Onee Chanbara Origin comes fifteen years after the release of Onechanbara 2 on the PlayStation 2, and gives us a remake of that game as well as its predecessor. The remade bundle of games is available now on both the PC (through Steam) and the PlayStation 4, and was developed by Tamsoft – previously responsible for other Onechanbara titles as well as a few Senran Kagura games. Publishing duties reside with D3.
A remake usually means that we’re not taking a step forward with a franchise, but looking back. There are exceptions (I’d say the Resident Evil remakes prove this point), but in the case of Onee Chanbara Origin the experience remains faithful to that of the original games. To me, that’s good news, because I didn’t discover the franchise until years after these were originally released for the PS2 and thus I hadn’t had the chance to properly play them yet.
The remake treatment means you’re not getting two separate games in one bundle though – Onee Chanbara Origin blends both games together for a continuous and consistent experience. In it, two sisters called Aya and Saki find themselves in a postapocalyptic version of Tokyo where the living dead roam the streets. One raised by their father, the other by their mother, they face off when the mother is murdered and their father goes missing. A ritual could bring the mother back, but completing it requires the blood of the other sister to be spilled. Not surprisingly, this brings a lot of intense drama with it, and love and hate frequently intersect over the course of the story.
Although that could easily be the setup to a visual novel type of game, Onee Chanbara Origin’s core gameplay element is hack and slash combat. The fighting quickly becomes gory and can be quite visceral, as the undead appear quite keen to have their limbs chopped off and they certainly aren’t lacking in numbers either. The actual combat mechanics feel a tad dated though, with simple button mashing often being a more than decent option for getting through a scene. It’s something that we’ve seen in much more recent games in the genre as well, and although the experience is fun it’s also largely forgettable from a gameplay point of view.
Visually, part of the Onechanbara experience has always been the bikini-filled wardrobe of the protagonists in the story. Onee Chanbara Origin is no different in that sense, but presents it with a cell-shaded look and feel for an experience that’s closer to an anime than the series has ever been. Coupled with high resolution visuals that make it easy to forget this was originally a PS2 title, this is certainly a remake where the developers poured a lot of love into it. It feels a little bit more ‘mainstream’ and less risqué as well, which should hopefully attract a wider audience without alienating its old school fans.
Performance, playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro, was also good – making lengthy zombie slashing scenes feel fluid even during scenes where it looked like I was being overrun by the undead. I was surprised at how short the experience was though, both because this one combined two games into one and because it’s being released at full price. That’s no doubt going to influence how people feel about buying this amidst all of the other big releases that are coming out, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a solid remake in its genre of mindless action games where bikinis meet zombies.