Some video games are all about twisting storylines and deep complicated characters. Some are consumed with rich images, hi-def action or intricate game mechanics. Onechanbara ZII: Chaos isn’t really concerned with any of that. It sets its gaming sights on fleam fury, fetish fantasy … and fruit. But not necessarily in that order.
Though the franchise may be relatively new on American shores, Onechanbara titles are a recognizable budget breed in their Japanese homeland. Based on the so-called chanbara exploitation films, the series’ story revolves around four young, blade-swinging, zombie-slaying girls. Kagura and Saaya are schoolgirl sisters raised together by a vampire clan. Aya and Saki are a pair of human assassins from the lineage of something called the Baneful Blood. Along with regularly slicing and dicing the undead, these two pairs of females are usually going after each other, too, while running around as part of some sort of power-grabbing conspiracy. In this particular game, however, they’re forced to forge an unlikely alliance and work as a team to stem a mysterious worldwide zombie outbreak.
Does any of that really matter, though? Nah. Few gamers will be paying attention to any plotlines, whether in Japanese or English. And speaking of English, the game is translated and voiced with lots of snark and “I’m gonna kick your a–” girl-power oomph, which naturally means there are also other swear words thrown around (“h—,” “d–n, “a–hole,” etc.).
You use button-mashing combos to let your scantily clad avatar hack-and-bash her way through crowds of slavering foes and gigantic grinding bosses. Blood is a constant curse here. Not only does it gush and splash the scenery as the girls spin and slash with various blades and chain saws in martial-arts-minded acrobatic maneuvers, but it’s also key to some blood-mixing power-ups.
To free up that goopy glop, foes are decapitated, disemboweled, dismembered and generally hewn asunder from crotch to chin in every grotesque and despicable way you won’t want to imagine. The crowds of pureed-to-pieces monsters do disappear from the landscape, if only to clear enough space to keep killing more.
But if I’ve led you to believe that combat and gore is the main come-on here, let me apologize. Bloody butchering may be the main activity, but the girls themselves are meant to be what draw gamers to the perverted point of purchase and play.
The game cover shows us brightly colored, wide-eyed, flowing-haired beauties in cowboy hats and bikinis. And Onechanbara ZII: Chaos then wraps itself in a specific brand of fetishized sexuality. Ogling of their buxom and shapely forms is a staple. Outfits range from lewd to ludicrous, sometimes reduced to as little as paint handprints or a fruit ensemble that consists of nothing but two small strawberries and a banana.
The truth is, you can dress all four young women in whatever you’d like as various outfits are unlocked, and that includes a long schoolgirl-style dress. But even that modest makeover plays into the game’s winking voyeurism as the camera vies for up-skirt shots of panties and swoops in on exposed flesh during certain gymnastic leaps.
To hastily sum things up with a bit of alliteration then, Onechanbara ZII: Chaos glamorizes and glorifies copious cascades of carnage and carnality. It’s the two-pronged attack of a one-dimensional game.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.