Onechanbara Z Kagura is the latest budget title in a long series of budget titles. Originally part of the Simple 2000 series (a set of over 100 games that cost less than $US20 on the PS2) it grew into a somewhat popular franchise through its cunning use of bikinis, swords and busty women.
While the only two instalments to make it stateside were critically panned, that hasn't stopped a new one from being released earlier this year in Japan. But is this game nothing more than titillating zombie slaughter catering to the lowest common denominator, or is there something more to this hack and slasher than a few cheap thrills?
Good -- Enjoyably Over-The-Top
The best thing about Onechanbara Z is how self-aware it is. This is a game with no illusions about itself. After all, the main character, Kagura, is a vampire dressed in nothing but a bikini, scarf and cowboy hat who goes around killing monsters and zombies with katanas. And because this is the first game in the series to have a new set of main characters, the game is able to mock the series as a whole, even as it exists as part of it. Instead of a tall and polite speaking older sister, we get a short, hot-blooded older sister. Instead of a moé yet hot-blooded younger sister, we now get a tall and peaceful younger sister. And instead of scantily-clad women being covered in copious amounts of zombie blood, we get... No, no, never mind. That's the same, only more so.
Good -- Tonnes Of Bosses
A happy surprise in Onechanbara Z is the sheer amount of boss fights. Many levels even have more than one. Now granted one type of boss, the hulking golem, appears pallet swapped four or five times, but all the other bosses appear just once in the game proper and once in the final castle. Golems aside, you will come across at least one boss battle every fifteen minutes, and as they are the most enjoyable part of the gameplay, each one is a welcome diversion.
Mixed -- A Story Of Breasts And Blood, But Not Much Else
While the over-the-top moments are the highlight of Onechanbara Z, the rest of the story is paper thin. Get past the jiggle physics and pre-arsekicking one-liners, and the story is as simple as "two vampires kill a tonne of zombies." It does serve to get the characters from "A" to "B" but little else. Still, as the game is only a mere three to four hours long, there's not much you could add before the cutscenes become as long as the gameplay.
Bad -- Zombie Killing Should Never Be Boring
So, Onechanbara Z is as short as many other budget titles, yet somehow the game still finds time to be boring. Time between the bosses can be a slog. It's just wave after wave of zombies dying before they can even get close enough to attack. The game tries to mix it up with different types of monsters and a ton of unlockable attacks/spells, but frankly, Kagura's "blades of chaos" clear hordes of normal enemies like they're nothing and anything bigger is no match for Saya's chainsaw.
So that's about the grand total of strategy needed to beat the game. Gameplay does get a bit better, especially in the final castle (where it's a legion of zombies along with a boss in each room), but in a game this short, I should never be bored and left feeling like I'm clearing trash.
My first thought upon finishing Onechanbara Z Kagura was "that wasn't a very good game, but man, I had fun playing it." In many ways, it's nothing special; just another God of War clone. But it doesn't look bad nor is its gameplay broken, and it does have fun with its absurd amount of T&A and one-liners. And, though I did complain about the endless hordes of zombies who want to do nothing more than fall to my blades, the overall experience was short enough that I forgot about the boring parts almost immediately. When I re-beat the game on a harder difficulty before writing this review, I didn't really mind them as much. There's just something wonderful about a game that doesn't take itself too seriously and knows how to have a little bit of shameless fun.
Onechanbara Z Kagura was released on January 19, 2012 for the Xbox 360. There are currently no plans for a Western release (and the game is region locked to Japanese consoles).