The undead rise, The undead fall
I can’t even lie to you guys – I didn’t really know much about the Onee Chanbara at all, even though the games first debuted in 2004. I’ve never been particularly crazy about fan service, so I did my best to avoid games that were overly-saturated with half-naked anime babes. No matter how much my otaku cousin bothered me to try these types of games out, I wouldn’t budge. But that’s all pretty much been punted out the window after experiencing the latest entry in the series. In celebration of the series’ 15th anniversary, Tamsoft has released Onee Chanbara: Origin, an enhanced port of the first two games in the franchise.
Being allowed to check this one out was the best thing that ever happened to me, so much so that I had to go and grab Onechanbara Z2: Chaos for good measure. I fought the good fight for years. Now, here I am finding myself being tainted by the powerful void known only as fan service thanks to this racy remaster.
The Power of Siblings
Reminiscent of the Grindhouse movies, Tamsoft’s zombie-themed hack-&-slasher takes the style of those classic B-horror movie films and cranks the dial to 11 with a whole heap of anime-styled violence and mayhem. Using the stories from the first two games in the series and combining them into a new sexy and streamlined package. Being a massive fan of those classic George Romero zombie flicks and hit animated sensations like Highschool of the Dead, this story fits right into my warped little mind. Taking place in a dystopian version Tokyo, the game follows Aya, our lovely battle maiden with a serious lack of fashion sense, as she slaughters her way through hordes of the living dead and uppity evil bimbos to find and save her sister.
After your epic sisterly squabble, you’ll eventually get to recruit Saki. She’s your giant-tachi-wielding, fisticuff-fueled, pint-sized powerhouse. She’ll help in your pursuit of Eva, who you’ll eventually get to beat the ever-living snot out of for murdering your mother. Sounds like some serious family business here.
As expected with most fast-paced button-mashers, the story itself isn’t quite the most expansive narrative, to say the least. But let’s be honest with ourselves, that’s not why we play these games at all. We’re here for the girls, gore, and flashy combos!
Dash, Slash, Parry, then Dash some more
If there’s one thing I can honestly say about this game overall it’s that it’s entertaining as hell. It’s like they took mechanics from two of my favorite franchises, Devil May Cry and Dynasty Warriors, and cranked everything up to one-thousand. Seriously, I found myself getting so lost in the blitz of rapid sword slashes and acrobatic dodges that I hadn’t realized I made it to chapter seventeen just in my first few hours of playing. The game’s combat was a sleek and streamlined combo fiend’s paradise, and I loved unlocking more abilities to expand these sick displays of martial arts as I leveled up my characters. While I did often find myself repeating the same sequences over and over again, things got even better once I unlocked Saki. She may be a bit slower than her sister, but her sword’s massive range and her insanely high attack power make quick work of your foes.
One feature I really appreciated is the way the game allows you to seamlessly switch between the main heroines and their main and sub-weapons. This added a whole new level of depth to the game’s battles. Not only can you now extend those macabre dances of slashes and dismemberment, you also get to regain some much-needed health in the process. Main mechanics like dodges, parries, and cleaning zombie blood from your blades serve as a sort of powerful cancel tool to help you get out of some tight situations or repetitive boss attacks. Much like its Capcom-developed contemporary, your heroes also have a berserk transformation that further boosts your attack power and speed, as well as a new even more powerful demonic transformation that comes at the cost of having ye ole health bar drained continuously.
Giving us exactly what we’d expect, Onee Chanbara: Origin‘s gameplay is overly amusing, full of insane combos, flowing movements to help you dip and dodge your enemies, and lots of gore to keep you wanting more body parts to hit the floor. Even after all the chapters are said and done, the game still offers much replayability ranging from unlocking Lei, your platinum-haired informant, infinite survival mode, and chapter select with harder difficulties. There are tons of things for you to do. Though this all can seem tedious, don’t let that deter you from missing out on one amazingly good time.
Is Blood Supposed to do that?
Honestly, you won’t be paying much attention to the backgrounds at all in this game, and admittedly they can be a bit lackluster. While being a remarkably serviceable remake of the old Playstation 2 titles, Tamsoft’s zombie-slayer does a fantastic job keeping track of your character throughout these drab environments as you flip like a graceful gymnast through huge groups of enemies. Given the amount of dodging you have to do, I’d say that’s a huge plus. Even though the game environments are a bit bland, those reworked cell-shaded masterpieces created by Katsumi Enami are a visual gem that continues to embrace the game’s traditions while still giving us some variety on the ever-faithful eye candy.
Combat is a sight to behold when the sisters unleash hell and blood upon their enemies, themselves, and the screen. From Saki’s spinning dance-like sword style to Aya’s fierce yet skillful rapid slashes, Onee Chanbara: Origin does a phenomenal job putting the series’ feverish battle style on display. If that’s not enough to help keep you pumped as you slay your way through the walking dead rejects, then those pretty awesome J-Pop tunes humming away in the background will be enough to keep the buttons mashing and the swords swinging.
While you may experience some slight frame drops here and there, the game still manages to deliver some ecstatic and smooth action.
If you love films like Planet Terror, fast-paced, Devil May Cry-inspired combat, and babes in bikinis whose sole purpose is to slaughter as many zombies as possible in the name of revenge, then Onee Chanbara: Origin is a title well worth adding to your PS4 collection. Tamsoft did an incredible job of modernizing these dusty PS2 gems while providing an aesthetically pleasing makeover. While the game may be a bit short, there’s no denying that it’s extremely well crafted and succeeds in delivering an over-the-top, hack-&-slash bonanza of anime-inspired madness.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC; Publisher: D3 Publisher; Developer: Tamsoft; Players: 1; Released: October 14, 2020; MSRP: $59.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.