After a marathon play-through of all three Mass Effect games, I needed a bit of a change of pace. I found it.
I am an unashamed fan of the Oneechanbara games. They’re not exactly high-concept or high-budget games – they’re little more than excuses to run around poorly-textured environments as a scantily-clad vampire swordswoman and beat up hundreds of copy-and-pasted zombies, with occasional boss fights to break up the monotony. They started off as entries in the “Simple 2000” series for the PS2, and the series is one of the few that actually managed to escape that particular bargain-bin ghetto.
Not sure if that metaphor worked. Moving on.
The most recent one – “Onechanbara Z Kagura with NoNoNo!”, to give it its full and proper name – is the 2013 PS3 version of the 2012 Xbox360 title, with an extra playable character who I haven’t managed to unlock yet and can’t comment on. The two PLAYABLE characters are new to the series but are cast from the same molds as the two sisters from the Xbox 360 and Wii games, just with their personalities swapped around a bit. Kagura, the bikini-and-cowboy-hat-wearing vampire in this game is the wild and reckless character, while Saaya is the more calm of the pair and does her best to keep her sister under control. Saki and Aya do show up for a couple of fights and are available as DLC if you want to play through the game with them, of course, so there are three possible campaigns – Kagura / Saaya, Aya/Saki and NoNoNo.
NoNoNo is not a vampire, just to be clear. She’s a character from D3 Publisher’s “Dream Club” series and is apparently a hostess girl from the future or some such.
Anyway. Compared to previous entries in the series, it’s a much better looking game. It’s still not a AAA title by any means – there’s still a ton of copy-and-paste going on, and pretty much every boss model gets reused at least once, but you can tell that they put a little more effort into this one. The core of the game hasn’t changed much – you still run around, get locked into logic-defying arenas full of monsters and need to defeat them all to continue – but that’s like saying “This Mario game is still all about running to the right and jumping on turtles.”
One of the more welcome improvements is the change made to the “mudmen” enemies. In previous games, these were enemies that were unkillable through normal means. You had to use a special attack which was frustratingly timing-dependent, or let your rage meter build up to levels where you were actually taking damage just from running around. In this game, you just have to use a special attack consisting of pressing the Triangle and Circle buttons at the same time. It eats a little health, but that’s quickly recoverable thanks to a second improvement, where you can simply hold down another pair of buttons to regenerate health, presuming you’re not being attacked at that precise moment. It makes for a lot less needing to hoard health recovery items, which in turn improves the pace of things.
Wow, that’s a homonym that I’d never really noticed until I typed “horde health recovery items” and stared at it for several minutes trying to figure out why it looked wrong.
But, I digress.
The boss fights ARE, unfortunately, horribly infected by QTEs, which I normally consider an unforgivable sin. I’m inclined to make an exception, though, because they’re pretty forgiving QTEs AND they’re an opportunity for the characters to show off some absolutely brutal fighting moves. Let’s just say that we’ve come a long way from the days when the fatalities in Mortal Kombat were enough to make Nintendo clutch its figurative pearls and sit down lest they be overcome with the vapors.
Finally, because there’s not much I enjoy more than playing pretty princess dress-up, I am happy to report that there are a plethora of costume and cosmetic items that you can get for your characters, both from in-game quests and as DLC, and nobody is going to judge you too harshly for slapping a gothic-lolita maid uniform and a pair of batwings on your characters. In all truth, it would be wrong NOT to do this.
To sum up: about five hours of gratuitous semi-nudity and mindless violence, generally at the same time, with the option to play through the campaign three times to see it from different perspectives. Good times. Good times, indeed.