It's a Beastly Bare-Skinned Bloodbath in Wii's Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers
As of this post, I have come to the end of the horror video games that I'll be reviewing for the Wii, at least for the time being. With Wii U's release set for later this month, I figured that I'd ease off the video game reviews for a while until the new Nintendo console has a chance to settle in and demonstrate how its new selection of touch screen controls complements the pre-existing motion controls. Thankfully, the Wii U is reverse compatible with Wii games, so feel free to come back to this site for reviews of low-priced Wii games that you can play to tide you over until you can afford the more expensive Wii U games.
This review is of Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, which was released for the Wii back in 2009 by Tamsoft. In case you couldn't tell by the title, Onechanbara is a big, heaping serving of campy Japanese gore cheesecake, a video game counterpart to films such as Tokyo Gore Police (2008) and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009). As a game, it feels like an oversimplified version of Hunter: The Reckoning, but the main appeal of Onechanbara is found in its endless supply of blood and dismemberment. Read on for my complete review.
Onechanbara allows you to control up to four different characters: Aya and Saki, two sisters who have inherited something known as "Baneful Blood", and Reiko No. 9 and Misery, the game's villains who seek to understand and control the Baneful Blood for their own purposes. Each of the four characters has her own set of skills, strengths and weaknesses, but all of them have the Baneful Blood. The Baneful Blood causes the characters to go into a nearly unstoppable rampage after coming into direct skin contact with enormous amounts zombie blood; thus, Aya wears only a bikini when fighting zombies so that she can maximize her power. (Yes, really.) Where the Baneful Blood becomes a liability within the game is that the longer a character is under the influence of the Baneful Blood, the more that character's life will drain. If a character stays under the spell of the Baneful Blood for too long, she will die and the game will end.
The level environments you play through for each character in Onechanbara are the same: a graveyard, a church, a hospital, a series of streets in a city, a subway station, a forest, and an underground research facility. The sequences in which levels are provided and the kinds of zombies and monsters that inhabit them differ somewhat depending on the character, but there are no additional environments outside of this set. Such simplicity makes Onechanbara feel more like an arcade game than a home console title, since fast-paced action takes a much higher priority than diversity and complexity of game play. There are very few cut scenes, and many of those scenes are just internal monologues that provide expository information about the Baneful Blood, the latest zombie outbreak, and the characters themselves. The game does feature a multi-player option, but that is only available in levels that have been completed in single-player story mode. Curiously, for as simple as the game is, it includes four different stories that have four different endings, one for each character.
I normally don't like hack and slash and brawler games, largely because they become repetitive and eventually bore me. Even the visually impressive and hyper-violent game MadWorld lost my interest after a few levels. Yet in spite of its rote game play, Onechanbara stands apart from other hack and slash games for one major reason: its massive amounts of gore. I would even say that Onechanbara is as gory as (if not gorier than) House of the Dead: Overkill. Such violence may not appeal to some gamers, but gamers who are fans of movies such as Night of the Living Dead, Evil Dead and Dead Alive--and/or fans of the Japanese gore titles I mentioned above--will be thoroughly entertained.
In each level, you'll hack and slash through many hordes of zombies, as well as slay a few other kinds of monsters that appear to keep things interesting. (Of particular note is a monster called the Exorcist, a spider-like creature that's made from the torso of a partially dismembered corpse.) The zombies in the Onechanbara universe are not the kind that can be stopped with an injury to the brain; these zombies must be completely dismembered in order for them to stop moving. As you use your sword to cut the zombies to pieces, blood gushes in all directions from the limbs, heads and torsos as they spin through the air, and a few droplets of blood splatter even hit the screen from time to time. There's so much zombie blood in Onechanbara that you frequently have to clean off your blade with the flick of the Wiimote so that your sword won't get stuck in a zombie.
It should also be mentioned that Onechanbara is the only non-fitness game for the Wii that made my arms sore. The control scheme requires you to keep the Wiimote and nunchuk moving almost all of the time, so playing this game through multiple levels in a single sitting will make you sweat.
Other than its limited set of levels, the only other complaint I have about Onechanbara is that the story behind the game is more interesting than the game itself. After doing some online research, I found out that Bikini Zombie Slayers is just one of ten games set in the Onechanbara series. Of these games, only two were released in the US: Bikini Zombie Slayers for the Wii and Bikini Samurai Squad for the Xbox 360. (Note: Bikini Samurai Squad features the first appearance of Misery, and her subsequent resurrection is one of the story arcs in Bikini Zombie Slayers.) Thus, if you're like me and want to know more about the Onechanbara universe, you'll either have to buy the other games that were released overseas or just be content to watch the live-action Onechanbara movie that was released in 2008. Personally, I'd rather play the games.
In a nutshell, Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers delivers a game where scantily-clad women drench themselves with gallons of blood as they hack and slash through legions of zombies. If that sounds like your kind of entertainment, then you probably won't mind the game's repetitive game play and small selection of level environments.