Back when Senran Kagura was released in Japan, 3DS owners in North America were hoping for the day that this interesting little title would be localized. When those days came and went, Senran Kagura Burst was announced which featured both a brand new story as well as the first game for the series. As days went by, many fans were hopeful that this title would bust out Japan in some way, but it seemed like chances were slim.
That is until XSEED chose to bring the game to the West much to the adoration of fans of the franchise who have been hanging around for over two years at this point. Now that the time has come and Senran Kagura Burst has been released in English, was it worth the wait?
In the world of Senran Kagura, shinobi still exist in Japan though they are operate deeper in the shadows than ever before. In the shinobi world there exist two schools where ninja can learn their craft as well as take on various jobs. The Hanzo Academy has trained some of the best ninja around and only accepts the best of the best with pristine records, often from families of high lineage. These ninja work to keep the world at peace and generally work on the good side of things.
Where there is light there is darkness and where those who call themselves ‘good’ assemble there will always be a place for those aligned with ‘evil.’ The second school is Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy where these ninja undergo life-threatening training and often work for politicians or simply anyone who can afford to pay for their services. What sets Hebijo apart from Hanzo is the fact that while Hanzo is exclusionary, Hebijo will accept anyone willing to undertake their training, knowing full well that it may mean their lives if they can’t keep up.
Before we explore the characters, Senran Kagura Burst gives us an interesting focus between these schools and the various shinobi that attend them. While Hanzo students are often seen as good and may live a relatively care-free and happy life when not on a mission, the Hanzo student history is wrought with death and failure and the girls attending the school have also suffered thanks to the high expectations that the school forces on attendees and the families that they come from.
As for the Hebijo students, they all suffer from some dark event in the past which has pushed them onto the path of evil. But along those lines, they are also a group of students that bond together and despite their own plans of revenge or motives for their training; they will willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect each other. By allowing players to experience both sides of the story and learn about the Hebijo students, Burst lets players see that good and evil are simply two sides of the same coin with as many similarities as there are differences.
Now, as mentioned before Senran Kagura Burst allows players to play through either the Hanzo or Hebijo storyline at their leisure, meaning they can switch between the stories as they wish and there is no specific order the story must unfold. That being said, the story itself is rather basic at heart but what really makes the story, and along the same lines the comedy, shine here is the cast of characters that populate both academies.
With ten different girls available from the start and two unlockable characters, Senran Kagura Burst has its fair share of character archetypes. A number of these characters are interesting and intriguing to look into, though a number of them fall into your stereotypical role, such as a boob fondling athletic girl, a ditzy but still skillful girl, and the childish girl who has a complex about her small chest compared to the rest of the buxom cast to name a few.
Despite a number of these characters falling into something many gamers or anime fans have seen a number of times already, the visual novel delivery method with the back and forth banter between the characters and the various developments that they undergo throughout the game make the game’s story incredibly charming and often quite humorous, especially if you happen to be a fan of ecchi comedy. It also helps that, since this version of the game contains both stories, the much more interesting Hebijo girls are explored to a greater depth which is something that would have been a shame to miss.
While the main attraction that will draw people to Senran Kagura Burst will likely be the girls, their assets, and a heavy dose of fan-service, there is plenty of action packed into the game as well. In fact, the aforementioned aspects are more like toppings on the core of the game which offers a fun, though somewhat repetitive, side-scrolling beat’em up gameplay.
Various attacks are mapped to the 3DS’ face buttons, with light and strong attacks assigned to Y and X while B jumps and A can be used to dash and run. While simple sounding, the game quickly becomes one of fast paced action thanks to some nicely designed gameplay decisions and tight combo work. After delivering a combo attack to an enemy, they will be launched into the air and by using the dash button players will pursue them into the air where they can continue to deal damage, sometimes twice in a row, before sending the opponent crashing to the ground below.
This means that it can be easy to pull off some 300-500 hit combos with some characters that feature fast paced attacks as enemies are not only plentiful but a few of them can take quite a bit of punishment. As the player advances through a stage they will clear out area after area of enemy thugs or shinobi before reaching their goal and completing a stage or facing off against a boss. It is worth noting that although it is easy to lure groups of enemies together to deal out massive combo attacks, the game does suffer from some slowdown if there is too much action occurring on the screen at any given time.
That being said, outside of the standard combo attacks players have a few more tools at their disposal on the battlefield. As the player fights they will gain energy that can first be used to trigger the character’s ‘Shinobi Transformation’ changing them out of their normal outfit into their fighting gear which improves their stats and also unlocks special attacks called ninja arts. These ninja arts are unique to each character and can be used rather effectively on enemies, though there is no smooth transition from mid-combo to a ninja art.
On top of these methods there is also a break option which can be used to separate yourself from an enemy at the sacrifice some help as well as Frantic Mode, which is an option given at the beginning of every stage that lets the player sacrifice nearly all of their defense by stripping down to the character’s ‘swimsuit’ for a massive boost in damage. Deciding when to use a certain ability can be critical depending on the mission type and it is interesting to note that every character plays differently, though there are a few slight similarities here and there so it may take quite some time to get the hang of each fighter. This is key since there are some battles that can be quite difficult at times and although button mashing may help get past a close encounter, it isn’t usually a winning tactic.
Now as a real quick mention, as the player takes damage in battle, there is a clothing meter which will deplete along with their health. While healing items can be picked up and health restores with a level up, clothing will not. As such if the player is fighting in their shinobi outfit their clothing will become torn once the bar drops low enough and if emptied, they will suffer a major clothing malfunction with plenty of cleavage and bare-skin on display but no real nudity.
If the game does become difficult there is always the option to level up a fighter by using them to either partake in other character’s missions once they have been completed or taking part in side-missions to train. Any time a character gains a level they gain more health as well as other stat increases and sometimes a new attack to use against an enemy.
Along those lines, it is also worth noting that there is a truckload of bonus content available in the game that can be unlocked throughout the game, including titles, pictures for the gallery, new outfits, and accessories to dress the girls in as they fight. This means that outside of simply training there is always the motivation of unlocking more content in what is a surprising amount of content for a game such as this.
Now those who have been following Senran Kagura are probably familiar with the game’s age and it should be worth noting that the game does feature some graphical problems. While the enemies players encounter are often varied in appearance, there are a number of palette swaps in each stage and the background scenery of dialogue appears fuzzy compared to the rest of the game. Also as mentioned earlier, the game does suffer from noticeable slowdown times and these can occur outside of combat as well.
That being said, the character models of the cast is impressively handled with smooth textures and fluid character animation. Thanks to crisp character models and an abundance of clothing options that transfer over to dialogue sequences, any dialogue sequence looks great and the combat flows rather fluidly. It is also worth noting that for fans of well, fan-service, the game has it in spades with a cast of almost all busty girls with tearing clothing and transformation sequences, all featuring a rather bouncy physics engine.
For fans of the anime that aired earlier this year, it sounds like every character from the game’s voice actress handled their role in the anime, meaning that fans of the franchise are already familiar with some of the cast. On that note, XSEED has not provided a dub for the game but that probably works in the game’s favor as the Japanese voice cast handles their characters nicely which is essential in a visual novel type game such as this. As for the background music, the soundtrack works in the game’s favor by providing fast paced action music to go along with the fights and some nice bubbly music during dialogue or home base sequences.
Senran Kagura Burst might attract or push away gamers with its anime-style visuals and a busty cast of characters with shreddable clothing but it has much more to offer than simply eye-candy. While it’s overarching story may not be the most original, a charming cast of characters helps keep it enjoyable and more often than not, funny. The title features an abundant amount of unlockable content which is great considering how varied the fighting styles of the cast are and how enjoyable the combat system is in the game.
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