Today Oneechanbara Origins, the remake of the first two titles in the series, launches officially on PS4 and Steam, so let’s rivisit that spin-off of sorts Tamsoft made in 2017, branded as “Zombie Panic Shooting Action”, happening in the Oneechanbara universe. Kinda. Maybe.
Yes, the retail PAL version does exist, i have it!
But it’s also available digital for PS4 and Steam.
ANIME GRINDHOUSE OF THE DEAD
The plot is as basic as it gets for this type of zombie survival story, with 5 school girls left behind at their school during a zombie outbreak. We’re not gonna explain why or how the outbreak happened, not that it even matters at this point in time, zombies will just grow from the milldew and spring out of cement if narrative wants them to (and the reason behind the zombies usually isn’t the focus of zombie narratives, just repeating it once more for those in the back).
We get to hear – via radio transmission – from Anna (spelled with 2 “n” this time as well) of the ZPF from Oneechanbara that there are zombies springing basically everywhere in the country, so she can’t help us out of Kirasagi Academy. Thankfully the school is somehow full of guns (a japanese school, quick reminder) and the 5 protagonists seem a bit too eager to shoot undead by the dozens, or get some of their conventient specializations with kendo swords, baseball bats, karate, because evidently every schoolgirl in japan is a big fan of Juliet Starling. So it’s a good thing it was just zombies and not a “The Crazies” scenario.
Also, apparently there’s a zombie leader behind all this, he talks, has managed to create an underground research facility under the school grounds, and wanted to create a zombie army for reasons (i ended up skipping some cutscenes, so i might missed something important), but these meddling gals ruined his facility with the power of friendship, survival instincts, hilariously dumb dialogues, and big guns. Yeah, and all is well, i doubt this will come up in any shape in a future Oneechanbara, nor it even hints at a sequels, so don’t expect any continuation. I wouldn’t.
TACTICAL PANTSU ACTION SHOOTING
Given how the premise is grindhouse anime bullshit at its very… best(?), you’d expect a more crazier game to hide under the fetishy niche premise of japanese schoolgirls fighting zombies, but for the most part Tamsoft’s title is fairly normal from a gameplay prospective, with a fairly old school approach to third person shooter, with no cover system of any kind and endless ammo. Which makes me wonder why you can crouch, there’s no cover or any stealth to speak of.
There are some modern concessions, like a very basic level up system for the characters, and mostly a stamina management system, to which are tied sprinting, evasive rolls and the close range attacks. But even so, this is pretty much on the EDF ballpark, in term of ancient tps gameplay, to the point of having the game structured in missions with a 10 minutes time limit, often forcing you to use a certain character (at least the first time). Each of the 5 girls has a special ability of sorts: showing locations of important mission items, one is weak but tons of stamina for evasion, one that consumes less stamina when using her close ranged attack, etc. Each can carry any kind of gun, with 5 slots for weapons, and also one slot for the underpants alone, because of the unique “clothes are icky n stuff” mechanic.
It’s from the Senran Kagura and Oneechanbara guys, just in case you don’t remember, of course there is clothing destruction.
Yes, you can use items to fight off the zombies, like tripwire, grenades, health kit, or just throw your clothes at the zombies (evidently of the Porno Holocaust variety) to create a distraction, if you didn’t already get the schoolgirl uniform torn by damage, you just keep fighting in your bra and underpants, rifle in hand, like a grindhouse double feature. You can even throw the panties as decoy (called “panty traps”), but of course you just don’t remove them on the spot, it’s unbecoming. You have to use the “remove” option on your equipped underwear, you change it with another model, and then you get in the shower, cut, and – ding – you get a quantity of “panty traps” proportionate to the minutes worn.
Yeah, there’s a timer that keeps count of how much time you had the underpants on and de facto gives you bonuses the more you don’t change said undergarment, but kinda surprised you can’t outright sell them for money. Still, i never saw this specific weird ass system, this is a new one, and honestly where Tamsoft has clearly put most effort.
And even so, if the game itself didn’t told me, i would never knew you can make your character “go to shower”, and after the tutorial missions, i totally forgot i’ve even had the option of taking clothes off as decoy, it can be useful in some stages, but when you get down to it, it’s a gimmick at best, like one could expect. Thankfully the shooting itself is decent, if a bit basic and the standard controls set up a bit shit, but you can remap them to a sensible modern tps standard, and weapons themselves are… also okay. Shotguns, SMGs, handguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and some rocket launchers, the usual.
EVERYBODY DO THE ZOMBIE STAMP
And this is the main sensation one feels while playing School Girl Zombie Hunter, of odd mundanity among the living dead, NOT planned for juxtaposition, but more accidental, as if the developers were completely disinterested in the game after making the pervy gimmick systems. You’d expect to see ridicolous weapons like chainsaw-shotguns, El Desperado style guitar case-rocket launchers, clown hammers, or jello grenade launchers, but nope, you can get various types of weapons with extra effects, aim-assist, auto-fire, enhanced capacity, attack, etc by winning missions, picking up drops from enemies, or destroying enough “blood crows” found in main stages.
At first i wasn’t totally sure of why the game had an old school mission structure, with the 10 minutes time limit and the overall look, you would guess this in enhanched port from PS Vita or something, but nope, it’s just what its is: a budget PS4 game, with an old fashioned level structure in place to make the most out of the few huge locales, in this case the zombie infested high school and the arcane evil lab under it, the aforementioned 10 minutes time limit in order to avoid you exploring the locales too fast), with barriers and obstacles that block the passage and change mission by mission.
The missions come with slight objective variations: extermination, fetch, card collection, exploration, reaching a destination, boss fights, base defense, etc. All are pretty self-explanatory, and of course require huge amounts of lead. Alongside the main missions, there are optional ones, which come in the form of sniping mini-games or timed mazes that are big on using barriers (which can be shoot through, for better and worse) and obstacles around the same enviroments you’ll become familiar with fairly soon.
As i said before, shooting is fine, feedback is fine (some weapons do have better feedback, like the SMGs), but due to level design and enemy choice, it isn’t that amazing, weird, enthralling, or challenging, for that matter. It’s surprisingly easy to get SSS ranks on the standard/Normal setting (there is a Hard Mode, but you can’t just change it midway, there is a separate mission list), in most cases it’s not a particularly “hard” game…. until Tamsoft just felt like upping the difficulty in a cheap way for some random missions where you need to reach a certain destination, making enemies respawn continuously, bombarding you with poisoned or explosive zombies that inflict status effects on contact, while you also need to figure out where the go in the barrier-laden hallways mazes.
It’s odd because the rest of the game isn’t like this, but once in a while Tamsoft just wants to fuck you up and put up a difficulty spike for the hell of it. Nothing new, i know very well what bullshit they’re capable having played pretty much all Oneechanbara titles, but it’s still kinda sad, since there are some challenging boss battles, and the enemy types will make you keep an eye to the ceiling as well as the floor, with neck strecthing zombies that lunge their neck at you, the weird gimp-two man-dogs, zombies that protrude their ribcages to stab you, etc. Typical Tamsoft hodge potch approach to monster designs, and i like it, i really do.
And of course the final boss has to be just that extra cheap, not completely unfair, but just enough that the final battle becomes slightly more frustrating than fun, since it will force you to grind a bit your character, or get better at revive your schoolmates, gifted with a half-competent, half-crap IA, usually the latter in situations where they can make a difference. Nothing that a reload of the mission or some very minimal grind can’t fix.
ZOM ZOMS AND FRAMERATE GALS
School Girl Zombie Hunter it’s not a long game, i can’t quantify it since the game doesn’t keep track of total playtime (a pet peeve of mine), but i were to guess, you can finish it in 4 hours or something, doing most of the side missions for extra exp. On the back of the box the game boasts about having 50 missions, i don’t know if total or not, but regardless, it’s a relatively short experience, and i’m okay with that. As in making it any longer wouldn’t have made it better, since there aren’t that many locales or types of enemies that would have justified even more missions
After beating the game, you unlock some more extra missions, there is the Hard setting to tackle, SSS grades to get, the remaining “blood crows” to collect in order to unlock all extra weapons, hair dyes, panties, etc. Also, there is an online co-op multiplayer mode (that requires PS Plus on PS4, as you’d guess) for 2 mininum and up to 5 players max, with a dozen of specific missions made just for online play… but you can try to tackle them solo if you’re leveled up enough and armed with advanced weapons. They’re clearly meant for at least 2 players that have spent some time on the campaign, but it’s nice to have the option, quite useful for completitionists since nobody will be on these servers, unless you organize, and even so…. it’s a smart choice by Tamsoft.
Also, while the trophy notications are in english, the trophy list and descriptions are in japanese, D3 didn’t bother to display them in english, despite being clearly already traslated since the notifications for the trophies are. Odd.
From a technical standpoint, it’s definitely a low budget PS4 title in everything, which doesn’t really work as an excuse to the almost routine framerate drops the engine has, it uses Unreal 4, but clearly isn’t anywhere near optimized, because this doesn’t have even the EDF or Dynasty Warriors issue of having too many enemies on screen at once, sometimes the framerate drops like a brick for 2 seconds because it feels like it. It isn’t a complete dealbreaker, but come on, even my old PS4 should handle this way better.
Characters models share the same “rubber wife” look of old Oneechanbara titles (despite the upgraded texture quality), even more because the anime styled hair doesn’t flow or move, just frozen in place eternally, and with a fairly decent-good voice acting, it sad to see that the didn’t really try to make the character lyp synch when they talk, so they just flap their gums all the times, with some lines being synced by pure accident, which somewhat fits with the insane brand of stupid, craptacular, so bad it’s funny dialogue, What doesn’t fit is the texture pop-up, which happens all the time when a cutscene starts or you’re just dropped into a missions, they do load-in fast, but come on, this isn’t Ride To Hell. Even Tamsoft can do better than this.
There is music lifted from the Oneechanbara titles, as well, with some alright but mostly forgettable original music tracks, but aside that, not much to add on the audio, there are no ridiculous glitches or anything to report.
School Girl Zombie Hunter is exactly what it sound like, with a grindhouse-esque story about zombies and japanese schoolgirl with guns, a niche game for a niche audience if i ever saw one, but it doesn’t play exactly how you’d think or expect for a game described by the publisher as “Zombie Panic Shooting Action”.
It’s not even broken or unplayable, or one of those masterclasses in frustrating level design Tamsoft was (and i feel is) capable of, it all works fine, but there’s not much energy to it, no “panic”, definitely, it’s an oddly methodical – almost restrained – experience, a fairly old school third person shooter where the gameplay doesn’t match at all how stupid and campy the story and premise are, quite the opposite, nor makes for a particularly enthralling or challenging undead massacre, as zombies aren’t even thrown at you in big droves, they just materialized in small packs. Usually.
It’s like Tamsoft wasn’t feeling it at all, so it made a serviceable budget game and didn’t bother to even give you bizzare and fun weapons for the zombie slaughter, just the usual basic assortment of guns, clearly they put most of the effort in coming up with a “panty mechanic” so complex and pervy i think it’s actually a never before seen spin on the idea, outside of the gimmicky ability to throw your clothes as decoy for the zombies, heavily emphatized in trailer but in reality almost instantly forgettable tool for combat.
And as for this being “set in the Oneechanbara universe”, you get to talk and receive care packages from Anna of the ZPF, and some of the music from the Oneechanbara titles is reused here, and since there’s not even a sequel bait of any kind, i doubt any of the events that happened here will come back in a new Oneechanbara sequel. So much for that. Or for much optimization, on a base PS4.
If you like niche games and old school styled third person shooters, i don’t need to ask if you wanna play this one. But while it’s… kinda passable, i don’t recommend hunting a retail copy if you’re not big on collecting, just get it digital, it’s not even a long experience, so i’d just wait for a sale and see if the Steam version runs better. Still, while there is some fun to it, it’s kinda hard to recommend, even to the dedicated niche gamer, because you can do better, even in realm of budget games.
EDF (any EDF title) is better, for example, on satisfying your need for some arcadey old school tps fun. This is subpar but not charming for it’s crappiness, nor that crappy either, stuck in an undesirable limbo. Meh.