Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is a game about scantily-clad cowgirl vampires who slice and dice undead monsters with swords and chainsaws. It’s the video game equivalent of a grindhouse horror flick and, if that’s the kind of goofy fun you’re looking for, you might find lots to enjoy in this cheeky action game from D3 Publisher and Tamsoft.
So why did I open with what most reviews would use as the closer? Because I wanted fans of the series (or exploitative action romps in general) to know that they’ve got very little to worry about when it comes to Onechanbara Z2: Chaos. It delivers exactly what you’re looking for, from barely-there clothing to fountains of blood and a combat system that dishes out button mashing goodness and depth in equal measure. Also, at 40 bucks digital ($50 physical with a CD and art book), it wont be too rough on your wallet.
If you find yourself in the camp outlined above, then you don’t need to hear me pick the game apart. You probably won’t be put off by rough graphics, extremely repetitive gameplay or even the threat of game-ending bugs, so go have some fun.
Everyone else, follow me...
Anyone who looks at a screenshot or video of Onechanbara Z2: Chaos knows exactly what they’re getting themselves into. It’s a game that’s all about fan service, over-the-top violence and cheesy dialogue. It never pretends to be anything other than what it is, and that’s a pretty endearing characteristic.
I’m not a huge fan of upskirt shots, loads of butt cleavage and even more regular cleavage in my games, but I’m not here to judge folks who enjoy those things, either. So now that the practically naked elephant in the room has been addressed, let’s talk about everything else Onechanbara Z2: Chaos has to offer; both the good and the bad.
While this series has been running for quite a few years now, this PlayStation 4 exclusive served as my first introduction to the world of Onechanbara. A brief introductory scene fills you in on past events but, let’s face it, a game about zombie-slaying vampire samurai isn’t going to put too much emphasis on plot.
In previous games, the sisterly pairing of vampiric Kagura and Saaya has been at war with the slayer sisters, Aya and Saki. Z2: Chaos opens with the quartet needing to put aside their differences and team up in order to tackle a new undead threat that’s spreading across the globe.
While the first and final thirds of the game are linear, the middle section allows you to choose from five zombie-infested locations in any order you choose, sites like Los Angeles, China and Japan. No matter where you go, though, your objective is always the same: Kill everything.
When you’re not winding your way through similar-looking corridors, similar-looking rooms of a temple, or a nearly featureless desert, you’ll be dispatching random foes as they stumble onto the scene. You’ll frequently be locked in a location until all enemies are disposed of, with the occasional mini-boss or main boss popping up to make things a little more difficult.
While the levels aren’t much to look at, the action is at least quite a bit of fun. You’ll usually have two main weapons at your disposal, as well as a sub-weapon to change things up a bit. You’ve got a weak and strong attack, each of which can be chained a ridiculous number of times. There’s also a dodge ability at your disposal, as well as a jump and a “Chase” maneuver that lets you move from one group of enemies to the next more easily.
Those basic ingredients make Onechanbara a fun romp for the button mashing crowd, but there’s actually quite a bit of depth snuck in, which can be pretty rewarding for those who are willing to learn each character’s plethora of attacks. There’s nothing as nuanced and precise as, say, Bayonetta or God of War, but there’s lots of options for those willing to experiment. Some moves can be charged while other combos open up if you delay your next attack or insert a quick swivel of the left stick. You can also do a powerful stomp maneuver or unleash one of your special abilities (projectiles, shield, shadow partner, etc.) when the appropriate gauge fills up.
Timing your button presses well adds extra damage to your attacks, which is a nice way to discourage simply flailing on the controller until everyone is dead. Oh, and then there’s each character’s transformation ability. Kill enough enemies quickly enough to go into a sort of bloodlust state and you’ll evolve into a more powerful vampire/hunter.
On top of all of that, you can freely switch between your characters on the fly, and each one offers a slightly different mix of fighting styles, weapons and abilities. As an added bonus, switching partners at the end of a combo will bring them into the fray unleashing a special attack, and you also have the option to press the touchpad to simply call in all of your friends to fight at your side.
Honestly, there may be too many systems at work here, but once you find a groove that suits your play style, there’s a good time to be had slicing and dicing your way through all of those enemies.
Also in the plus column for Onechanbara is the fact that the game moves at a crisp 60 frames per second, so the action looks great even when there’s a large number of enemies on the screen. You can also buy new weapons, helpful items and stat-altering rings for your monster mashers as you earn golden orbs, as well as earn even more combo chains and abilities. If you pick up what this game is putting down, it’ll keep you plenty busy.
Outside of the campaign, there are additional missions you can undertake that task you with beating certain enemies in a certain way, as well as loads of art to unlock for the gallery and plenty of costume items. You can actually dress all four of the ladies in a much more reasonable outfit from the very beginning, meaning that much of the gratuitous sexy-sexy time can be completely negated. There are, of course, far more risqué outfits for those who prefer to move in the other direction.
But while I happily admit to enjoying the insane combat for a few hours, it gets to be super repetitive after a while. All of the extra missions in the world aren’t worth much if I’m still hammering on the same buttons and killing the same collection of baddies over and over again. The narrative is threadbare and there are no puzzles or other activities to change up the pace; just lots and lots and lots of stabbing zombies.
There’s a variety of enemy types, but almost all of them can be taken down using the same tactics. Bosses occasionally offer an interesting wrinkle, but they’re usually just damage sponges that take longer than normal to defeat. Also, the campaign is super short, taking less than four hours to breeze through on my second run.
“On your second run?,” you might ask. Unfortunately, that brings up my biggest gripe of all with Onechanbara: The potential for game-ending bugs. At the halfway point of my first run through the game, I found myself locked in a room with no way of going on to the next area. I searched and I searched and I searched, but there was simply nothing left for me to kill and, thus, lower the temporary barrier.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to simply start a mission over, either. Your only option is to restart the last checkpoint, or restart the game entirely. For me, that last checkpoint occurred when I cleared all of the enemies available, meaning that each time I loaded the game, I found myself in that same room with no way of progressing.
I popped online and found two other individuals who had encountered the exact same problem in the exact same room (The very beginning of Chapter 11, if you’re curious). Others claimed to have experienced similar glitches in other regions, and explained that an enemy likely spawned outside of the walls or under the floor. It’s a known thing, but it appears there’s no fix currently available.
So I reluctantly restarted the entire game and made my way back through the first half of the campaign, this time making it out of that room and on to the finish with no other major surprises. It left a super bad taste in my mouth, though, and each encounter had me wondering if/when it might happen again.
So while Onechanbara Z2: Chaos has a decent fighting system and a few clever ideas up its non-existent sleeve, those positives are simply outweighed by too many negatives. The environments are extremely dull, the enemies aren’t varied enough and countless monster closets and bosses that overstay their welcome feel more like padding for a still-too-short game rather than spikes in the challenge. And then there’s the bafflingly long load times and that nasty bug I ran into. I’d probably be a bit more forgiving had other players not experienced the exact same game-killing issue in the exact same location. That’s a sign of a legitimate issue rather than a one-off glitch, so its going unaddressed is just inexcusable in my book.
I’m sure that there are folks out there who will adore Onechanbara’s latest outing, blemishes and all. There’s some decent fun to be had if you’re willing to just turn your brain off and get to dicing up those undead monsters. But if you’re in the market for a well-polished, varied brawler that pours on the content, Z2: Chaos doesn’t quite fit the bill.
This review based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Developer: D3 Publisher, Tamsoft
Publisher: XSEED Games