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Zombie Hunters (PlayStation 2) artwork

Zombie Hunters (PlayStation 2) review

"In this game you assume the role of a hot Japanese babe in a bikini who carves up the walking dead with her bloodthirsty katana – and that pretty much sums up why the Oneechanbara series are some of the most popular imports for the PS2."

In this game you assume the role of a hot Japanese babe in a bikini who carves up the walking dead with her bloodthirsty katana.

And that pretty much sums up why the Oneechanbara series are some of the most popular imports for the PS2 despite being part of D3 Publisher’s budget Simple 2000 line. But unlike most of their “sexy” gimmick offerings, this one actually has some good gameplay to back up the ridiculous premise. Hence The Oneechanpurru is more than just a pretty face: it’s an incredibly violent hack & slash action frenzy featuring huge mobs of zombies lurching all around you at every turn, not to mention veritable fountains of blood spraying everywhere as you hack them to pieces. Of course since they’re already dead, just because there might be rotting heads, limbs, and even torsos flying all over the place doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about being kicked in the shins by a belligerent pair of disembodied legs.

Still, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that developer Tamsoft chose to put the lion’s share of their efforts into designing our main sword-swinging sister, samurai/cowgirl Aya. Look past Aya’s distinctively cheeky look – itsy-bitsy string bikini, flowing pink scarf, cowboy hat, spiky boots, and requisite lower-back tattoo, all topped off with a scabbard and belt dangling against her lace-hosed hip – and you’ll notice that ample chest has a tendency to quiver like jello whether she’s sashaying towards her next victim or cleaving its spine in two. Man, it’s a shame that everything else looks like it belongs in a Dreamcast game. Not only are all the enemies and environments nowhere near as detailed, there isn’t much variety to them either. Other than a seemingly inexhaustible supply of your basic reanimated undead (occasionally aflame), the later levels introduce bulky ogres, vicious canine creatures, and the Tarman from Return of the Living Dead – and that’s pretty much it.

Fortunately the actual combat engine is surprisingly well done. Not only can you chain regular attacks together to form quick combinations, but holding the analog stick in different directions allows you to suddenly interrupt them with an upward slice that launches your opponents into the air, a lunging thrust that pushes you several steps forward, or a wide crescent-shaped swing that merely hurls everybody else a mile away. All this bloodletting also causes Aya to become increasingly splattered with gore and her initially placid stance increasingly labored until she suddenly transforms into an Orochi-style genocidal lunatic complete with red hair and purple skin. This ghastly state dramatically increases her strength and speed to the point where you can destroy entire groups with one or two strikes, but lowers defense and continually drains health until she finally collapses. The only way to end this condition is to either backtrack to the stage’s Angel statue or use one of your limited inventory items, and the Tarman enemies can only be harmed while you’re in Blood Rage to add a bit of strategy to the mix.

Another rather unique aspect is that your sword likewise becomes progressively soaked with blood with every kill, dripping puddles of red in your wake and eventually radiating an evil aura. This isn’t the beneficial sort of evil aura, either; your swings become slower and at the maximum level of corruption the entire blade will randomly impale itself through an enemy’s midsection, leaving Aya open to attack as she attempts to pry it free with her dainty heel. Since the sword degenerates considerably faster than Aya herself, you frequently have to slip away to safety for a moment and forcefully fling all that gore from your weapon in one powerful motion, just like in all those samurai movies. There’s no block button, but you can deflect projectiles by swinging your sword at them, which will definitely come in handy since eventually the zombies start packing pistols and shotguns. You can even point at a single enemy to target it specifically, allowing you to cartwheel around or away from its attacks with ease.

Unfortunately the game ultimately betrays its limited budget and production time with just as much ease when it comes to the lackluster level design: there are only six stages and half of those are simply expanded retreads of the earlier ones – and all but the last share the exact same generic dance beat. Even then none of them are really all that interesting: you run through a lot of long, winding hallways, open courtyards, and tiny rooms (all crammed with enemies, of course), occasionally being locked in until you kill everything in sight and obtain a key so you can backtrack to an earlier locked door. So while all this undead annihilation is pretty fun, it won’t take long for it to start wearing thin, especially since all the enemies you just defeated will completely respawn whenever you leave the screen, prompting you to just start avoiding them and make your way to the next mandatory key battle. You’ll also earn a bunch of experience points for racking up hundreds of kills and 50-hit combos which can then be allocated to various stats like vitality, speed, and reach, but I just threw everything into sheer power and finished easily.

Considering how quickly you’ll beat it the requirements to unlock additional costumes are pretty damn harsh, requiring you to meet a certain goal on every stage. Some are simple enough like killing the bosses with a completely bloody sword or while in Blood Rage, but the one where you have to kill every enemy you ever encounter is pretty exhausting thanks to the backtracking/respawning, and the last one requires you to beat each stage without taking a single hit. On that note you don’t have much control over the camera either; this normally isn’t a problem, but in the smaller rooms Aya seems really far away, and you can barely see anything at all if you fall into one of the shallow pits during the last two levels, so good luck there.

This is all the more disappointing because this game is actually a minor upgrade over the earlier Simple 2000 vol. 61: The Oneechanbara. As far as I know the only added features are a pair of new characters: the auburn-haired D3 regular Riho Futaba, a teenage idol sporting an even skimpier set of swimwear and even wobblier bosom, and her younger sister Makoto; as well as cooler default outfits for Aya and her villainous sibling Saki. Of course these extra characters just play exactly the same as Aya except for Saki’s killer beam attack in place of the swinging slice. Apparently they did make one very useful gameplay addition: you’re now asked whether you want to exit the current screen instead of the game automatically loading the next area every time you accidentally got too close to a door while fighting a horde of enemies in an enclosed space.

In the end Oneechanpuruu is a decent game with more promise than its premise might lead you to expect; just don’t expect to play through it without being reminded that its primary design focus was to be quick and cheap – cheap enough that most import gamers will enjoy it anyway. Want a masterful action game? Make sure you’ve already imported the awesome Ikusa Gami. Want a B-horror blend of blades, babes, and blood? Then by all means, take a stab at these cheesy chopper chicks.

sho's avatar
Staff review by Sho (February 14, 2007)

Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.

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