Title: Onee Chanbara ORIGIN
Release Date: October 14, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Is there anything better than over-the-top action with bikini wearing zombie hunters as the main protagonist? Actually, that’s rhetorical. The Onee Chanbara series has graced fans with these blade-wielding heroines for years, but the series hasn’t always been prominent in the west. To get fans back to basics, developer Tamsoft has combined the first two entries into one game, with Onee Chanbara Origin. The HD remasters works as a quick refresher of how this series began, but it ends up taking a couple of steps back in terms of what this game could have ultimately been.
Onee Chanbara Origin is a retelling of Onee Chanbara and Onee Chanbara 2. The game begins by giving players a story of sibling rivalry as sisters Aya and Saki duke it out. Along the way, you learn of a few key points about their upbringing and just how close the two are. Elements such as loss and hatred build to a climax as you learn more about their family. Aya and Saki are both skilled fighters, and by the end of the adventure, you’ll have a good idea of their origins, which falls in line with the title of this game.
With both stories now combined into one, Onee Chanbara Origin isn’t as long as you’d expect. Through the lengthy dialogue scenes, it’s possible to clear the story in around 10 hours. There are a few new boss battles, though, and refined story beats that make things much easier to understand. As over-the-top as it is, the flow of the narrative is much easier to follow, but at the cost of condensed levels that last only a few rooms and minimalist themes for the backdrop of this adventure.
I wound up having issues with this title because it doesn’t push the series into any new directions. Here, Tamsoft could have truly built on what they gave fans in Onechanbara Z2: Chaos, but instead, they took this cel-shaded approach that almost hurts its appeal to those looking for ecchi-action.
Character designs themselves are decent, with the characters each wearing their revealing clothing as they slowly get drenched in their victims’ blood. Still, there’s almost no point in caring about additional costumes because they don’t really stand out as prominently as they did in the latest game. There aren’t any costume breaks, and the game almost doesn’t really care about the fact that it has these busty characters wearing nothing at all. It almost takes itself too seriously at times with long drawn out campy moments of dialogue when the only reason anyone would play this is to see sexy women killing zombies.
It’s like the game holds itself back from having fun, and we are left with just a button masher action game that is fairly basic in its systems. Characters have two different attacks that can be combined to execute combos. However, it’s difficult to even know when you’re doing something different because most of the attack combinations look the same and end with the same animation. It’s this way for the entire game and doesn’t ever become more complex, even with the addition of new weapons that attempt to mix things up, they are more or less the same.
After each level, you gain experience that level up your character and provide skill points to add to HP, Attack, or Defense. I don’t know if these points ever made a difference outside of getting you more health because I put them all into Attack and couldn’t take out enemies any faster. The game attempts to break up the action by giving you enemies who can only be hurt if you parry them first, but these are more annoying then fun most of the time because the parry window is so small, which is in direct contrast to the dodge which has a huge window and is quite fun to use.
Where Onee Chanbara Origin hurts is how limited the combos become. Gone away are the launch attacks from Z2: Chaos or the girls’ weighty swings desperate to clear a room a zombie. What we get here is far more fluid and almost seamless, for better or for worse. This new battle system runs great and actually looks amazing as blood from your victim’s bursts from the cuts, but it’s so short-lived in the long run seeing the same animations for 5 hours.
Level designs are fairly generic with underground tunnels, abandoned hospitals, and run-down cities. During missions, players will only have to do one thing, clear a room full of enemies, move on, do it again, and then you’ll fight a quick boss to end the missions. Most levels can be completed in about 10 – 15 minutes, but the mindless battles will leave you feeling like it lasted so much longer.
After some fighting, you’ll transform into a few different demon crazed modes that allow you to clear out enemies easier. Sadly, you don’t have control over this transformation as it happens as soon as a gauge fills up. This only sucks because I wish I could have just saved it for a boss or for tougher enemies instead of randomly getting it at the end of a fight against some grunts.
The biggest take away though, is that Onee Chanbara Origin runs great and can be the most mindless action game of the year. The battle system never becomes overly complicated, and you’ll beat the game before you know it. Additional modes unlock along the way, but nothing of real substance. Strangely, the photo mode available is perhaps the worst of its kind and probably should even be implanted as it basically only allows you to circle the character, no zoom in or poses. Another strange feature is how the gallery is only text and doesn’t even show a picture of the character that is being talked about.
Onee Chanbara Origin is a hack-and-slash that does nothing more than any other hack-and-slash available. It’s best moments are the fluid and fast action when you’re cutting through hordes of enemies at a smooth frame rate with oceans of blood spraying all over. The series seems to be having an identity crisis about how it wants to continue. It needs to make a choice, keep the bikinis and have a bit of more campy fun with these characters, or lose them entirely and create a more polished action experience.
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