Onechanbara Z2: Chaos – PS4
Platform: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Xseed Games
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Reviewed by ChronoSloth
If you like blood, butts, blades, boobs, bikinis, babes, or beasts than boy do I have a budget title for you. Released digitally for the modest price of $39.99, and $49.99 for an impressive deluxe physical edition with an artbook and soundtrack CD, it’s a miracle something as sexy as Onechanbara made it here to the states, both because of its subject matter, and also looking at things business wise. Gamers have Xseed (the team that gave Xenoblade Chronicles to the US) to thank once again for bringing more strange, obscure, and fun to play titles like Onechanbara Z2: Chaos over from Japan, this time exclusively to the PlayStation 4. If you’re not familiar with the Onechanbara series, please refer to the first sentence in the first paragraph. Beautiful women in tiny bikinis brandish big samurai swords, chainblades, and gauntlets to take on hordes of zombies and other evil creatures in games with budgets that other developers would scoff at. It’s the gaming equivalent of a grindhouse film. Though not as confident or self aware as the similarly sexy and action packed Bayonetta 2, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos doesn’t make the mistake that some Japanese games make in taking itself completely serious.
It has a story, but doesn’t attempt to shove it in your face much, because it’s only just enough to give context to why the ladies are there, why they have certain powers, and what’s going on with the zombies vs Earth situation. No question about it, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is about the gameplay. Would you really go into the game with the cowgirl samurai in a bikini on the cover, advertising that it includes a “Strawberries and Banana” costume looking for a cinematic experience? You pick up Onechanbara Z2: Chaos if you’re ready for gore, skin, and fast paced gameplay that mixes Devil May Cry with Dynasty Warriors, most resembling Capcom’s Sengoku Basara games.
Players control four heroines all with different weapons, abilities, combos, and transformations. You’ll be using all of these to dispatch zombies, mini-bosses, and bosses quickly and stylishly to earn high rankings that will net you yellow orbs, that in turn allow you to buy more weapons, abilities, and combos so you can dispatch more zombies. This is all there is to Onechanbarra Z2: Chaos really, but this cycle of over the top combat, ranking, upgrade, is very fun. The amount of variety that all the available techniques allow for is staggering. For example the first upgrade to pink haired Kagura’s standard sword combo was to add an 11th strike.
Long, wide reaching combos, quick swapping weapons at the tap of the L2 button, the necessity to remove blood from your weapons to keep them doing high damage and swinging fast (mid-combo, mid-battle) using L1, the COOL system where combos are lengthened as well as made faster by hitting the next button in the combination with precise timing, powering up after being drenched in enough blood, calling out the other three girls you aren’t controlling to fight in unison using the touchpad, and slow-mo camera zooms with point bonuses for when enemies are finished with certain attacks seem like too many systems to be running at once. However, instead of being confusing or cumbersome, this allows for 300+ hit combos where all four girls and all eight of their weapon styles are utilized to kill tens of onscreen enemies while slinging blood off their blades and fists in between hits to keep damage coming, with players tapping square, triangle, L2, L1, down in an orchestra of chaos.
So if the combat is frantic and deep, what’s holding Onechanbara Z2: Chaos back? In my painfully long string of alliteration earlier in the review, I could have included “bland backgrounds.” Besides the attack animations and curves of our team of zombie slayers, the game isn’t all that pretty. There’s a desert, there’s a city, there’s the inside of a big building, and they’re all about as detailed as the backdrops in dollar store coloring books. This isn’t just about not appreciating the game’s aesthetics; these levels aren’t designed very well in consideration to gameplay. Everything is so samey that it’s easy to forget your place, the very little platforming in the game doesn’t work well, the last enemy in an area can be hidden in the corner of a huge complex impeding your progression simply by existing and not coming after you, and they just aren’t exciting or interesting.
Visuals and level design aren’t the only problems with the game’s production values. For the most part, the soundtrack stays out of the way and doesn’t add or subtract anything from the game, but some songs downright kill the mood with the excess cheese. I didn’t expect them to go full metal or alt rock ala Devil May Cry, but maybe they could have went the way of Dynasty Warriors or Deadly Premonition and played songs as over the top as the gameplay, or something ill fitting enough to be charming. Instead we get some really strange, forced, tryhard English J-pop stuff that just flushed my body of all the hype that any boss intro gave me. Music is extremely subjective of course, but I wager most will agree that some songs from Onechanbara Z2: Chaos are just sour.
As I mentioned before, the story isn’t really worth paying any attention to, and you won’t be forced to. There isn’t really much of it here at all to stop you from your slashing. However, just as brief as the story is the game’s campaign itself. It’s not unheard of for stylish action games to cut things short (I’m looking at you Metal Gear Rising: Revengance), because they encourage replays on higher difficulties with upgraded abilities. However, most popular action games are a focused adrenaline rush through mesmerizing boss fights, incredible set pieces, and things you intend on tackling with a completely different approach. This doesn’t really apply to Onechanbara‘s strange, quickly moved on from, largely unremarkable set of stages and situations. The story here is probably worth a good two playthroughs, but players won’t be trying to find stylish new techniques and combos for years as with Devil May Cry 4.
Don’t let the lack of content and the lame stages fool you, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is a lovely way to spend a few evenings, and also serves well as a quick adrenaline rush thanks to the challenge missions offered along with story mode. With combat this entertaining, the rest of the game is really inconsequential. While it’s not incredibly intricate or challenging, it doesn’t matter how sloppy your inputs are, things on screen are guaranteed to get just as messy. You’ll be compelled to unlock every heroine’s ultimate weapons and extra combos to see just how crazy things can get, just how long your hit or kill streak can go, and how quickly you can take out a horde of enemies so large that they cover most of your television.
While it lacks the polish and quality that makes games masterpieces, during my time killing zombies with these ladies I had about as much dissatisfaction as they have modesty. Onechanbara Z2: Chaos delivers on what it seems to have set out to do. It’s viscerally pleasing and a great amount of good, dumb fun. Though rough edged, it’s a bloody, cheesy success.
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