To celebrate the western release of Oneechanbara Origins coming October 14th, let’s look back at a couple more titles from the series (i have already reviewed the first 2 games, if you’re interested). Due to even more atrocious time costraints, i won’t be reviewing Oneechanbara Z or it’s sequel, not this year.
Today we’re talking about the third game in the series, but the first one to gain some popularity and basic recognition, as it was released in North America, unlike the first two Oneechanbara (and their ports/revisions), Bikini Samurai Squad also marks the series’ debut on X-Box 360, as an exclusive, because boobs bring the big bucks. Also, it released in western territories alongside the Wii-exclusive sequel, Bikini Zombie Slayers, and given the overall aesthetic the “double feature” release makes total sense, as Oneechanbara is heavily inspired by grindhouse horror exploitation flicks.
With new (by then) generation consoles, also comes a bit more budget, so they could actually afford some proper cutscenes to better illustrate the ultra flimsy plot, in which i mean the first cutscene of the entire game opens up with a shower scene and some CG ass, as the two sisters started to enhoy a somewhat normal life after defeating Reiko at the end of Oneechanbara 2. But guess what, zombies happened in Tokyo. Again, so time to stain the steel and find out who (or what) is behind this new surge of undead, along some new faces, like Anna – mistranslated as “Annna” in the western releases – from the ZPF (Zombie Prevention Force) and the misterious girl known as Misery, sporting insanity and a sharkskin sword she probably stole from Naruto’s Kisame Hoshigaki.
And yes, the “Annna” typo isn’t a one off, it’s consistent all the way through the game and files.
While there is some bits of narrative and things that actually aren’t that random, don’t worry, Bikini Samurai Squad isn’t overburdened with story, or dialogues that aren’t complete garbage, when there are verbal exchanges at all. Then again, i wouldn’t have it any other way, and you don’t play games like these for the story, you do because there are samurai girls in bikini (and cowboy hats) cutting down zombies by the thousands and blood spurting everywhere, even on the game screen.
This would also be a good time to actually improve the gameplay itself, and this is the case. Kinda. And kinda not.
While controls are better and characters have more sensible movesets, returning characters feel more distinct to play, have secondary weapons or special moves, at heart it’s still Oneechanbara, and of course it has the series’ distinctive need to clean the sword from the blood of enemies, which will make it less effective or lead to the sword getting stuck into enemies due to the “blood rust”. And it’s still a hack n slash rocking the lethal combination of functional but slightly off controls, timing based combos and a slow pace to the combat, with enemies that just kinda potter around or get lost into invisible walls or the closed arena confines, be they crows that got stuck in the air or zombies that haven’t fully understood the concept of “attack”.
So yeah, still plenty of sluggish fights, than often lead to you wondering why the barricades aren’t down, until you see some enemies pop-up at the border of the closed arena, just standing there. Classic Oneechanbara. I “love” they haven’t even bothered to fully revise the characters moveset, so you still have a button for kick attacks and combos… and still no fuckin reason to even have them in the first place, since they aren’t really faster or better at dealing damage, they don’t break shields (of the few enemies that do have them or guard), all characters either have sword or guns (or both), most of the enemies aren’t proactive so you will often have plenty of time to refresh the sword, unless there’s a zombie cop with pistol or shotgun somewhere in the area, that you won’t immediatly see due to the terrible camera.
On the upside, this one is less of a mess to wade through, as the game isn’t made out of 6 missions that take hours and hours each just for the sake it, but more reasonably spread in 20 less lenghty missions, but it still longer than it should, and the usual problems of Oneechanbara as a series are still present in full force, with level design that doesn’t want to just have you fight enemies in one of the few locales they made, and then move on to fight more in a different room or scenario, so it artificially lenghtens itself by locking out some doors and having you find the key to open the doors, then find another one. Sometimes there’s a boss fight, sometimes the level will just stop.
The bosses aren’t good either, and honestly i kinda forgot them, aside from the disappointing zombie orca, not because they’re bad, they definitely put up some challenge, more than regular enemies, and will manage to make you use the more advanced dodge mechanics you simply will never notice, like the timed dodge doing a “Dark Step” from No More Heroes or the Witch Time from Bayonetta, because you will never need these with normal foes. Definitely the less frustrating of the series so far, in this regard, they didn’t hand out that many gazillion lifebars to the major antagonists, but – of course – prepare to see the game recycle an early boss and make you fight two clones of it in a small arena, and a plethora of cheap tricks to artificially inflate the game difficulty, all culminating in the awful, controller -at-the-wall frustrating final boss.
A minor issue is in the game not telling you have an inventory system where to use these gems and “goddess statue pieces” that are the only to regain health or up speed and attack power, or clean the “berserk gauge”. It’s not impossible to find out or anything, it’s the 360’s controller “Back” button, not a sub-menù when pausing (like everything else), and i feel they did it kinda on purpose to not tell you, so you will have less tools to fight back the game’s bullshit. It is Tamsoft, after all.
At least this time the map actually points out where the current goal is, and what doors can now be opened with the key items dropped by groups of enemies, so you will not have to guess and randomly wandering about levels where everything looks the same (the hospital being a perfect candidate, even with the minimap is absurd how you never fully get a good idea if you’re progressing until you see some different assets), you can see where to go from the Map menu, but the mini-map is almost worthless, just indicating open doors and enemies, not even a compass type thingie.
And it’s absurd how some levels are split into mini-corridors that need loading, like – again – the hospital corridors that are visually part of the same places, but are split in mini-areas as you can see on the map. It’s not even the loading times being long in these occasions (they can get absurdly long for the shit there’s on screen), but it’s absurd they even have to load at all.
That said, it’s kinda sad the loading screens are kinda the best part of the game, because you can move an Aya chibi around and slay chibi zombies that dies with the sound effects of chicken, which also nets you some exp.
The traditional progression system seen before in the series is retained here, which means it’s still unclear what combos can you exactly do at any time until you improve the “Skill” parameter, and of course you still have to face the Mudmen enemies that require a specific input to kill in one hit (you basically go Killua on them with it), a specific input that is still not explained or anywear easy to pull off, when you know you can pull it off… and you will know by accident, not by design.
More simple and efficient to go berserk or use the special move that consumes some energy on these annoying foes, really, i beat the game, got back to it, and i still can’t figure out how to do it. I even read the input before, but it’s so finnicky i never managed to pull it off intentionally, more often by complete accident. Pointless and absurd.
For god’s sake, just make a move list, and update it, why was that so hard?
Now you have a Tips section accessible from the pause menu, but it’s random what tips you will get to see, mostly stuff you won’t need to know, obvious “helpful tips for boss battles”, maybe how to do the “heart rip” move, guess it was too much to actually list all the tips you’ve seen or “got” there.
And of course, while upgrading HP, Attack or Reach will be self-explainatory and noticeable, you will need to completely fill one of the segments in the Skill bar to unlock new combos… And you still can’t do it during the level or from the main menu, you need to either finish a level or do a Survival run to see the results and distribuite the skill points gained from levelling up.
At times, when you slash a lot of enemies due to the game spawning them in a small arena, there you can get some enjoyement, but it’s such a tiny sliver that it makes you sad, because you realize they could actually made a trashy but fun game… but didn’t. It’s even more frustrating than a bad game just being complete trash, but the glimpse of competence that istantly fades away is a cruel tease. It’s a joyless, fatigued crap game without any hint of gusto or interest. It just feels like something Tamsoft had to do, so better make those levels last as long as we can.
This time they can last – only – up to 30 minutes, they still feel way longer, and of course they’re counterbalanced by levels that are over in 1 or 5 minutes, or don’t have real organic beginning or ending points, so you get to the marked goal, and the game stops (sometimes after 12 seconds), results screen, done. There are some half-assed attempts at variety, like the bike section or the zombie orca boss, but are either disappointing or ridiculously short. Seriously, there a single, short (2 minutes short), bike level in the entire game, why even bother?!!!
It’s not a long game overall, requiring 7/8 hours to finish on the standard difficulty. Still a bit too long for what it actually has to offer, but it a step up from the pantagruelic masochistics endless time waster the first two games were. They were even longer and even more frustrating.
Aside from story mode, there’s Free Play, the usual list of in-game achievements (this time tied to X-Box Live achievements as well) listed under the Quest “mode”, the overly detailed (and fundamentally wasted on a game like this) Practice mode, a Survival mode, and a Dress Up mode, new to the series, but fairly self explanatory, and kinda expected since it’s from Tamsoft, who will later make the Senran Kagura games. There’s also local 2 players co-op. I tried it once with a friend, it’s sad, makes the game even more unplayable (as it splits the screen vertically, not horizontally).
With new generation consoles came (and still comes) new bullshit, this time being characters that should be playable (as they are bosses and have clearly programmed movesets) but are paid DLC, alongside free and paid DLCs for costumes, with options for a 10 bucks “season pass”. Still bullshit, but bullshit that seems almost dainty compared to the progressively worse monetization practices, that will eventually become accepted as the lesser evil when new, even worse bullshit will come around, etc.
This time there are CG cutscenes that look ok (and a tiny CG segment in the same style was also made for the first Oneechanbara movie, released the same year in Japan), others with the in-game engine models (which are kinda creepy, they still look like cheap budget blow up dolls made flesh), sometimes the cheaper text scrolldown over a character image as seen in the first two games, but even so i recall most (if not all of them) having voice acting. Japanese voice acting only, not that i expected anything else.
I could criticize the technical side of the game more, but this review is long enough as it is, and really, this is a very, very cheap low budget game for the X-Box 360 by a very cheap company like Tamsoft (who is still around, oddly enough being handled stuff like the recent Captain Tsubasa/Flash Kicker game or Utawarerumono Zan), published by a cheap company like D3 Publisher. Arguably, even EDF 2017 on X-Box 360 had a slightly better budget. Here it all went on the jiggle physics instead of actual optimization or anything else, for the obvious reasons.
Still, sometimes, even knowing all this, i can’t believe it has to load again for what actually amounts to very little on screen. I even installed the game to HDD just in case pre-emptively, i don’t think it actually helps at all. Hard to say, nor i care to find out.
I didn’t enjoy getting back to Bikini Samurai Squad to make this review.
I’m not angry, not anymore, i’m actually more forgiving to it because i did beat the first two games after playing this, which were even worst, way more frustrating and even took way more time to finish.
This is a walk in the park, in comparison, but it’s a sad trip down the exploitation laden memory lane, because i can see even better that Tamsoft could have made this work, having dialed down most of the bullshit of the previous games, but didn’t bother to fix obvious issues like the slow pace of the combat, having slighlty finnicky controls and move that require precise timing.. if you can guess what the moves are (the game won’t tell you, and they aren’t intuitive), or if you can rack up enough skill points for the grindy progression system to even unlock a new move.
It’s still absolute garbage, but there are glimps of fun, just making more obvious Tamsoft could have finally made a fun trashy game with this exploitation, campy as hell set-up, but never felt even remotely motivated or “inspired”, you can feel the developers really didn’t any toss, they probably felt it was a slog to develop. Sure as hell it’s repetive, mostly joyless, clunky slog to play through, but there’s something to i can understand it being someone’s guilty pleasure game. One with decent music fitting the tone, arguably the best part of the game.
And i’m not throwing shade, i’m such a masochistic garbage hunter i actually bothered to finish the first two games in the series (which i own in its entirety, Oneechanbara Origins not withstading, but i did the right thing to wait for D3 Publisher’s official release instead of importing it), the second one being so stupidly frustrating i gave up and didn’t touch it for a year because i was so mad and frustrated i wanted to simply “spite-play” it to the end, just to be done with it forever, but i wasn’t able to for reasons i’ve already explained.
If you’re still intrigued, i’d recommend not waiting any more to get an used copy, it has become rarer and pricier than one would expect, at least in Europe.
Primo garbage, indeed.