REVIEW: ‘Onee Chanbara Origin’ Remains Stuck In The Early 2000s (PS4)

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Onee Chanbara Origin

Onee Chanbara Origin, developed by Tamsoft and published by D3 Publisher, is a hack and slash anime zombie game for PlayStation 4 and PC. As a retelling and HD remake of the first two Onee Chanbara games, which were originally released on PlayStation 2, Onee Chanbara Origin feels like it never truly left the early 2000s. In Onee Chanbara Origin, players control Aya and Saki, two sisters living in a world plagued by the Undead. Aya, on a quest to find her father, reunites with her younger sister, and the two set off on an adventure together, reviving their relationship and discovering the truth about their family.

The hack and slash gameplay of Onee Chanbara Origin is a blast to barrel through. Using combinations of fast and special attacks, Aya and Saki fluidly slaughter hordes of Undead. I loved chaining together combos and flying through enemies, especially when taking down enormous bosses that were four times my size. The mechanics of the gameplay aren’t difficult to understand, either, making it easy to utilize every aspect of combat to take down zombies. Both characters can switch between two weapons, and the more you kill Undead, the more they get covered in blood and gain strength. Eventually, they’ll enter a Berserk mode, which lowers their defense but boosts attack so you can unleash even more damage. Using these transformations, as well as the parrying and dodging systems, to completely decimate your enemies is a powerful feeling.

Unfortunately, other than the gameplay, the first two Onee Chanbara titles don’t hold up well in 2020. The story of Onee Chanbara Origin doesn’t make much sense and none of the characters feel fully developed. The cutscenes attempt to follow Aya and Saki as they reunite and search for their father, but new characters and lore are often thrown in at random.

Onee Chanbara Origin Cutscene

The plot moves along so rapidly that new directions in the story and character development feel rushed. One moment Aya and Saki will be fighting, and the next, they’ll suddenly makeup and Aya will perform a monologue about the importance of sisterhood and family values. I wanted to connect with the characters, even if it was on a more superficial level, but everyone felt like an anime caricature that would bend their personality in whatever direction most benefited the plot. Of course, much of this is because of the fan service roots of the game. The characters are designed to be sexy, kill zombies, and get soaked in blood. In theory, this is fine if you know what you’re getting into, but there was a strange dissonance between the story and aesthetic of Onee Chanbara Origin.

At times, there were lore tidbits in cutscenes, alluding to an interesting zombie-filled universe, but it would quickly be snatched away as the game remembered it was supposed to be something nice to look at instead of a serious experience. For me, Onee Chanbara Origin would have been much more interesting if it had expanded on its serious moments in addition to giving me a girl in a cowboy hat with an enormous sword.

The dialogue in these cutscenes is stunted as well. I couldn’t tell if it was an issue with the remake or the dub into English, but the characters would keep miming like they were speaking long after the voices had ended or go through dialogue so quickly that they would cut each other off abruptly.

The dialogue itself was cheesy, too, and the execution of the voice acting contributed to the rushed and shallow character development throughout the game. There were many scenes where one character would speak at a normal cadence, then the next line would be full of anger and aggression, completely out of nowhere. The general shallowness of the dialogue didn’t help demonstrate the characters’ moods and the sudden changes in attitude, which couldn’t have been predicted by the previous bits of text, felt jarring and took away opportunities to show defined personalities.

Additionally, while the updated visuals look great during gameplay, it suffers in cutscenes, feeling outdated. The camera angles are way too close to the characters, and the character models themselves look square and unrefined. Plus, because of the close angles, cutscenes can be hard to follow when there’s an action sequence, as the widescreen, zoomed in view excludes most of the view.

Overall, while I had a fun time mowing down the Undead, I wouldn’t really say Onee Chanbara Origin is a great game. The characters are shallow, obviously designed to be something nice to look at, which doesn’t sit well in a modern context. The story doesn’t make much sense and the small bits of lore the writers tried to toss in doesn’t make an impact on the actual gameplay experience. Onee Chanbara Origin remains stuck in the early 2000s, unable to make the transition to modern audiences with higher expectations.

Onee Chanbara Origin is available now on PC and PlayStation 4.

Onee Chanbara Origin
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

while I had a fun time mowing down the Undead, I wouldn’t really say Onee Chanbara Origin is a great game. The characters are shallow, obviously designed to be something nice to look at, which doesn’t sit well in a modern context. The story doesn’t make much sense and the small bits of lore the writers tried to toss in doesn’t make an impact on the actual gameplay experience. Onee Chanbara Origin remains stuck in the early 2000s, unable to make the transition to modern audiences with higher expectations.