Kenichiro Takaki has never hid his intentions with the Senran Kagura series. With two more titles already in development and a spin-off rhythm game set to be released later this year in the West, Takaki’s love for Life and Hometown has proven to be rather successful. With Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus’ unabashed fan-service now available in the West, will this over-the-top title mange to impress?
A few months have passed since the events of Senran Kagura Burst and now the previous group of Hebijo shinobi have left the school and formed a renegade group called Homura’s Crimson Squad. However Hebijo is quick to replace their previous force with a new set of elite shinobi and after Hebijo’s loss, they are thirsty for revenge against Hanzo Academy as well as Homura’s team for failing the school.
To make matters worse, a new shinobi school called Gessen Academy has appeared and unlike the views of the Hanzo shinobi, they believe that there is no balance between good and evil as good should always dominate the world, regardless of the means. As such, with these three schools at each others throats, a Shinobi Battle Royale is declared as each school must defend itself from opposing forces or face being destroyed.
Once the player begins the game, they will have a choice of selecting Hanzo, Gessen, or Hebijo to begin the story, as Homura’s squad is unlocked later in the game, though it is worth noting that you can switch between stories at any time. While it may be tempting to begin the story with the Hanzo girls, those looking to learn more about their opposing forces may wish to try out the Gessen and Hebijo stories first.
That being said, the story remains as enjoyable as the first game, though this time around it isn’t quite as focused thanks to the new schools and ten new characters being added to the title. As such, character development takes place on a lesser scale compared to Burst but the new characters as well as the returning ones flourish as you play through all aspects of the story.
Hanzo’s returning cast is as lively and likable as ever with Katsuragi continuing to be a pervert as well as Yagyu’s obsession with the innocent Hibari, and so on while the new cast from Gessen and Hebijo reach into some strange territories that help flesh out the cast and a little something for everyone, making it really difficult to try and pick a favorite. Seriously, if you happen to have a certain character personality that you like, there is a good chance that one of the twenty characters in the game will match it.
Alongside the main missions that tell the storyline of the game, each girl comes with her own personal set of missions that usually revolves around some comedic plot line such as Katsuragi trying to find new girls to grope as Hanzo’s girls no longer react to her harassment. Despite being played mostly for comedy and a way to deliver some extra fan-service, these side missions help add some extra personality to each character, even adding new personality traits to some girls, and help make a story already loaded with humor and lewd events into an even better one.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus’ combat is similar to that of Burst, however almost every other aspect has been changed since Shinovi Versus is now a 3D game designed similar to a Warriors title. Depending on the mission, players will enter an area with either the story specific character or their chosen girl and either fight against a number of grunt enemies before facing off against the enemy shinobi or directly fight the shinobi in a boss battle.
The change to the 3D battlefield has made each stage much shorter in length as your average battle will generally only last three or four minutes whereas the previous game featured stages that could take ten minutes to complete and with this shortened length comes a smaller scale as there are now fewer enemies to defeat in each stage and only rarely do larger opponents appear, though once they do they can be more formidable than the actual shinobi bosses. Despite the fact that the stages you play on are smaller, the title features longer load times then you would expect.
As I mentioned before, the combat system is still remarkably similar to the original game where players can unleash high-hitting combo strings using basic attacks as well as “Breach” attacks that cut a swathe through enemy forces. Players can string various basic combos into different Breach moves to pull off specific combo strings and Aerial Raves also make their return, allowing players to not only launch enemies into the air but pursue them and continue the onslaught.
Returning characters will play similar to how you may remember them, though a number of new techniques and Ninja Arts have been given to each fighter. As for the new fighters, they provide numerous new and enjoyable fighting styles ranging from quick to tricky, giving fans of the series plenty of new ways to fight and newcomers a wealth of options to experiment with. That being said, it is entirely possible that the straightforward nature of the combat system and the fact that it is possible to become overpowered quite easily will make the game feel repetitive after some time.
While fighting enemies your character will gain XP and level up, not only raising their stats and occasionally unlocking new attacks, but also providing full health in combat. Interestingly enough, the Yin, Yang, and the new Flash, modes also return and provide various boosts to your character strength. These three additional modes are affected by fighting either while transformed, frantic, or in the character’s school uniform respectively.
After dealing enough damage to fill a gauge below your character’s health meter, you will be able to either undergo a Shinobi Transformation or enter Frantic mode. Transformations not only restore your health, they also unlock each character’s additional combo strings and allow the use of powerful Ninja Arts. As for the Frantic Mode, players will strip off their character’s clothing (using the touch screen of course) to receive an extreme attack boost at the sacrifice of defense. Frantic Mode allows the use of Ninja Arts but does not provide the additional combo strings of Transformations.
Thanks to the 3D design, the combat flows at a smoother pace and can become quite hectic at times, especially when facing off against numerous bosses. Players can make use of the Vita’s touch screen to lock onto opponents, which helps alleviate the game’s issue with a camera that tends to become quite problematic in smaller spaces, but not entirely as locking on can also make the problem worse in certain areas.
For those who want to try something else out, Shinovi Versus also offers online multiplayer modes that help add some much needed competition to the game. These multiplayer matches include simple Deathmatches that are self-explanatory while “Strip Battle” is determined by who tears the most clothing off compared to their opponents. Finally a fun little mode called “Understorm” that involves panties falling from the sky and players racing around to gather the most, is a humorous addition that fits the series’ style perfectly.
Anyone familiar with the Senran Kagura series should know what to expect as far as fan service is concerned. Let me say now though that although this is a game that has clothes being torn amongst bouncing breasts and panty shots galore, there is no actual nudity shown in Shinovi Versus, though you can get quite close to it at times. Enemies clothing will tear depending on the attacks you use which is highlighted through mini cutaways that highlight the area. If you happen to finish them off with a ninja art, there is a chance that what little covering they have left will also be torn off though this is censored with either comedic chibi faces for their breasts or a beam of light for their lower half.
While Senran Kagura Burst was limited thanks to the 3DS’ capabilities, it is clear that Shinovi Versus has managed to take full advantage of everything that the PS Vita has to offer. The anime style character designs are pleasing to the eye and to say that they move fluidly in combat would be a bit of an understatement. The only downside to the game’s graphics on the combat side of things is that some of the environments you fight in are rather small and limited in detail.
Each girl’s ninja arts have a lot of flair and style to them while also emphasizing the characters assets and their theme. As for the characters themselves, each character has a unique base appearance, though it is worth noting that Mirai remains the only girl to remain flat chested in the game, although the new character Ryobi is also small breasted until her Shinobi Transformation.
It is also nice to note that there are an exhausting amount of character customization options that come in the forms of various school uniforms, transformed outfits, accessories to place on characters, and over a hundred different pieces of lingerie to obtain through the game’s “Lingerie Lottery”. While some of these outfits are rather scandalous and ridiculous looking, there are also some fairly standard looking offerings for those who don’t want to go crazy with character outfits.
It is worth noting that Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus only features the Japanese voice cast. This is not an issue however as all returning characters’ voice actresses have reprised their roles and the new characters are voiced fittingly, giving the game excellent sounding voice work. It also helps that every aspect of the voice work has been subtitled, including various phrases said during combat when you pick up items, hit a certain combo number, activate skills or strip clothing from enemies.
The soundtrack for the title is full of Japanese styled tunes ranging from classic fitting tunes to rock themed battle music, giving the game plenty great music to go along with its visual splendor.
There are still some flaws to the game, though none of them are in any way deal-breakers as It is clear that the developers spent a lot of time making sure that Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus could take advantage of everything that the Vita could offer. With gorgeous visuals, a great storyline made better by a number of colorful new characters, and excitingly fast paced combat there is much more to Shinovi Versus than eye-candy. Though of course, there is still plenty of that to be found in all different kinds of packaging.
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