Brace yourself for a real shocker: Sex sells. If the title of Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad isn't enough to prepare you for the lascivious content lurking within, the barely dressed vixen wielding swords on the cover will hammer the point home. These maidens aren't just half-naked, however; they're half-naked and splattered with the blood of a thousand slain zombies. And zombies are awesome, which makes you wonder: How could a game about beautiful women slashing up the undead go so very, very wrong? You'd think it could at least have some cheesy B-movie charm to it, in the vein of Earth Defense Force 2017 or The House of the Dead: Overkill. But no, Onechanbara isn't a bunch of dumb fun--it's just dumb. You can see sultry women in swimsuits for free on the Internet, and you certainly shouldn't spend $40 on a gruesomely violent action game that won't titillate you so much as it will numb your brain.
How mind-numbing is it? Onechanbara elicits two basic reactions: boredom and frustration. The boredom comes from taking control of one of three playable characters and mashing buttons through endless hordes of the undead. On normal difficulty, the early levels aren't just easy--they're yawners, and you'll spend most of your time pounding on the X button while searching for keys to open new areas. Even though it seems like there’s a lot of variety, there isn’t, because all the different options really just boil down to hammering on buttons. For instance, as you progress through the game's 20 missions, you'll encounter different foes, requiring you to change up your attacks a bit. As Aya, you can switch from a single sword to dual swords, therefore switching your set of moves. You'll also need to occasionally flick the blood off your weapon, since it becomes useless and can get lodged in your undead target if fully soaked. You can lock on to zombies, tumble around, enter rage mode, stun foes by kicking them, activate special attacks, and even activate a short slow-motion attack if you dodge at the right time. But while you will need to mix up your attacks for some enemies, for the most part you can just jam on buttons indiscriminately without too much worry.
The frustration comes from a myriad of bad design elements, from controls to level layout to annoyingly awful boss fights. Every attempt to leave the tedium of button mashing behind results in pure stupidity. A level that requires you to outrun packs of zombie dogs while riding a motorcycle is so awful it may be the worst bit of gameplay you'll experience all year. Its level of difficulty is so cheap, the camera so bad, and the controls so unresponsive that the game's poor quality comes immediately into focus. A long boss battle involving a screen full of evil beauties is just a sequence of cheap attacks, and holding down the right bumper to maintain camera lock while juggling special moves (which require you to press two face buttons at once) and normal attacks can lead to physical discomfort. Other boss fights, including one against a killer zombie whale, are either so easy they're laughable or so glitchy you can exploit them. If you like firing guns, you can take control of Annna (yes, with three n's) and take aim, but her animations are stiff and the shooting is dull, so even the endless gushers of blood can't rescue you from boredom.
Even the painfully easy levels are maddening, sometimes requiring you to trek through the same sewers and city streets across several missions so you can activate the next scripted attack. This usually involves fighting through crowds of lurching zombies or (more commonly) rushing past them until a fence appears and forces you to mash mash mash until you beat all the enemies or a key appears. Then you go unlock a new area and do it all again. This wouldn't be so bad if there were some eye candy to gaze at, but even the titular samurai squad members aren't much to look at. They animate stiffly and their robotic gyrations look so uncomfortable it's a wonder the gals haven't needed hip surgery. Their prerendered counterparts in cutscenes look more lifelike, but the cinematics are ugly and suffer from hideous screen tearing. Everything is a painfully low resolution, which makes it hard to stomach the frequent loading times. At least Onechanbara throws you a bone here, letting you play a little zombie-killing minigame during loading screens that exudes more charm than the actual campaign.
Perhaps you are a glutton for punishment, and if so, you'll be glad to know that Onechanbara offers a fair amount of replay value. A so-called quest system will have you gunning to meet certain gameplay requirements, like killing a certain number of zombies. You can fight endless gangs of the undead in survival mode and unlock new costumes and accessories so you can view your seductresses in various forms of undress. You'll also be leveling them up and spending points on attributes like vitality and speed, which helps out if you want to explore the harder difficulty levels that you can unlock. Or if you prefer suffering with a friend, you can take on the zombie apocalypse in split-screen cooperative play, which makes the game a bit more enjoyable because you have someone to make fun of it with, but causes the frame rate to take a bit of a hit. As for the annoyingly repetitive sound effects and ear-splitting soundtrack, the less said about them the better.
For those who like the imagery but came for the story (are there such folks?), you'll find one buried in here, but it's hard to care about the walls of badly translated text and misspelled dialogue that convey it. So what reason is there to play Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad? There is none, so suppress any morbid interest you may harbor and spend your money elsewhere, because neither acrobatic temptresses nor legions of the lurching undead can make this game worth playing.