The USP of a title like Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad will be obvious to most from the outset. Violence and sex appeal have always had their place in the games industry. But a modern game can’t win respect based purely on titillation, and in fact, this worked against Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad’s appeal. But now, 15 years after it’s release, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad proves its worth in a context that goes deeper than the girl in the marketing artwork. There is substance behind the streams of blood and vibrating appendages.

Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad – You Can Only Make One First Impression

Without question an uncomplicated game. Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad was never intended to be a competitor to the tactical manoeuvring of Ninja Gaiden nor constant changes of pace seen in the better releases of the Devil May Cry series. Instead, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad was designed to deliver mindless escapism in the form of gratuitously violent zombie slaying. And as with D3Publisher’s earlier Xbox360 release, Earth Defence Force 2017, which aimed to provide a cyclical shoot-‘em-up experience with a modern aesthetic, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad delivers on that aim in spades. You may have been told never to judge a book by its cover, but it’s so hard not to do so with Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad.

Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad screenshot

But Wait, There’s More…

And despite this, the combat system is surprisingly deep. Each attack has two combos available: quick and heavy. Repeatedly jabbing the button will unleash a quick flurry of manoeuvres. Careful timing will allow for a more damaging series of attacks, but will leave you more vulnerable. A grand variety of attacking styles is available when acknowledging all the options at your disposal.

Switching between a single weapon and duel-wielding; sword swipes and kicks; hard and soft attacks; Counter Stances; Ecstasy Attacks; Cool Combos; special abilities. All of these allow you to string combos together capable of demolishing thirty or more zombies without a moments’ break. You can lock-on with the RB Button, which allows for direct targeting with yet another moves set for each character. In addition, this adds dodges and Clear Sight to the mix. Clear Sight offers highly damaging counter-attacks for accurate timing, but it’s unlikely you’ll require it’s services outside of Boss battles.

Don’t Play with Swords; You Might Hurt Yourself

While in combat the player must keep an eye on their Sword Gauge. As kills are gained, blood will spill slowly covering both your sword and yourself. Should your Sword Gauge fill, your sword-based attacks are likely to become slower and weaker. Possibly even becoming stuck mid-combo in an opponent’s chest. Having your on-screen avatar splashed with enough blood will result in entering Rampage Mode. This will give your character will bleed health over time but dole-out double damage. A press of the LB Button will remove a set amount of the blood from your sword (depending on how long the button is held) whereas removing blood from your avatar requires you to locate a Goddess Statue or use an item earned by dispatching large numbers of enemies.

All of this builds to a combat system which is hugely impressive. It’s an inspired series of mechanics that run deep throughout the game. Even the best in the genre could rarely argue to mirror the wealth of options seen here. Unfortunately, there are many weaker aspects to the game that bring it’s status down considerably.

Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad screenshot

Flawed Beauty?

The audio design leaves a lot to be desired. The soundtrack is a woeful imitation of the game’s hack-n’-slash peers. The character sound bytes are positively skin crawling and the enemies rarely do anything than moan or yell. It’s a shame that the localisation has not gone so far as to include an English language voice-over. While purists will appreciate the commitment to adapting the game without losing the spirit of it’s original release, most will question the fact that this simply could’ve been included as a further option on the Sound Menu. Furthermore, the map design is flawed at best. Despite never really requiring more than the pristine urban scrawl and dank underground caverns, re-treading the same paths across the twenty available stages is somewhat disappointing. The backgrounds are sparsely detailed with very little incidental animation. Which comes as a significant surprise given the depth in the character models.

It’s Pretty – And Not Just the Bikini Samurai Squad

There is a large number of zombie character models – more so than perhaps even the Xbox360’s first zombie apocalypse, Dead Rising. Sex, race, occupation and age are not discriminatory factors in the book if the undead, according to Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad, and players will soon find themselves facing zombie police officers armed with pistols, rifles and shotguns, soldiers throwing grenades and elderly zombies, who do little other stumble about.

Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad screenshot

The character models for the protagonists are, as would be expected in a title based so heavily on its starring roles, almost flawless. Each character has been well devised and is animated beautifully. The obligatory Dress-Up Mode allows players to customise their in-game appearance based on unlocked items. The option to purchase further characters as DLC is probably the wisest choice in a sea of alternatives at the developer’s disposal.

Onechanbara, Two Gameplay Modes

As an interesting little addition, Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad includes a Mini-Game during its Loading Screens. A 2D representation of Aya, the lead character, can march back-and-forth across the screen, taking out an increasing horde of zombies with a single attack. A counter keeps score in the bottom right of the screen, though whether this aids your character’s overall Experience – or any other factors – remains a mystery. Two-player co-operative gameplay is available where the story allows, and makes for a very entertaining afternoon with friends. However, the lack of comprehensibility in the story will often leave players wondering whether or not two may enter the stage together right up to the Character Selection screen.

Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad was undoubtedly judged by many before having reached an understanding of the game’s nuances. But for that it could be argued that it only has itself to blame. For those wiling to overlook the shameful sexualisation in the game – from a game in a genre that often prides itself on scantily clad femme fatales – Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad provides a deep and engrossing mechanic with plenty of replay value. It may all be about the bloodshed, but for the hardcore that’ll be enough.

Categories: Games