Welcome to the inaugural edition of our new monthly feature, Co-Op International! Here I’ll be discussing co-op games that have not been released in the US. This will include current gen games as well as classics. We hope you’ll enjoy learning more about Japanese games – please let us know in the comments section!
Onechanbara Z: Kagura is the sequel to 2009’s Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad from developer Tamsoft and D3 publisher. With no US release announced, the Japanese version of Kagura is currently the only way to play this entry. While the previous game had its fans (including me), it took a lot of flak from reviewers for its many rough edges. Tamsoft may not have ironed out all of the wrinkles with Kagura, but it does look and feel much more at home on the Xbox 360 this time around.
Previous Onechanbara games involved bikini-clad heroines facing off against armies of zombies, mutants, and their human creators. This time the zombies are joined by a new threat: vampires. And who better to fight vampires than a couple of lady dhampirs (half human vampires)? The new protagonists are Kagura and Saaya; one dresses in a revealing swimsuit and cowboy hat, the other a school uniform. Their appearances are pandering, silly, and unquestionably part of the game’s charm. If you don’t get the appeal of half-naked ladies fighting monsters till they’re drenched in blood, then this series just isn’t for you (and maybe you should check yourself for a pulse).
Did I say drenched? Yes, like past games, the heroines become increasingly splattered with gore as they battle. Once fully coated, they enter Blood Rage mode and start dealing and receiving twice the damage for a set time. The life meter of a character in Blood Rage slowly dwindles, adding additional risk alongside the extra damage-dealing. Yet the life drain is far less imposing in Kagura because both heroines can use their vampire powers to heal at any time by pressing X and A simultaneously. Players can take advantage of Blood Rage to get tons of fast kills and heal as necessary.
Killing mindless hoards of bad guys is far more engaging in this sequel thanks to a much improved combat system. With two primary attack buttons (weak and strong) and lots of new moves and combos, the fighting no longer feels outdated. Both characters can switch between two primary weapons at any time: Double Swords or Dagger for Kagura and Chainsaw or armored Knuckles for Saaya. Each weapon has totally different abilities and moves, making for a total of four unique play styles. As before, players can usually switch between either girl at any time; the game doesn’t end until both run out of life.
While the fighting has improved exponentially from Bikini Samurai Squad, it’s still not perfect. The lock-on button performs erratically at best, often choosing a random target rather than the boss you’d actually want to focus on. Worse, this Onechanbara still inexplicably lacks a block button. I couldn’t even find an evade move like the last game had, so dodging can be tough. Later bosses will sometimes knock the player against a wall and just wail away with very little chance of escape. These problems don’t kill the fun but they can be annoying.
Kagura’s Story mode is shorter and tighter than previous games, consisting of just 16 stages (three of which are boss-only stages). While the number of levels has dropped, these show much more care in their design. Gone are the maze-like treads through dark and bland environments, replaced with smaller and more varied locations.