Out of all of the games I have reviewed this year, at first glance I would have said that Onee Chanbara Origin would be the absolute worst. I do not have fond memories of the original games considering that they were mostly broken messes that were a chore to play through. Upon deciding to review this game my colleagues said things like, "Haha good luck" or "You poor soul". Once I actually hopped into the ridiculous world of Onee Chanbara Origin I was pleasantly surprised. The game is nowhere close to being perfect, but it is still an incredibly fun hack-and-slash experience.
For the uninitiated, the Onee Chanbara games tell the story of two half-sisters, Aya and Saki, who live in a future world ruined by a zombie apocalypse. Aya and Saki were separated from each other years ago, and all of Aya's time is spent trying to track down her long lost sister. Saki on the other hand is secretly commanding the armies of the undead as she tries to resurrect her dead mother. Rather than being a serious affair though, Onee Chanbara is notorious for its insane blood-soaked world and main character Aya who decides to fight zombies wearing nothing but a bikini.
A Complete Remake
Onee Chanbara Origin is a complete ground-up remake of the first two games of the series. Not only has the world been updated to fit in more modern times (one of the most jarring examples is Aya using a iPhone like device to take calls and manage the menu), but the visuals and combat mechanics have been given a major overhaul. Onee Chanbara Origin still looks a little outdated visually, but it has a kind of charming retro feel to it that made me feel like I was playing a game from 2009 rather than one from the year 2000. The updated mechanics are where Onee Chanbara Origin truly shines though.
Combat is actually a lot of fun in this game. You use a katana to carve through enemies with one button and another one attacks with a short-ranged attack. As you level up and gain more experience, longer and more impressive combos unlock that allow you to deal more damage to enemies or can stun them to make way for a special attack. The most interesting mechanic that the game has going for it though is having to keep track of the amount of blood on Aya's katana. The bloodier the katana is then the less damage it can do to enemies, so ever so often players have to shake the blood off in the middle of a fight. This seems slightly tedious at first, but it actually provides an interesting challenge to the combat by having to balance attacking with managing the katana.
Combat is Much Better This Go Round
There is also an in-universe explanation for why Aya wears as little clothing as possible. As enemies are killed and Aya's body is sprayed with their blood a bar slowly fills up in the corner of the screen. Once this bar fills up completely Aya will transform into a red-tinted beast that can deal more damage. Those who fill up the bar again while in this mode will transform again to become even stronger, but Aya's health will drain as long as she isn't killing something. This mechanic adds even more insane combos and attacks to Aya's arsenal and its a challenge to have to think about the trade off between damage and health.
All of these combat mechanics were present in the original games, but here they are much smoother and work together better. There also seems to have been a massive improvement to both the camera and lock-on mechanics which makes it easier to keep track of stronger enemies on the screen. The camera in particular I remember being an issue in older Onee Chanbara games, but here it mostly works for the player rather than against them.
Boss Battles Are A Delight
By far my favorite part of Onee Chanbara Origin though were the boss battles that you get to take part in. Each of these different bosses are mechanically unique than the last, and all of them will force the player to prioritize new strategies to bring down. A fight that I found particularly interesting was against two young zombie girls who each had their own combat abilities. One was a close-ranged fighter whereas the other could attack from a distance which meant that I was forced to keep track of both of them simultaneously and decide which one to bring down first.
There are a few downsides to Onee Chanbara Origin in that the gameplay can become pretty repetitive over time. Interesting fights are few and far between, so most of your time is spent hacking at basic zombies who present almost zero challenge other than unnecessarily high health bars. Another big offender is the series' insistence on presenting half naked women throughout the entirety of the game. I understand that sexy anime women are how this game become popular to begin with, but does Aya really have to wear a bikini the whole time? I would have appreciated the ability to use alternate costumes to make her look like more of an accomplished zombie killer rather than a swimsuit model.
A Surprisingly Positive Experience
At the end of the day Onee Chanbara Origin a was surprisingly positive experience. It definitely isn't a great video game by any means, but the amount of effort that was put into making one of my least favorite game series of all time into something that works is very impressive. Onee Chanbara Origin is perfect for those who want a mindless hack-and-slash experience or want to question if the old Onee Chanbara games were really that bad.
TechRaptor reviewed Onee Chanbara Origin on PC with a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on PlayStation 4.
- Fast Paced Action
- Improved Visuals
- Combat Is Actually Fun
- Unique Boss Fights
- Repetitive Gameplay
- Still Outdated