Wednesday, December 20

Blood, Bikinis and Babes

Sexy girls in bikinis against the Undead. Best. Idea. Ever.

Even though I just got my brand, spankin' new copy of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, I'm not playing it. That's cause I got another game soon after that made me forget about the Further Adventures of Big Boss. I mean, how can Naked Snake compare against Half-naked Babes slashing Zombies to smithereens?

Oneechanbara Vortex for the Xbox360 is from the infamous publisher D3 of Japan, a videogame company known for their 'Simple' series of games- fan service-heavy videogame titles that pretty much always star scantily-clad anime girls in various activities (from wrestling to mahjong to water sports). The title is a combination of the words 'Oneechan', which means 'Sister', and 'Chanbara', or 'Swordplay'. So it could conceivably be titled "Sisters with Swords" if ever this title makes it across the pond to the US market.
Oneechanbara Vortex is an epic tale of drama, betrayal, sisterly love and... okay, it's actually all about sexy underaged and under-dressed girls slashing zombies and various evil creatures apart with samurai swords. While it may sound pretty hokey to some (I find it... interesting), the game has been popular enough to see multiple sequels. Vortex is actually the third in the series, and the first on a next-gen console.

As I mentioned before, Oneechanbara stars two super-powered zombie-fighting sisters. Aya is the elder sister whose chosen attire for battling evil undead is a bikini, cowboy hat and feather boa. Saki is a jailbait little urchin who wears the ubiquitous school uniform. Both have their own signature styles; Aya can switch between using one or two swords, while Saki seems to favor a quickdraw-one hit, one kill technique. Early into the adventure when the battle against the zombies gets underway, Saki gets kidnapped by some Agents (like, from The Matrix Agents). She's rescued (or at least, aided in escape) by Anna, a female officer in the Zombie Protection Force (who do NOT protect zombies at all). Anna and Saki soon meet up again with Aya, and all three girls join up to fight the menace behind the zombie plague. Thereafter, Anna becomes a playable character and she's quite cool- instead of swords, she comes with guns and lays waste to her enemies from afar... she can make it literally rain with bullets.

All three girls can lay waste to throngs of zombies with their attacks, causing blood to spray in all direction in ridiculous splashes of red stuff. The blood isn't just for show though- it actually affects gameplay. The more Aya and Saki slash, the more blood gets stuck on their swords. If a meter on the side fills up totally with red, their swords become sticky and will then get stuck into the next zombie or enemy they hit- causing them to be vulnerable to attack as they try to wrench their weapons free. A quick press of a button will shake off the blood, so you have to make sure you keep an eye on it at all times. In Anna's case, she just needs to reload her guns whenever they run dry (she has unlimited ammo).

Killing enemies yields yellow orbs which you collect for points (like a bloody version of Kingdom Hearts) that you can use to upgrade your character's skills. This opens up more attacks and combos which make dispatching the undead a lot easier and flashier. Along the way, you also need to collect items like healing crystals, holy fragments which keep Aya and Saki's dark sides under control, and other helpful knick-knacks.

The game comes with a Story Mode, a Free Play Mode (which lets you play stages of the Story Mode you've already finished again and again), Survival Mode and DressesUp Mode. The last one lets you outfit your character with various pieces of clothing- different hats or hairstyles, tops, bottoms, arm accessories and footwear- that you unlock as you play. Horny players will be glad to know that the girls start off just in their undies from the get-go... so that means you actually have to work to get them dressed. What a concept. Hehe. Of course, you can save your costume configurations (or lack of) to use in the other modes.

Even with all the gratuitous gore and fan service, if Oneechanbara Vortex was a crap game, it wouldn't fly. But interestingly enough, it's quite a playable and enjoyable game- I mean, chopping up crowds of gibbering undead is such great stress relief! The whole thing has this offbeat feel like one of those cool live-action Japanese chick-action flicks ( You know... those with the incestuous innuendo and intense glares), which is quite appealing. The story is told mostly through text-screens, but there are several very nicely-done CG cutscenes which are quite slick and cool to watch. The graphics are hi-res and easy on the eyes, with good animation (but not great though) and no slowdown even in scenes with large numbers of enemies onscreen. The controls are pretty responsive and easy, though the camera can get testy in some closed-off areas... this is the trade-off for having a player-controllable camera for appreciating the game's eye candy.

Even so, while I like the game a lot, I can't really recommend it for everyone. For one thing, it's a Japanese import and thus the english is very limited to the main menus. It's not impenetrable though... most of the kanji is in story text which are pretty much unnecessary to the basic enjoyment of the game... you can pretty much understand what's going on anyway even if a detail or two is missed in the meantime.

There ARE some rumors that Oneechanbara Vortex may make it Stateside eventually... no details yet though. For now, this title is only for the Xbox360 owner who loves fan service a lot and can afford the costly import. In that case, this game is a rare gem. It's no Dead Rising in terms of detail and gameplay depth, but darn... I'd rather stare at someone slashing zombies for hours on end, I'd rather it be a hot, scantily-clad babe than some sweaty, hairy guy. Hoho!

Oneechanbara Vortex is now available for the Xbox 360. Check your local import game shop or online game website if you're interested in this bloody fun slasher.

No comments: