get a lot out of it. For $30, it does something many other Wii games don’t – it’s actually fun to play.

3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Killer combat system focused around sword-play.
  • Multiple playable character: Aya, Saki, Misery, and Reiko.
  • Two-Player co-op mode available for every mission in the game.

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