The OneeChanbara series by Japanese developer Tamsoft has a dubious history in the gaming world. Popularizing action-style spectacles with scantily clad women, the games are notorious for their nonsense plots and thin characters but often make up for it with action-heavy, gory gameplay and tantalizing T&A. In the West, the OneeChanbara series has a devoted cult following, and for all the faults the games do have, namely being wholly mediocre in most regards, they perform well in the niche they've carved out for themselves.
Imagine then that the series gets a spinoff title that attempts to attract more audience members in that niche out West with the promise of zombies, school girls, and underwear. Unfortunately, that game is School Girl/Zombie Hunter - A cheap, tantalizing third-person shooter more interested in male gaze than good controls. SG/ZH is just a below average effort to what is already a mediocre series from Tamsoft, and while it may be enough to satisfy the wait for more OneeChanbara fans out West, it is unlikely the game will garner fans outside of that niche.
The entire premise is fairly straightforward; zombies have begun attacking a Japanese high school while five teenage students, trained to fight the zombies for some unexplained reason, fight them off with guns, kendo sticks, baseball bats and their underwear all across the campus.
Oh, the last part is not hyperbole; one of the back of the box features is that you can use your underwear as a trap that attracts all male zombies to it for up to sixty seconds. The time limit, you see, is dependent on how long you wear a certain pair of bra and panties before you decide to take a shower (and be greeted to your teenage avatar’s side boob in a 30-second clip), a feature that is unlocked halfway through the game. Funnily enough, the female zombies (all schoolgirls too, no less!) ignore your underwear trap and run straight for you.
I would applaud School Girl/Zombie Hunter for being clever in how it frames the underwear traps by attracting men without fail, but that is giving the game's writing way too much credit. Part of the problem is the game's purposeful presentation as a “schlocky B-game experience" lacks any actual subtlety to that B-movie feel. SG/ZH attempts to be fully in on the joke of its premise, and does score some points by having oddball options like pink colored blood and cutesy-schoolgirl caricatures, but while the characters try to be silly and purposefully ridiculous at times, the games writing plays the scenario straight; all five girls are just stereotyped personalities with cheap interpersonal conflicts and overly long bouts of exposition to explain their interests and past history with each other. Topping it off is a happy-go-lucky “overcoming odds with friendship” slant against the zombified horde. It’s dreadfully boilerplate to the point where a bit more “over the top” could have helped the game in place of the snickering it gets. Think of Lollipop Chainsaw as a comparison: for all the faults of that Suda 51 joint, it at least fully embraced the ridiculousness of their world and scenario.
What helps a game like Lollipop Chainsaw, or any game in the mold of being style over substance, is really in the control schemes. The bland scenario, bland writing, even unsurprisingly bland sex appeal could be forgivable if there was some decent gameplay behind the mechanics, but instead, we get extremely awkward third-person shooter controls and a very slow camera to contend with. Movement is alright, if a bit imprecise but the aiming and shooting mechanics are slippery at best, rarely lining up for a precise shot. This favors a more “spray and pray” gameplay style, but most of the automatic weapons see players constantly missing targets outside of point-blank range. Headshots are not impossible, but lining up shots is incredibly difficult with the janky controls; you can mow down maybe 3-4 zombies swarming you at a time with greater ease over purposefully aiming for the head.
This makes playing the game more tedious than fun. In fact, the only real change to how I played comes in the form of massively overpowered weapons, which quite literally made me pass gameplay scenarios in a manner of minutes without any difficulty. It’s kind of insulting really; by the time I was finally getting used to the controls, the game was not only almost over but they gave me guns that shoot off zombie limbs in one hit, removing what little tension the game's scenarios possessed.
Once all the tension is gone, the game really falls apart. The janky controls already make it hard to get through, but everything surrounding the game feels slapdash. Graphically, this looks like a PlayStation 3 title ported to the PS4, sound-design is adequate but not memorable, and the voice-over is in full Japanese. There is also a problem with the game's cutscenes, with SG/ZH following in the footsteps of Valkyria Revolution's framing and jilted quality. The game looks and plays like a low-budget title, but does little to hide that fact. It is devoid of anything charming or interesting in any way, even the cheap attempts at sex appeal (there are tons colored pairs of underwear to unlock after all) offer little in the way of tantalization.
The story mode and side missions are somewhat varied, most of them being simple search and destroy mission types. We get some gameplay variance in the form of survival challenges, sniping challenges, and even base defenses, but overall the bulk of the game is in the form of 29 story missions that you are expected to grind through and replay constantly. The reason is for unlockables and mission scores; getting better scores improves your rating, but a lot of the content thread-bare; the only incentive given is to unlock a mediocre assortment of costumes, hair colors, and shoes for your schoolgirls, and picking up random weapons that may or may not be new to use out against the zombie hordes.
Its mostly filler content to keep players playing the 45-plus missions in the game on two difficulty levels. There is also online play, which supports five players at once for a given scenario, and to the games credit online play is perhaps the way to go for a shlocky shooter like School Girl/Zombie Hunter. While I was unable to find anyone to play with online myself (which is a bad sign) it is possible to get a least a bit of enjoyment out of the game with friends more than alone, but it would be in the ironic sense of playing a bad game more than anything else.
That doesn’t really save the game though from being anything special. The combination of grinding out short, ten-minute levels, even with friends, may be a hard sell for even the most adventurous player out there. School Girl/Zombie Hunter is just brainless in the worst kind of way; trying to pass itself off as being fun while totally devoid of fun factor. It’s not even in a “so bad it’s good” kind of mold like Deadly Premonition or even Xtreme Beach Volleyball, it’s just outright terrible on all accounts. Only the hardest of the hardcore fans of the OneeChanbara series would likely enjoy a game like SG/ZH; otherwise, there are better titles out there that are just as gratuitous while being competently well designed.
Our School Girl/Zombie Hunter review was conducted on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher.
School Girl/Zombie Hunter is just brainless in the worst kind of way; trying to pass itself off as being fun while being devoid of any fun factor.(Review Policy)
- The Game is Short...
- ...Pretty Much Everything Else
- Bland Gameplay
- Bland Presentation
- Bland Sex Appeal