Onechanbara was one of the series to burst onto the scene in Japan during the height of the hack ‘n’ slash era back in 2004, with multiple releases in a short time, though it took until 2009 for the US to get its first taste on the Xbox 360, followed by a Wii exclusive sequel. Six years after the last release in the West, the series returns with Onechanbara Z2: Chaos that provides the most in-depth experience in the series thus far, but still feels rather shallow in execution.
Past entries in the Onechanbara franchise have followed one of two different sets of sisters, which have now come together in the largest scale game yet. The Baneful Sisters, Aya and her half-sister Saki, were featured in the first few games in the series, with the vampiric sisterly duo of Kagura and Saaya coming along later. Previously all four were only playable in the same game through DLC in one of the Japanese releases, but D3Publisher has made the very wise decision to bring the four together this time around.
Previously falling on opposites side, the foursome must work together towards a common goal in Onechanbara Z2: Chaos as undead have surfaced and threaten the world. The interactions between especially Kagura and Aya are some of the best parts of the game, with Kagura being much more prone to speak out, often in a vulgar way. The dialogue between them, Anna, and the main enemies are incredibly cheesy, which fits in a game that does not take itself seriously in the least.
Each of the four playable characters play distinctly different, while also still not straying too far from one another. At the start, the moves and combos feel very similar across the four characters, but the ability to upgrade skills and weapons drastically changes that. Some attacks that can be learned are just one-time upgrades that are exchanged for orbs earned, but there are also multi-level attacks that really improve the gameplay.
Kagura is especially fun to use when her skills are upgraded fully, with longer combination strings that utilize spinning to handle large crowds more easily. Aya in comparison has a mini-spin, but then gets a powerful slash that ends the combo, with Saki and Saaya also branching out to their own level of finishers.
The two sets of sisters also have the ability to transform in battle, with Kagura and Saaya being the first to obtain this by using their vampire side to drink the baneful blood from Aya and Saki respectively. A good bit later, Aya and Saki get their own transformations with their Ecstacy forms. The characters are in full control while in this form and can wreak havoc on any enemies in their path. These transformations at one point will just happen when the berserk meter is full, but they can also be triggered with a button press, which can be saved for intense battles or bosses that they can be much more useful during.
Easily one of the most frustrating aspects of Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is the inability to toggle on or off when targeting enemies. Instead, one must hold down R1 the entire battle to stay on one enemy, which is absolutely necessary in boss battles. You can even switch between enemies when targeting, so it would have made so much more sense to have R1 instantly target a nearby enemy and stay there until you press it again. In a game that is literally nothing but battle after battle, this will make your index finger grow tired when it could have so easily been avoided.
While the gameplay itself does grow and become more complex as more skills and weapons are unlocked, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos still suffers in much the way as previous games in the franchise with overly repetitive gameplay. This is definitely an improvement on the past, but it definitely can grow old quick, especially due to the fact there is not a lot of variety in enemy types. Within the first few levels, you will experience most every opponent that will show up in the game, though the boss battles definitely enhance the experience a lot.
Each chapter in the game’s story mode ends with a boss battle of some sort, with some smaller bosses found during them sometimes as well. Not every boss is a standout, but there are a number of them that are not only challenging, but can be a lot of fun. Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is all about hacking and slashing, but the bosses definitely take a little more thought and very likely may kill you the first try at them, which will require you to come up with a better strategy.
For those looking for even more difficulty and variance in the gameplay, there is also a number of missions that can be played separately. Each of these feature different win conditions that can be adjusted in difficulty, upon beating the easier versions of each. There are also quests available in the game, but they are simply tasks that you can completed during either the story or missions rather than another game mode to try out.
On its surface, the Onechanbara series has always relied a good bit on its use of gratuitous fan service and scantily clad women in tandem with its fast-paced gameplay, but honestly there are games out there that take it much further. The costumes worn are definitely skimpy and more can be unlocked, along with accessories like cat ears and glasses, but it’s not something that is in your face all the time while playing. The aforementioned interactions between characters do tend to bring up certain parts of the anatomy in a comedic fashion pretty often, which is pretty common in many Japanese developed games, but it’s far from offensive in any way.
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is all about hacking and slashing
The character models and clothing designs do look quite good in action, but that is far as the compliments can go on the graphical side of things in Onechanbara Z2: Chaos. The environments are definitely varied, including a stop in very non-detailed real life locations such as Los Angeles, China, and Dubai. However, the locales look like something from last generation consoles at best, with “Dubai” literally just being a bunch of sand.
The environmental design may be disappointing in the game, but the smooth 1080p at 60fps is very nice to see in a game that is as fast-paced as Onechanbara Z2: Chaos. There is minimal lag even in the larger scaled battles, but the game still has some programming issues. Glitches are quite common in the game, with enemies even getting stuck in walls permanently to where you can lock on to them, but not attack, requiring a restart to the last checkpoint to continue forward.
There are also some syncing issues with the subtitles found at times, which is either just sloppy work by that part of the development team or a result of some sort of lag during certain cutscenes. While that can get annoying, the tolerable voice acting does help to offset it a bit, fitting in quite well with the cheesy and over the top dialogue.
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is a worthy follow-up to past entries in the hack ‘n’ slash franchise, greatly helped by the bringing together of the two sets of protagonists from previous outings, which allows for a much stronger story full of funny banter. The gameplay is also improved, but the annoying targeting mechanic and tedious gameplay gets old very fast. Showing a level of growth from its predecessors, Onechanbara Z2: Chaos can be fun in spurts, but is a far cry from a great game.
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos
- Available On: PS4
- Published By: XSEED Games
- Developed By: D3 Publisher
- Genre: Hack 'n' Slash
- US Release Date: July 21st, 2015
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Chaos brings the most complete experience in the series with its first US release in six years, but is still held back by the repetitive gameplay and dull environments that prevent it from being a fully satisfying experience."
- Over the top dialogue and situations
- Upgradeable skills and weapons
- Fun boss battles
- Tedious gameplay
- Lack of lock-on toggle
- Ugly environments