Onechanabra is much-loved series in Japan that has seen nearly a dozen releases with only a few ever making it stateside. Onechanbara apparently translates — roughly — to “Young Adult Woman Sword Fighting.” Combine that right there with the fact that this game couldn’t be more Japanese even if it tried and you’ve already got a good sense of what’s happening here. Onechanabra Z2 : Chaos is the insanely bright and loud fantasy of a Japanese business man who is into vampires and stayed up all night playing Dynasty Warriors. Yeah. You might get the impression that this game is hot trash from that little diatribe. While it’s not a masterpiece, I’m sure that I’m not the only newcomer to this series who ended up liking it a bit more than they expected.
If I was judging this game from a purely ethical viewpoint, there’s little contest; it’s the most hyper-sexualized game I’ve literally ever seen in my life, and I play a lot of games. There are outfits in this game that leave so little to the imagination that the character select screen leans closer to softcore pornography than videogame. The combat is surprisingly smooth and fun to control but throws in more obligatory upskirt shots mid-combo than the entirety of that Zack Snyder movie, Sucker Punch.
The game is actually similar to that movie. It’s teeming with profuse mediocrity with just enough stylistic merit to keep you pushing through. There’s a degree of perversion that is downright embarrassing to participate in, but the game is still kind of fun. Then again, I’m not reviewing the game on a metric of political correctness or the IQ of the intellectual property it’s built on — I’m just reviewing it as a game. When you get past the boob physics and dental floss attire, the game itself is — interestingly enough — fun to play.
As I mentioned, Onechanbara plays a lot like the Dynasty Warriors games. You control one of four vampire sisters and play through very linear arena-like levels. All the while, you’re hacking and slashing your way through hoards of constantly respawning zombies and demon-like monsters. While there is a story in Onechanbara Z2: Chaos, I won’t be talking much about it because it’s overly convoluted and complex. All you need to know about the story is that a mysterious woman with green hair has evil plans involving zombies overtaking the world, and you’re going to fight her eventually.
The combat is where Onechanbara really shines, and it’s surprisingly a lot of fun. It consists primarily of square/triangle button mashing and timing elements with jump, dodge, and projectile actions thrown in for good measure. Fighting game veterans will be able to pull off some truly epic combos but even a total fighter newbie like myself can mash their way to victory in style. There are special meters which allow you to pull off some particularly strong area of effect attacks. Each character also has a separate meter that, once filled, lets you transform into a powerful demon version of yourself. You can also bring in up to three of your vampire friends for a truly chaotic experience.
While the game lives up to its subtitle of “chaos” well, it’s not always a good thing. You’ll often have no idea what you or the enemies are doing (especially when all four characters are on screen at once) during the most hectic of moments. This results in a truly confusing and exhausting button mash-athon where all you really see are pretty flashing colors and splattering blood. This “chaos” bleeds a little too much into the rest of the game’s design in other ways: there were close to a dozen instances in which I sprinted around — listening to the adrenaline pumping J-pop soundtrack — an empty area unable to find the last enemy. I would usually find them glitched out or hiding in some out of the way corner.
Even when that didn’t happen, there were times when I got downright lost. Other times I spent too much time butchering infinitely spawning enemies only to realize that I needed to move a few feet to the side in order to advance. These flaws in the design, the overall bland environments, the repetitive enemies, and the hyper, non-stop pace of the game can really wear down both your resolve and your thumbs. I’ve never experienced soreness in my thumbs this extreme with any other game before. Maybe if you’re used to playing Dynasty Warriors this isn’t as heavy of a blow, but I can’t remember the last time I physically required a break from game after less than an hour of playing.
While a lot of the fighting has a really cool — albeit hyper-sexualized — style to it, most of the game looks only passable. The environments are bland and look more like they’re out of games from the last two generations rather than anything recent. The combat and gameplay are clearly the focus here, and while those are certainly the game’s strengths, they’re still far from perfect. I imagine this game performs a lot of fan service and is received much better to fans of the series or genre. However, to anyone objective, it’s clunky in much of its execution and not exceptionally welcoming.
For instance, there is a mechanic that was never explained during the in-game tutorials (which consists of several long pages of written instructions all at once upon starting the game). During a boss fight, a quick time event will show a blue arrow on the screen; you must swipe in that direction on the touchpad to proceed. Since I didn’t know about this, it took me a dozen attempts of guesswork to figure out what the game wanted me to do. “What do you want me to do?!” is an exclamation I blurted out more times throughout this game than I have for any other in a while.
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is not a perfect game. In fact, it’s far from it. However, if you like this style of game or this series in particular, you can have a surprising amount of fun slashing your way through countless zombies and monsters until your bloodied thumbs are begging for rest. Fans of the series will be excited about the bevvy of customization options. These include a variety of outfits and accessories (some of which can be fine-tuned down to the minutiae of size and degree of rotation) to a significant repertoire of weapons and additional combo skills that can be bought or earned. While these points were an interesting touch, it would have made more sense to upgrade your weapons as you go. Every new weapon is just a slightly stronger type of the same thing that you’ve been using, which you then must buy and equip. Even with that, I beat the game without unlocking a third of the weapons, items, and skills in the game. If this is the type of game you’re willing to replay, there’s surely plenty of goodies to sweeten the pot, but you’ve got to really appreciate the combat to repeat the lackluster story experience more than once.
A PS4 code for Onechanbara Z2: Chaos was provided by XSEED for this review