I've never played Onee Chanbara before the release of Origin, so I wasn't sure what to think about it. There is a lot of reviews online currently that are inaccurate, and I can only assume that's because this is a complete remake and not a remaster of games that never got a release in North America. Hopefully, this review clears up some misconceptions that I found online.
Just for some back story, Onee Chanbara is a hack n slash series introduced to the Japanese and European markets in 2004 for Playstation 2. In Europe, these games were known as Zombie Zone and Zombie Hunters respectively. Onee Chanbara Origin retells the story of Zombie Zone and Zombie Hunters. D3 Publisher included them in their Simple 2000 Series, games that inexpensive to make and cost 2000 JPY at the time of release. Onee Chanbara was simply a budget series, especially the first game. Zombie Zone only takes an hour and a half to complete, with only 6 stages.
Onee Chanbara Origin combines both games into one package. The transition between the games is done very tastefully and it's incredibly fluid. I didn't notice at all whilst playing, that the second game's story has started. You know you are in the second game's story once you can play as Saki.
There are several changes between Onee Chanbara Origin and Zombie Zone/Hunters. For some reason, a lot of people seem to have the idea that assets are being reused from a 2004 PS2 game.
Simply that's not the case, everything within Onee Chanbara Origin has been built from the ground up. That includes textures, animations, map design, and voice acting. I'm incredibly happy to see that D3 Publisher has decided to support multiple languages, it's really rare to see that we get more than just Japanese VO. English, Chinese, and Korean, language options are all supported. I must say the quality of these dubs is superb and help to further build the personalities of Aya, Saki, and Rei.
However, there is one issue that I've found with the localization, the fact that mouth movements aren't properly synced with the voice over. Often characters will still move their lips even after the voice line is completed. It's good to note that this doesn't occur with the other 3 dubs.
The textures aren't the best, but somehow works and makes me feel oddly nostalgic for early hack n slash games of that era. Map design has changed to modernize the game. For example, in the original Zombie Zone/Hunters, enemies would drop keys which you can use to progress to the next part of the stage. Also, you would go into a room only to find a group of zombies just chilling, almost waiting for your arrival. In the remake, zombies spawn properly from the ground, graves, or boarded-up windows. It's a small detail that makes a big difference in terms of overall immersion.
Katsumi Enami and the team have done an excellent job, redesigning these characters in a new refreshing anime art style, while keeping the essence of their original designs alive. I am not surprised at how beautiful the key art/character designs have turned out considering Enami Sensei did the illustrations and character designs for anime such as Baccano!
Old enemy types do return along with a few new boss battles, that were never featured in the original PS2 release. I'd imagine a lot of these features would have been overlooked because of the lack of a Zombie Zone release in North America. Speaking of boss battles, they are fantastic, although they are repetitive at times and only truly get interesting once you've experienced the second half of the story.
The game doesn't feature a dedicated block button, like most hack n slash games, although you can dodge and parry attacks. Dodging attacks at the right time fills up your special attack meter and gives you a pretty sweet slow-motion animation akin to the Matrix. In my experience these are incredibly simple to carry out, however, parrying requires a lot more skill. If you can parry successfully you can perform a cool finisher that eliminates the enemy in a single strike. Parrying is incredibly important, as some enemies cannot be defeated from regular attacks only cool finishers and whilst in Xtatic mode. Parrying can break defenses and give you a much-needed window of attack in boss battles, which is always fantastic.
Battle mechanics are incredibly interesting. When you attack for a long period, you start to build up blood on your weapons, once your weapon is fully bloody you won't be able to deal as much damage. So it's important to clean your weapon every once in a while, by "reloading". Never have a seen a hack n slash that makes you weaker as you play more, it adds a level of much-needed complexity to this genre. In addition to that blood splatters on your body resulting in several transformations known as Berserk and Xtatic mode, where you deal move damage, with increased attack speed. Whilst in Xtatic mode, your attack is further buffed, you must keep dealing damage otherwise your HP dramatically drains.
Halfway through the game, you gain access not only to Saki but additional weapons for both you and Saki. Saki's moveset is a lot slower than Aya but provides a lot of damage, which can be a blessing and a curse in boss battles. I do enjoy the various game and anime references integrated into her hand to hand combat move set. Seems as though the developers at Tamsoft are big fans of Fist of the North Star and Street Fighter.
As it stands only Aya, Saki and Rei can be deployed in battle. Rei can only be unlocked once you complete the story and survive 100 rounds on the infinite survival mode. It is a grind, takes around 1-3 hours just to unlock her, alternatively you can pay £3 for an instant unlock, but what is the fun in that. It is disappointing however to see that not all the characters featured in this game are playable. It would have been nice to be able to play as Anzu, Sayaka, Oboro, or Eva, considering that their move-sets and character animations are already there. Maybe having them as unlockable characters would have been an additional incentive to replay the game on a harder difficulty etc.
Truly it was exciting to see Anzu and Sayaka returning from Onechanbara Z2 Chaos. But part of me wants to see more of the wackier characters return from Zombie Hunters. Characters like Hana & Kiku, Riho & Makoto. Riho is a character from Demolition Girl serving as the official mascot for D3 Publisher. You'd be pleased to know that Riho is referenced in DLC weapons along with Amane & Setsu, who are characters from Dream Club.
All in all this game is truly fantastic. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of hack n slash games, or even anime games in general. Looking forward to what D3 Publisher and Tamsoft do in the future with this series, especially with the new art style and improved story.
Overall Rating : 8/10
+ Great Hack N Slash gameplay
+ Incredibly Nostalgic
+ Awesome voice acting in multiple languages
+ Quirky storyline + Stunning Character Designs
- Not much replay value
- Small roster of playable characters
- The grind for Rei can be a bit of a monotonous
This review covers Onee Chanbara Origin for Playstation 4 and PC. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to D3 Publisher and Tamsoft for providing me with the opportunity to play this game and write this review.