The Oneechanbara series aren’t exactly art games. Really, they’re a raised middle finger in the direction of every well-meaning crusader, from Fredric Wertham to Tipper Gore to Jack Thompson, who has ever tried to SAVE THE CHILDREN from the evils of popular entertainment. They’re games that understand that sometimes you just need a healthy dose of violent stress relief and a black-and-white, good-vs-evil story to make you feel OK about it. Pretty much every entry has zombies roaming the streets because Evil Organization Secret Plot Thing is happening, and those zombies (and assorted bosses) need killing lest the Evil Organization take over the world, or something.
Of course, the only people who can kill the zombies and save the world just happen to be cute girls who have made very poor fashion decisions (Cowboy hat, feather boa, bikini and cowboy boots? A school uniform and bright red cestus?) and who tend to, well, bounce a lot.
Not that I am objecting, because I am firmly in the target audience of Everyone With A Y Chromosome Ever.
OneeChanbaraZ2 Chaos is the… sixth? entry in the main series. There have been a bunch of side games, mind you, so I’m not 100% on that, but I’m pretty sure I’ve done the math right. 2 on the PS2, which never came to the US, 1 Xbox360 games, 1 Wii game (With, I will say as an aside, some of my favorite motion controls ever), one game released first for the Xbox360 and then ported to the PS3 with an added character, and now a PS4 game which is pretty much a love letter to everyone who has ever followed the series since its VERY low-budget beginnings.
I wouldn’t exactly call it an AAA title – it still suffers from MASSIVE asset re-use, to the point of re-using several locations from the PS3 game, but it runs in 1080P and at least claims to run at a consistent 60FPS. It looks really good, even if it’s sometimes hard to see much of the actual game because the gore effects have covered the entire screen with a hazy red filter.
Without going too much into the history, the first four games had more-or-less the same cast. You had a cool-headed swordswoman named Aya and her more… impulsive little sister Saki, both of whom suffered from “cursed blood” which gave them superhuman powers. The fifth game swapped in another pair of sisters, who were vampires with all the associated blood sucking and strength etc but with no apparent issues with sunlight. To shake things up a bit, the elder vampire sister is the crazy one with the younger sister being the more thoughtful.
I say “more thoughtful” and must qualify that by pointing out that she runs around chopping up masses of the undead with a chainsaw.
Z2 puts all four of them together, and some of the character interactions are simply delightful, especially when the two pairs have to switch partners or when they are snarking at each other during cutscenes and level transitions. It also makes for a lot more variety in the series’ trademark tagging-in system, where you can switch between active characters at any time. The four characters all play quite differently and each have effective counters against different enemy types – for example, Saki is a brawler who tends to get overwhelmed by swarms of enemies but who can stun-lock and juggle single tougher creatures that slap the sword-using characters silly.
I have to take a moment here to thank whoever came up with the idea of making the most adorable character in the game also the toughest hand-to-hand fighter, because it is hilarious fun to watch a pixie-sized girl in a goth-loli outfit punch the stuffing out of a werewolf, cursing like a sailor the entire time.
Oh, and Annna (three Ns) from the first Xbox 360 game shows up again, though only as your helicopter pilot this time. I can’t say that’s a bad thing, I only have vague memories of playing through her campaign but I seem to remember that her using guns instead of melee weapons made a lot of it kind of trivial and occasional bits teeth-clenchingly frustrating.
None of the Oneechanbara games demand much Japanese knowledge. You miss a lot of the, oh, let’s just call it story for the sake of discussion, but you don’t miss any of the PLOT, if you know what I mean. They are super import-friendly, and with the yen as weak as it is now I think they’re likely cheaper than the average new release in the US.
That being said, if you’re averse to remembering that O is confirm and X is cancel, there is some good news. Oneechanbara Z: Kagura is actually rumored to be getting a localized version soon. There’s no word on Z2: Chaos, and I rather expect it’s going to depend entirely on how well Kagura does, but, well, fingers crossed and all that.