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Onechanbara Z2: Chaos (PlayStation 4) artwork

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos (PlayStation 4) review

"Look forward to boobs, blood, zombies, rough edges and the satisfying combat that makes it worth your while."

I'm not a guy who has a problem with scantily-clad females saving the world. Sometimes I'm looking for Gone Home, but in other cases I want to call all of the duties or build the best darn city you'll ever see. I play games of all sorts and then I move onto something else because variety is beautiful.

When I tackled Onechanbara Z2: Chaos, a violent action brawler that feels a bit like Samurai Warriors crossed with Devil May Cry and Dead or Alive, I was feeling especially receptive to jiggling boobs and related fan service. That happens occasionally. I wanted something loud, obnoxious and flashy that didn't take itself too seriously. In addition, I wanted to have fun. Otherwise, what's the point?

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos (PlayStation 4) image

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos didn't do much to inspire early confidence. After watching a bombastic introductory video that showcased the requisite jiggle while guitar rock juiced my adrenaline, I dove into Story mode. Four young ladies faced off in a moldy castle and then the floor suddenly caved beneath them, which was the first but certainly not the last time the narrative developed as if at random. The ladies were separated in two groups and they soon started hacking their way through stale environments populated by enemies that barely offered resistance. Loading screens--which are agonizingly lengthy throughout the game's entire campaign, but at least not plentiful--informed me that although the opposing forces aren't quite zombies, they might as well be. I agree.

Advancing through those early stages is a boring chore that prompts a person's mind to wander. I started questioning why load times are so lengthy when the environments are so bland, and I wondered if the art department blew its budget on character models and forgot everything else. Was the whole game going to be that way?

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos (PlayStation 4) image

Fortunately, it wasn't. By the time I reached the boss near the end of the fourth chapter, I had finally encountered an environment that wasn't just another musty cave. Instead it was abandoned castle ruins, and thus felt just as restrictive, but at least it looked different. Then I started hacking apart a monster and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to reduce his life meter past a certain point (pro tip: swipe along the track pad when the blue arrow prompts appear on the screen). My attention wavered and I wished I could stop playing, but I had a review to write and so I kept going.

I'm pleased to report that conditions almost immediately improved. The game didn't suddenly turn into the masterpiece I never asked it to be, but it opened up and finally offered me reasons to keep going. I explored more varied environments. I battled a wider variety of monsters. I earned new rewards, purchased more efficient weapons, learned new skills, and--most importantly--started to appreciate the nuances of the combat system. Onechanbara Z2: Chaos appeals to whatever part of you likes nubile leading ladies, painful one-liners and slobbering zombies, but its most effective hook is the thrill of hacking your way across a battlefield as blood hangs in the air behind you like liquid ribbons. It's empowering in ways that all too few games ever manage.

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos (PlayStation 4) image

Combat is exciting for a few reasons, even though most of those reasons aren't evident at first. You can stumble through a lot of battles simply by mashing the Square button a lot, since it performs your most basic attack. The Triangle button executes heavier and slower strikes, and you can jump by tapping X or hold the button to perform a dash move that ends with you launching skyward (along with any enemies you might also be pushing by that point). Air combos and dodges are common and become necessary as you deal with more powerful foes. As the campaign advances, you can also tag in one of your team members, even in the middle of a combo. Particularly adept players will eventually string together a seemly endless series of strikes as they swap one vixen for another and deal all sorts of pain in the process.

Besides the simple stuff outlined above, there's the ability to switch between weapons. As you inflict damage, your chosen poison--be it twin blades, something curved, or even a chainsaw--becomes coated in blood and loses its edge. Swipe it to the side in the middle of a combo to clean it, or perhaps summon something from deep within and transform into an evolved form that typically deals more damage. Or if you prefer, you might instead-- you know what? That's enough about that. I could probably keep going for paragraphs. My point is that the combat system has some real teeth. You naturally become more engrossed the longer you play and the more you invest in the characters. It's like building a soap box derby car, except instead of entering it in a competition, you're seeing if it fares any better against the enemy horde. There's a helpful Practice mode if you want to tweak in a controlled environment, as well, and optional Missions let you challenge yourself to kick butt in new ways.

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos (PlayStation 4) image

Not everything works as well as I'd like, though, even after the game mostly finds its footing. The menus that tie everything together are tricky to navigate, for instance. You can modify equipment and learn moves, but only if you access the options from the title screen--before even resuming the campaign--or between missions or while standing near a special statue. Some options are tucked away in unlikely places, or presented in ways that leave you unaware you're even missing something. I bought powerful rings for my characters, and I was most of the way through the campaign before I realized they weren't even equipped. I promise I'm not a complete moron, and I hope you'll take my word on that. The game is simply awkward in odd places.

While I'm on the topic of awkward, I'd like to add that the camera apparently hates its job. You can press R2 and target a nearby foe, but holding that button down while doing the required finger gymnastics feels… awkward. I'm using that word a lot, I know, but you'll understand if you play the game. Too often, the camera winds up pointed at a wall, while behind you there's a whole field of enemies, some of which may be taking pot shots at you. There are ways to deal with the setup. By the game's end, you'll be an old hand at dashing all over the place, knocking enemies about and spattering blood all over the screen (that's a nice touch). It's just a shame you're expected to work so hard to come to terms with a central design element.

So no, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos isn't perfect, and I can't imagine that anyone ever thought it would be. It has numerous problems, including repetitive environments and enemies, an unhelpful camera, excessive load times, and an awkward interface. If you're willing to look past those rough edges, though, exhilarating combat remains to balance things out a bit so that you're left with a generally satisfying experience overall. If you can live with the over-the-top fan service, I mean…


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Staff review by Jason Venter (July 21, 2015)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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