Platform: PlayStation 2
Review Date: 3/23/06
Basically a remake of D3's "The OneChanbara" (Simple 2000 Vol. 61) that adds two new scantily clad girls to the mix. It's all in Japanese, so my understanding of the series is extremely limited. Basically, two sisters, Aya and Saki, are raised by separate parents and taught to hate each other. When Saki murders her father, Aya swears vengeance and sets out to kill her younger sister. For reasons unclear, the path to her sister is littered with an endless horde of zombies. Lucky for her, she's a master of the sword and fully capable of dismantling the shuffling undead. The game title roughly translates to something like "Elder Sister Sword Fight," but I've seen at least a dozen variations on the translation.
Like most D3 games, this one lures you in with the promise of sex and gore, and while it certainly delivers on both fronts, the gameplay is overly disappointing. There's also something seriously wrong with either the camera, the animation, or the frame rate (or any combination thereof), because I experienced some serious motion induced nausea after playing for only twenty minutes. The gameplay consists of taking your scantily clad female protagonist through a series of small and unattractive levels, and hacking apart the infinitely respawning zombies that stand in your way with your sword. Only Aya is available in the beginning of the game, but with enough perseverance Saki, Riho Futaba (D3's poster girl), and Riho's nemesis Makoto Futaba can be unlocked as playable characters.
While I'm a big fan of beat 'em up games like "Streets Of Rage" and "Hunter: The Reckoning", the execution in this game is bland, boring, and mind-numbingly repetitive. The control scheme is a bit hard to get used to, but basically boils down to mindless kicking and slashing. The zombies are extremely plentiful and like to surround you, but in the early levels they just stand there and wait for you to end their wretched existence. The game also features two bizarre and questionable gameplay mechanics that I personally think are completely broken. One is that your sword gets dirty after repetitive use, so it needs to be cleaned regularly or else it gets stuck inside an opponent's body. While this sounds neat, it's really just an annoyance. The more flawed feature is the "berzerker gauge", which fills up as you collect red orbs and get soaked in blood. When the gauge is full, you go into a highly frenzied berzerker mode and then die if you don't have any appropriate healing items. This is one of the few games I've played where you're actually penalized for picking up items that vanquished foes leave behind. Both of these features seem like they're enforcing unnecessary difficulty on the user, as if to hide the mediocre design of the game.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag. The main characters look great, and I'm a huge fan of sword wielding girls in skimpy clothing. National Console Support's description of Aya is so well crafted that I have to share it with you:
|"Since Aya's garb... or lack thereof is so unusual, NCS is compelled to describe it in exacting detail. On her head, Aya wears a leopard-spotted cowboy hat followed by a purple feather boa which is wrapped around her left. The boa trails along her back. Her breasts are cupped together with a red bikini and a gun belt circles her waist. Peer behind the gun belt to observe her matching red bikini bottom. Her arms are covered with theater gloves that don't match each other. Her right leg slips into a white lace piece of hosiery while her left leg is covered by sheer hosiery that is held up by a red garter. In case you're wondering, her shoes match the bikini. In essence, Aya looks like she just crawled out of the Salvation Army lingerie section." (copyright NCS)|
The game is also exceedingly bloody, and buckets of blood and gore splash and spill all over the screen, as well as on the heroines' nubile bodies. Zombies are destroyed by hacking off offending appendages, and quite often you'll be approached by a pair of free-standing legs left over from an upper body assault. While this kind of carnage is fun for about ten minutes, the repetition and lack of variety quickly spoils the fun. The zombies are all pretty much the same and they respawn infinitely, which encourages you to finish levels quickly, provided you know what the completion criteria are. I know it's not fair to criticize a game whose instructions are in a different language, but it seems to me that the presentation is too vague and ambiguous to clearly determine what your progress and objectives are. The levels are also repetitive, ugly, non-interactive, and not very detailed, which adds to the tedium of playing. On the plus side, the menu screens are well designed and the music is pleasantly subtle.
Overall, "OneChanpuru" is a well intended game with enough absurdity and visceral thrills to warrant its $20 price tag. It also knows its core demographic very well and has proven to be quite popular, as there are at least three games in the series as of this writing. Unfortunately, it failed to engage me in the "fun" department, and I tend to want and expect more out of the video games that I choose to play these days. If it had richer content and played more like an old school brawler (and didn't make me queazy while playing it) I'd be a hardcore fan and a firm supporter of the series, but alas, no.