Girls, Undead, Action!
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release date: Oct 14, 2020
Onee Chanbara ORIGIN is a remake of the original THE Onee Chanbara and its sequel, THE Onee Chanbara 2 on the PlayStation 2. Although having always been aware of it, I have never had the opportunity to play any of the entries of the series before. So yes, this is my first dive into the world of Onee Chanbara. Many words and terms that can be used to describe the game come to mind but none that I feel so fitting as ‘a B movie of hack n’ slash character action games.’
The story of Onee Chanbara ORIGIN focuses on Aya, sword swingin’ bikini wearin’ zombie hunter, who sets out to find out more about her lost family members after hearing a message from Saki, Aya’s long lost half-sister, saying that she wants Aya dead. Her quest is filled with various undead and humans to overcome and it is through this path that the secrets of her bloodline and family are revealed along the way.
I feel like the tone is already obvious from the premise of a cowboy bikini girl plowing through an army of zombies with her sword. Don’t expect it to be more than that. The game knows that it is a B movie and doesn’t try to be anything beyond that. This is fine. Not everything has to be AAA Metal Gear Solid geopolitical war economy quadruple crossing spy fiction. Sometimes, a straight forward bikini cowboy babe and co. killing zombies is just what the doctor ordered.
Visually, the Onee Chanbara ORIGIN looks ok. It looks infinitely better than the original but that’s a given seeing as they were from the ps2 era. The visual style is mostly 3D anime cell shade but a tiny tinge more realistic than games like Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm. It doesn’t break any new grounds and won’t push your PC or PS4 to the limits. The 3d background and environment seem a bit lackluster for the current generation but that’s all right. Both you and I know that’s not what we are here for.
We are here for the anime girls bringing hell to zombies and they look great! The gratuitous amount of blood from slaughtering the armies of undead that get on the camera is the icing on top. Aya and friends look good in action although the same can’t be said for the cutscenes.
The gameplay of Onee Chanbara ORIGIN is a cross between Devil May Cry and Dynasty Warriors. There are almost always a large number of enemies on the screen although not to the same extent of the DW series. You can perform combo strings by inputting buttons in a specific order. Certain moves or parts of a combo can only be unlocked when the character reaches a specific level. Level? That’s right, RPG elements like leveling up, stat points allocation, and equipping items are a thing here.
While the number of combos available to a character is less than what one would expect if you come from games like Metal Gear Rising or DMC, Onee Chanbara ORIGIN has ways to make up for its smaller move list. At first, Aya will only have access to one singular weapon but as the story progresses, she will be able to have 2 weapons equipped at the same time. Of course, they can be switched at any point at any time and boast moves that are unique to them.
But it doesn’t end there! There are also “super moves” that require a special meter to activate and Xtasy form which is basically the equivalent of DMC Devil Trigger. However, one of the most important features of all is the ability to switch characters on the fly while attacking. This, along with weapon switching, really opens up combo possibilities. You can definitely cycle through the weapons of both characters in one combo and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Admittedly this still won’t bring it to the full complexity of what can be done in something like Devil May Cry 3 or 5 but it gets close.
It would be a blunder on my part if I were to not mention the two most important defensive options that Onee Chanbara ORIGIN has to offer: dodge and parry. Dodging works in pretty much the same way as Bayonetta’s witch time in that if the dodge is within a specific timing, a slo-mo effect dubbed “prediction” will occur. Dodge will most likely allow you to evade attacks even if you aren’t able to get the prediction effect to activate.
Parry, unlike dodge, is a much more difficult and high-risk high reward maneuver. Not only does parry have a stricter timing but failing it will often translate to taking a hit due to its recovery animation. Succeed and you will render enemies vulnerable to Cool Finish, special finishing move, or either making them briefly motionless or building their stun meter. You will need a lot of practice even against attacks that have audio and visual cues as their timings vary.
As you go through the story mode, extras like character profiles and concept art will be unlocked. Both of these can be viewed from the gallery. These may give additional information on the characters that may not be present or immediately obvious from playing through the story. One thing I find a bit strange is the lack of a model viewer or just simply showing the 3d model of the character when reading their profiles. As is, all you can see are just text. A little extra effort would go a long way but it’s just not there.
One complaint I have about the combat is that the camera can get obstructed by the environment or whatever else when your character is close to the edge of the map. It can get frustrating when you get hit by something that you cannot see especially during a boss fight. Another complaint is that human-size bosses that can be launched after becoming vulnerable from parry don’t last in the air long enough to eat your full combo which disincentivizes doing long and complex combos.
If you were to consider Onee Chanbara ORIGIN a budgeted title (despite it being fully priced), you can probably excuse things like poor cutscene editing, model clippings, and other jankiness. Hell, you can chalk them all as B-movie charms. What cannot be excused is the current state of the PC version. The port is filled with performance problems like framerate issues to straight game-breaking crashes. I have encountered both a few times myself.
Thankfully, these issues can be fixed via tinkering with graphic card settings by yourself and have worked like a dream for me since. However, the fact that you have to work around it at all is troubling. The 96 sum total of DLC, albeit mostly for extra costumes and music, is also irksome. By the way, why is there no option to upgrade from regular edition to deluxe on steam?
From what I understand, the deluxe edition is just the normal version but with all the DLCs bundled together. Currently, you are forced to buy the deluxe bundle(base game+DLCs) even if you already own the base game. The DLCs can be purchased separately but here’s the thing: the price of all the 96 DLCs added up to 97.05 USD while the deluxe bundle has an MSRP of 74.99 USD, excluding taxes. See the problem here?
Think of Onee Chanbara ORIGIN as a B-movie version of Devil May Cry but with anime cowboy bikini girl. Although it does have its own mechanics, minor gameplay differences, and influences from other series, I still find this description to be most apt. Onee Chanbara ORIGIN lags behind DMC in every respect. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun. Even in the face of technical issues that come with the PC version and other problems, I would still recommend it. The critic in me would say to either get the PS4 version or wait for the PC-specific issues to be ironed out first but the gamer in me would say it’s worth a dive now if you have the money to spare and some elbow grease. Just make sure to check this out first.
Overcoming the pinnacle of the genre that is Devil May Cry (3&5) is, frankly, a nigh-impossible task. Don’t go in expecting that. Expect a decently budgeted game featuring ludicrous cowboy bikini girl and friends annihilating the undead in flashy ways with a gratuitous amount of violence and fanservice. Get in that mindset, and you will have a good time.