Chambara is another one of those games that was crafted out of admiration for the split-screen arena shooters from back when you actually had to have friends to experience the multiplayer modes that games, like GoldenEye 007, had to offer. Rather than taking direct inspiration from the N64-era arena shooters that we all know and love, Chambara takes the already established formula that makes those games so enjoyable and adds its own unique flare to make it feel fresh, whilst retaining that retro feeling that this type of game has.
The gameplay of Chambara is pretty basic to say the least, and is pretty much what you’d expect from a game of this genre. Allowing up to 4 players to take part, each battle consists of those players duking it out in an attempt to take away each of the five lives that their opponents have, and using copious amounts of stealth to get the task done. “How do you make an arena based shooter stealthy?” you may ask. Well, the way stealth is incorporated into Chambara is via the game’s art style being that the game is, unless you choose another two-toned style, entirely black and white (apart from some background decorations). Not only are the maps black and white, but so are your characters’ models, meaning that if you’re on the black team, the person on the white team can only see you if you’re either standing in a white area, or can be see at an angle where your character model has white in the background. Pretty cool, right?
I played the game with just one other player and even then matches became incredibly tense. Not being able to see your opponent at all times can make even the most slow-paced of matches feel incredibly frantic. Not knowing if your opponent can see you, or whether or not your opponent is in plain sight but they’re just standing at an angle where you can’t see them, adds an element of suspense and leaves you constantly on edge, with a feeling of ‘oh man, I wonder if they can see me’, leaving you to question if you’re hiding in a good enough spot and what your next move should be.
Whilst Chambara is a ridiculously fun and incredibly stylish game, it’s also amazingly simple, which is both a good and a bad thing. Getting the game set up takes a matter of seconds, with the only options being the ability to slightly tweak what the outline of your character is going to look like and what map you’re going to play on. That sort of simplicity, for a game like this, is something that I absolutely love — just turn the game on, pick a level and get right into playing. Whilst, for me, this sort of simplicity is something that I absolutely loved, other elements of the game are simplified to the point of actually damaging the game’s longevity in the long run.
Other games of a similar kind to Chambara, such as Samurai Punk’s Screencheat, are predominantly manufactured for local multiplayer, but have online functions built in for when you don’t have people around you to play. Chambara, on the other hand, is exclusively built for local split-screen multiplayer, so if you don’t have anyone that you can sit around with and play, you’re pretty much out of luck. I absolutely love the feeling of sitting around, huddling up on a sofa with a group of people playing a split screen game, but that type of gaming experience, unfortunately, is a thing of the past and online functionality is almost a necessity when it comes to developing a game with a heavy focus on multiplayer nowadays — even though it was far more enjoyable locally, Screencheat had an online mode that was a nice supplement for when I didn’t have people that I could sit around and play it with.
Chambara is an absolutely wonderful game that you could easily get hours upon hours of enjoyment out of. Its beautifully clever, yet simple, art design being welded into the gameplay mechanics of the game are what got me interested in it in the first place and is something that most definitely didn’t disappoint. Where Chambara could benefit from would be the addition of an online feature in a future update, perhaps accompanied by a couple of extra game modes rather than just being stuck with the initial deathmatch style mode.
Even though it lacks an online function, Chambara is genuinely a game that you and your old GoldenEye buddies would have a huge amount of fun with. Trust me, you can’t go wrong by giving this one a shot. Unless you don’t have any friends. If you don’t have any friends, please don’t buy this game because you’ll just have a miserable time.