Title: Oneechanbara Origin Released On: October 14, 2020 Genre: Action, Hack n’ Slash Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro Also Available On: PC Developer: Tamsoft Publisher: D3 Publisher MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD
2020 is a year of revivals. So what better time to release Oneechanbara Origin, a remaster of the origins of the fan service hack n’ slash zombie slaying game. Originally released as part of D3’s Simple Series in 2004 in Japan, this marks the first time that players in North America have been able to experience the original two games. The remaster features a brand new art-style, a new playable character, and a re-interpretation of the original story, which combines the first two games into a redesigned adventure.
Self-described as “high-speed bloody sword-fighting action”, Oneechanbara Origin certainly delivers in that respect, but even with the work that has been done to remaster the game it ultimately ends up feeling like a classic arcade hack n’ slash, which isn’t inherently bad but is definitely a double-edged sword. While it allows Oneechanbara to retain the essence of what made it fun in the mid-2000s, a lack of any substantial changes to the combat or gameplay will likely attract more classic fans than new zombie-slayers.
I never played the original Oneechanbara games, so it was a delight to have an opportunity to go back to the roots. My only experience had been Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad on the Xbox 360 many years ago, but my time spent with both games has proved ultimately similar, even though it’s been over a decade. The combat, while ultimately simple by today’s standards, is still a lot of fun. Using your katana from the onset, you carve your way through waves upon waves of shambling zombies, severing limbs and decapitating enemies by the dozen.
The more arcade-style hack n’ slash can start to feel a little repetitive the longer that you play, owing to the mid-2000s era style of combat which focused on simple combat input as opposed to complex combos or a variety of special abilities. Thankfully, as you progress through each of the games, combat opens itself up in new ways, bringing in additional weapons and unlocking new combat modes as Aya’s power increases.
The Oneechanbara 1 & 2 (as they were originally called) stories are entertaining, but are pretty campy and predictable. The games follows the series protagonist Aya and her sister Saki, born from a family of assassins to different mothers and separated at a young age. While Aya trained to be an assassin like her father, Saki’s life was one of loss, leading her down a darker path and directly into conflict with her sister.
Players will start out controlling Aya as she searches for her lost sister, reconnecting with family and making unlikely friends as she battles her way to answers behind her sister’s mysterious disappearance. The Onechanbara 2, which flows seamlessly from the end of the first game, picks up with Saki and Aya joining forces to finally uncover the truth behind their family. Along the way, after some specific conditions are met, you’ll be able to unlock the new playable character Rei, who is Aya’s info broker. The entire series is home to a host of colourful characters, and I couldn’t help but delight in some of the — mostly evil and often unhinged — characters I met along the way.
The story is assuredly entertaining, in that delightful B-Movie kind of way. You can’t help but groan at some of the dialogue, but moments later you’ll be laughing out loud. A deep narrative is not what most people are really looking for in the Oneechanbara series however, and even the loosely-tied together threads are enough to hold together the story so players can focus on the combat.
We come to Oneechanbara for the combat, and even if it’s relatively simple, that’s where the game shines. The single best aspect of combat is the Beserk Mode, which Aya can activate after she has been sufficiently covered in blood. Progressing further unlocks Xtatic Mode, turning your character into a rage-filled demon and allowing you to unleash devastating combos on enemies.
The problem is, even with these shifts in combat the more you progress, it can still begin to feel repetitive after a while, as even the new zombie models continue to fall systematically before your blade. It’s a hack n’ slash game, and that’s exactly what you get with Oneechanbara: Origin. It doesn’t profess to be anymore than that, but the systems that passed for thrilling combat in 2005 feel somewhat lackluster in 2020.
While Oneechanbara: Origin is a fun time to play, it suffers from the same issue that a lot of this generation’s remasters have all had in common: they lack that little extra something that would have went beyond a new coat of paint, and actually addressed some of the inner-workings to really make it shine. Apart from fans of the series who are looking to revisit the story for some nostalgia, it lacks a draw to bring new players into its fold. As the first game in the series in five years, it does little to attract a new audience.
There are a wealth of cosmetic microtransactions that are available to purchase if you want to change up the style of Aya or any of the other characters, and even a handful of free costume changes. You can even purchase immediate access to Rei through the Season Pass if you want to get right to using her character.
While the remaster doesn’t do anything big to advance the Oneechanbara series, it plays smoothly and looks great. The addition of Rei as a playable character adds some much-needed diversity to the combat, and it’s a joy to switch between the characters when going back to replay missions. The work done to touch up the original games with a new art style and character designs has paid off exceptionally, and watching limbs go flying and getting covered in blood as you carve through waves of the undead is gleeful fun.
Final Score: 7.5/10
Classic arcade hack n’ slash with some over-the-top fan service makes Oneechanbara Origin exactly what fans are looking for.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.