Onechanbara starts off like a fun little guilty pleasure but unfortunately starts to go downhill as it goes along.
Well, after completing all 20 levels and fighting wave after mindless, monotonous wave of zombies, I can say that my brain is fried and I'm wondering if buying this game was a mistake.
Bikini Samurai Squad is the latest in a series of games to carry the Onechanbara name, although I never played any previous editions and never heard of it before discovering this game. The game, much like D3's previous XBox 360 title "Earth Defense Force 2017," carries a B-movie flavor to it. Whereas EDF 2017 was like an Ed Wood movie, Bikini Samurai Squad is trashy like a Troma movie, complete with geysers of blood and body parts flying everywhere. But where EDF succeeded in creating a fun, sometimes insane experience despite its warts, Bikini Samurai Squad leaves something to be desired.
Your "Squad," despite its name, only consists of one girl in a bikini, Aya. She's joined by her sister Saki, who looks all of 15 years old and is wearing a schoolgirl outfit, and the token female cop with boobs too big for her shirt, Annna. Aya and Saki wield samurai swords, whereas Annna packs two pistols, a shotgun, and an uzi (although strangely enough, her bullets don't do nearly as much damage as a sword). When Aya or Saki are on the screen, the combat might remind you some of Ninja Gaiden (albeit not nearly as deep), and Annna's gunslinging might remind you of when Dante takes out Ebony and Ivory in Devil May Cry. Not suggesting they ripped off those games or anything... just sayin'.
The story mode spans over 20 chapters, some of which can be completed in less than five minutes and others that will take quite a bit longer. The game runs around 10 hours or so with your first playthrough but can be completed a lot quicker than that. There's also a survival mode and a "Dress Up" mode where you can change your character's outfits, or just strip them down to their bra and panties and play like that. Yes, you can even put schoolgirl Saki in her underwear, and yes, it does feel 110 percent creepy. Dress Up mode actually doesn't seem to work properly as the characters seem to fall off the screen despite you not even touching anything. There are also quests, each of which can be completed for XBox 360 achievement points, although to be honest some of the quests aren't very fun, and for whatever reason, you have to complete each one three times before getting credit.
After you sit through the Austin Powers-inspired intro where Aya's body parts are conveniently/inconveniently covered by whatever happens to get in the way, gameplay begins and you can tell right away that you're playing a budget title. The graphics are hazy and dated, the sound is poor, the picture stutters from time to time, and you pretty much can tell immediately what you're in for the rest of the game -- wave after wave of zombies. The combat is fast and furious, and early on, I found myself having a fun time with all the carnage on the screen. The move set is fairly basic and limited -- many will surely label this game a button masher -- but if you enjoy action games, you will likely enjoy this one for at least a little while. And if you're into guts and gore, the game gives Ninja Gaiden II a run for its money in the violence department and may even surpass it as blood shoots out Kill Bill-style with every kill and drips down your television screen.
The biggest problem with this game is the later levels, which is where the repetition starts to set in. The level design is basic and dull, and you unfortunately find yourself backtracking a bit later in the game. You will be faced more and more with what seems like neverending hordes of zombies. Many of them you can run right past, but sometimes the game traps you in a cage and forces you to slice through waves of zombies to continue. The zombies don't just die easily, either; they stay alive unless you kill off every portion of their body. If you chop up the top half, the legs will stay alive and will come after you (and yes, they will kick you and do damage if you're not careful). After taking a few minutes to hack through a group of zombies, the game very often throws another wave at you, and then another.
Some zombies have different attacks and may shoot guns or throw grenades (which can be frustrating), but for the most part there's not much variety and the stuff you're doing on Chapter 1 is more or less what you'll be doing for most of the game. There's one stage where you can ride a motorcycle and plow through the zombies, but it unfortunately doesn't work too well as if you drive your motorcycle too close to the fence on the sides of the road, you get stuck and have to wiggle your way out. Many of the boss fights are also lackluster and can be completed using one particular strategy. There are a couple interesting encounters, but most of them are nothing to write home about, and some bosses make an appearance two or three times.
The story isn't horrible -- I've seen a lot worse in some AAA titles -- but it's not great either as it's just a vehicle to carry the action along. The game is in Japanese with English subtitles, so those who don't understand Japanese can skip over the voice acting and just read the text without having to worry about listening to the acting. After completing the game, a new difficulty level opens up. There are five difficulty levels in all, and if you don't tire of all the zombie slashing, you can try to make it through all of them.
Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad is not quite as bad as early reviews say -- it has some moments (one of which is a little 8-bit minigame that plays during the loading screen -- a great way to make load times pass quicker), and the action isn't all bad. There's a reason why this one is $39.99 and not $59.99 though. It's got its share of issues, and it leaves you thinking that a lot more could have been done to make the game better. D3 is onto something with their B-movie takes on video games, but having a B-movie flavor isn't an excuse for the problems that the game has. You might like what you find here if you are a fan of action games, but otherwise a rental should be enough.