Onechanbara Z2: Chaos Hands-On Preview – Bloody Fun (PS4)

Liking plenty of similar games and not one to shy away from a bounce or two, I bought Onechanbara Z2: Chaos with my own (very limited) cash money. I feel like what I got was okay, but not great and not something I intend to go back to.

Step aside for a quick Japanese lesson about the title:

“O-nee-chan” (or, as it often appears in English, “onechan,”) is a way of saying “big sister” in Japanese. Its use isn’t just for people who are your blood relatives, though. It could be for a nice girl who is a stranger. A child might say that she asked “That nice o-nee-chan over there” for directions or something.

Meanwhile, a “chanbara,” is a type of samurai warrior. Using the “chan” as a bridge, you can make “Onechanbara,” a pun that sort of means “sister samurai warrior” or something similar. And now you can sound like a snob to all your friends.

You’ll take four characters into bloody battle against zombies and other ghouls. Z2: Chaos features four characters which can be swapped out at will, and all of whom handle differently. This kind of thing helped Dragon Quest Heroes greatly. Transitions between characters are smooth and keep stages from feeling too monotonous, but that’s not to say they prevent this entirely. Some stages, especially near the game’s end, dragged on for a bit too long and forced too much easy fodder on the player.

A jump up in difficulty solves the easiness problem, but not the issue of too many mooks. It doesn’t help that locations and enemies from previous games are reused.  No matter what modifications I could make on the player end — including upgrading weapons and just plain getting better at destroying shit faster — everything inexplicably felt a step behind where it should have been. I don’t know why, I only know how it felt.

 The objectives didn’t vary, apart from:

  • Kill zombies over here.
  • Kill zombies over there.
  • Don’t forget to kill the zombies which are over there, too.

Then of course, you throw in a stage-ending boss, some of which are modified versions of bosses seen in previous games.

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Where the game shines is the fast combat.The aerial moves are so well done that it’s easy to slash some dude, jump up, go bulleting across the battlefield, spinkick like five zombies at once, then turn around and unleash a nasty super move on dozens of enemies. Blood. Is. Everywhere.

And yeah, I know, that fast combat praise seems to collide with what I said above it, about stages feeling too long. What it comes down to is balance; all things work best in a balance. When you play a game of NHL, if that’s your thing, it might be fun…but would it still be as awesome if every (non-playoff, pre-overtime) game were 85 minutes instead of 60?

You can think of plenty of comparisons here. Take any game with great gameplay, not matter how fun, but make it longer and you risk overstaying your welcome in a lot of cases. Fifteen-lap Mario Kart races? No, thanks. Thirty-hole golf courses? Yuck, no. Fighter setups where you gotta win 16 rounds instead of two? I decline. I love my dad, but do I want him staying in my house for more than a day or two at a time? Uhh….

Point is, every game needs to find that fine line and stay on the right side of it. I feel like Onechanbara Z2: Chaos falls just barely, barely on the wrong side of it.

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I fell through the ground and came out outside of the combat area. I then executed everything.

There are a couple of small bugs, but nothing game breaking. I was worried when I fell through the ground in the desert world, because I had been launched somewhere far away, outside of the penned-in combat zone. You see, those gates block progress until all enemies within are defeated, so I thought maybe I was screwed for the whole level. After trekking back to where I had been, I found the monsters but was able to beat them with ranged attacks while I sat in relative safety. So, in the end, it was technically a glitch but ended up being kinda funny rather than diminishing.

The graphics, as you can see, have sort of “PlayStation 3.5” character models set alongside “PlayStation 2.5” backgrounds and enemies. Hey, that’s better than the reverse!

For brutal combat that comes fast and bloody, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos arrives in North America on July 21 as a PS4 exclusive. I didn’t find it amazing, but with combat that good, it might be a cautious recommendation for third-person action fans.

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