If I were to sum up OneChanbara Z2: Chaos in four words, they would be “blood,” “swords,” “zombies,” and “fanservice.”
The previous game in the series, OneChanbara Z: Kagura, introduced a new pair of protagonist sisters to the series, Kagura and Saaya. The original pair, Aya and Saki, were cast as recurring rivals/villains. In Z2, however, the four make up a single team—which leads to some great conversations as Kagura and Aya generally hate each other. This stems from their basic personality types. Aya is a Kuudere—cool, refined, and quiet. Her sister Saki is a Tsundere—cold and abusive but loving on the inside. Kagura, however, is a lazy loudmouth with a quick temper—and a napoleon complex. Saaya is the exact opposite: shy, calm, and—unfortunately for Kagura—tall.
Watching the four different personalities clash is one of the high points of the game—though it’s often even funnier in the rare moments when they all get along. Before nearly every mission, you get one of these fun character scenes—and near the end of the game when the waves of zombies never seem to end, they are a welcome reward.
Like many hack n’ slash games, Z2 allows you to upgrade your weapons along with buying new items and moves. In fact, there is a ton to buy with the orbs you gain from slaughtering zombies en masse. There are a good two dozen moves to unlock per character to expand your combos. The items come in the form of one-use items and rings which either boost your base stats or add some special effect. Altogether, this makes for a lot a customization in each of the four characters.
But it’s not just in the movesets, items, and weapons that the characters can be customized. There are also numerous costumes and accessories to obtain to change their visual appearance. As you play, you complete quests that reward you for playing in a certain way—i.e., using special attacks, slaying enemies, changing characters, etc. Then you go into the robust customization menu and dress them up as you see fit—and let me tell you, if fanservice is your thing, you are going to be ecstatic.
The combat in Z2 is impressively smooth. Quite a number of different combos exist, and sliding from one to the other is always easy. Then you have both special attacks that charge up as you combo and super forms which can be activated when you’re covered in enough blood. Moreover, as the zombies are more aggressive than in previous games, the game requires a lot more skill in general to avoid taking damage.
But the biggest change from Z to Z2 combat-wise is simply that you now have four members in your party. At any time you can switch between them with a button press—and create incredible combos—and every few minutes you can summon them all at once, allowing you to gang up on a boss or particularly large group of enemies. Better still, each character plays uniquely with few—if any—moves shared between them. They even dodge differently, making character choice important with respect to your play style and the enemy force composition. Unfortunately, as well put together as the battle system is, near the end of the game…
By about two-thirds through the game—i.e., about four hours in—you’ll have encountered nearly every normal enemy type the game has to offer. From that point on, the game scales its difficulty in only one way: adding more zombies. Simply put, combat becomes a slog as you fight wave upon wave of enemies with no end—nor challenge—in sight. There is even a level that has you clearing 9 floors on your way to the roof—and each of these floors has several waves of enemies. In the end, it becomes both an exercise in monotony and frustration. No joke: I play games for a living and by the end of this one, even my thumbs were sore.
It’s easy to forget when in the middle of the wonderfully smooth combat that the OneChanbara series had its start as a PS2 budget title. However, when out of battle, it clearly shows. There are invisible walls aplenty and jumping off ledges—which the game demands that you do on occasion—is glitchy, to say the least. Basically, the game clearly has its focus points—combat, humor, and fanservice. Everything else largely falls by the wayside, resulting in a product that feels both polished and rough at the same time.
Like with the previous game in the series, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed OneChanbara Z2: Chaos. It’s got a fun cast of characters that you just love to watch interact and, while the final few hours are a bit of a slog, fighting in general is tight and highly customizable. If you like fanservice, over-the-top B-movies, and hack n’ slash games, you’ll likely be happy with the time you spend on OneChanbara Z2: Chaos.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to listening to the soundtrack.
OneChanbara Z2: Chaos was released in Japan for the PlayStation 4 on October 30, 2014. There is currently no word on an international release.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.