Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
[Review code provided by D3 Publisher]
Bikini, Samurai, Action! If you’ve never heard of Onee Chanbara, it’s a series that has been around for a long time (all the way back to the PS2!) and often stands as an example of the sorts of weird stuff Japan comes up with. It even has a couple of movies!
Onee Chanbara Origin is a reimagining of the first two Onee Chanbara games, retelling the story of half-sisters Aya and Saki and their family feud. True to form, the game features hack-and-slash action as the player is tasked with slicing through undead hordes, katana in hand. It’s a simple but satisfying formula.
Mechanically, combat has a sort of ryhthm to it. Combos can be mashed out (which is great for beginners) but by nailing the timing you can achieve “COOL COMBINATIONS” and add more attacks to the string. Weapons become blood-clogged as you fight and must be “reloaded” to restore their full damage potential. You also have to dodge and parry to defend yourself. In the latter half of the game, switching weapons and characters on the fly both add a new wrinkle to combos.
When it all comes together, fighting is a lot of fun – although not especially deep. Players expecting battles on par with Devil May Cry or Bayonetta are best off lowering their expectations or looking elsewehere. But thanks to a nice range of mechanics, it really isn’t as mindless as it could be.
That said, the controls are a bit fiddly – having lock-on and dodge on R1 and R2 is less than ideal.
On Normal difficulty, the game progressed briskly for about 4-5 hours. I died a couple of times, but it was otherwise not too challenging. Stages are short and well paced, so the game never feels like it’s dragging it’s feet. Once you’ve finished the story, you can tackle the game on higher difficulties, or challenge Infinite Survival and aim to unlock a third playable character.
However, Onee Chanbara Origin‘s presentation is a mixed bag. The graphics are pretty nice, if a bit dated. The music and voice acting (the game features both English and Japanes audio tracks) are of good quality. The aesthetic is appealing and consistent, although the character designs are a bit wild. Still, it wouldn’t be Onee Chanbara without a bikini-cowgirl-samurai. Funnily enough, despite featuring Aya’s iconic bikini and a villain wearing police tape, the game isn’t very horny. It’s not especially horrific, either.
Where the presentation does fall short is sadly where it’s most important. Combat can be a cluttered mess. Blood splatters coat the screen, zombies fly to pieces as you hack them apart – it’s almost cathartic. However, these distracting visual effects get in the way of parsing a situation. I took a lot of avoidable hits because I just couldn’t see them coming. This is more of a nuisance than a serious problem on Normal difficulty, but at higher levels I could see it becoming frustrating.
Powerful attacks are obviously telegraphed, but the timing is inconsistent and hard to rely on. On several occasions I attempted to parry long before the attack actually came out because the cue was so early. Of course, learning a boss fight’s pattern is part of the fun, but the audio-visual effect does less to help than I’d like.
We should also talk a little bit about the game’s DLC situation. At launch, there are already almost 100 DLC items available to buy. Mostly this features new costumes, individual BGM tracks, and an early unlock for Lei. On the bright side, it seems that most (if not all of) the DLC isincluded in a single season pass for $20.
I’m not one to complain about DLC, but the base game doesn’t have a great deal of content to begin with. It would be better if more of this content had been unlockable, with DLC coming later to bolster it.
Overall, Onee Chanbara Origin offers a tasty little slice of fun between more robust titles. If that’s what you’re looking for, then it’s worth checking out. That said, the $59.99 asking price might be a bit steep. The game has decent replay value, but it’s ultimately on the shorter side and I’m not sure there’s much to come back for after you’ve finished with it.
I can’t comment on how it’ll hold up for long-time fans, but I enjoyed my first taste of Onee Chanbara enough to keep an eye out for more. It isn’t perfect, but since when has that stopped me?
Onee Chanbara Origin is a solid hack-em-up action game. It’s on the shorter side, but the content it does offer is enjoyable enough to leave me wanting more.
If you’re in the mood to dice up some zombies and you don’t mind a few rough edges, then this is a pretty good place to start!