- Format: Vita
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Marvelous Europe/Xseed Games
- Developer: Tamsoft
- Players: 1-4
- Site: www.hanzonationalacademy.com/sksv/
From the moment you start Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, it’s immediately apparent that it’s full of anime breasts and bums with a game placed somewhere beneath it all. Seriously, there are jiggle physics in play here that make Dead or Alive’s bouncy bits look Newtonian, and curvaceous characters that make Playstation-era Lara Croft appear accurately proportioned. The opening movie makes this clear, with chest focussed cameras, upskirt shots and a whole horde of anime school girls. But what exactly is it?
Think what it would be like if the Dynasty Warriors franchise was given to one of the creepier corners of DeviantArt and you’re halfway there. The underlying formula is distinctly hack and slash, with dozens of blade fodder enemies on the screen at once with one-on-one boss fights generally finishing off each level. The number of enemies present on the Vita’s screen really impressed us, especially as there is no noticeable slowdown even when smashing seven shades of plaid skirt out of a 30-strong crowd. Dress it all up with the aforementioned anime school girls and that’s pretty much Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus in a sexy nutshell.
The story focusses on the rivalry between three schools of young lady fighters, with players being able to pick and swap between each school and its character roster at any time. Main story progress is covered through text-heavy static scenes (well, mostly static, there’s still some jiggling) between missions. It’s clear that there’s a lot of fan service here which is brilliant if you’re familiar with the series. However, if your mind is devoid of Senran Kagura lore as covered in previous games, manga and even a TV series, then you’re going to feel lost and find it hard to care about anything the story throws up.
Everything about Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is overly sexualised to the point where it’s just silly. If you smack a boss character enough you’ll start tearing her clothes in the places that really exaggerate bum and boom cleavage. Keep up the onslaught and you’ll rip the clothes right off, leaving your opponent in just her lingerie. Continue to smack her carefully enough not to wear down her health to zero and it’s even possible to smash off her undies, just leaving a hovering graphic to censor the full spectacle. And the game doesn’t want you to miss these strip-tastic moments either, pausing the action every time you damage a layer of clothing to play a mini cutscene that shows the clothes tearing to reveal the jiggling bits underneath.
It’s fairly easy to smash clothes to bits thanks to a familiar combat system that relies on combos of square and triangle. It follows the standardised template of square being used for weak, constant attacks and triangle for heavy-hitting blows. Combat feels pleasingly simple and satisfying, with dodge and block moves allowing you to see off most trouble. However, after three or four stages you’ll fall into the same move patterns as every mission in the game is identical: hammer away at cannon fodder baddies and then face off against the boss.
Levels are incredibly linear arenas, occasionally adding a bit of verticality, but nothing worth exploring. As such you’ll likely grow tired of repetition very quickly, which unfortunately isn’t the only place where things stagnate.
You know those strip-tastic mini custscenes we mentioned earlier? They occur in every battle without fail and whilst they may only last a couple of seconds, and can even be skipped by a button press, it still interrupts the flow of a fight. This is where the sexy bits move from the side of subjective taste to having a negative impact. It puts titillation before game mechanics and whether you’re a fan of stripping anime girls or not, it’s disruptive regardless. A similar thing happens when you activate your character’s special abilities, either Shinobi Transform or Frenzy.
Press the left trigger and your character Shinobi Transforms, triggering a cutscene mid battle to change into an even tighter or more revealing outfit that grants a stat buff and a couple of devastating special moves. Alternatively, press the right trigger and triangle to zoom in on your character’s chest and you can rip her clothes off with your thumbs, leaving her in just her lingerie. This is Frenzy mode, which ups your attack stat and allows you to keep up an infinite combo whilst lowering your defence. Both modes give characters a helpful buff and refill their health gauge, but that brings up another glaring issue.
Every boss character inevitably triggers her Shinobi Transform as you battle, instantly regaining full health and unlocking a move set that becomes difficult to counter unless you also transform. As such, as soon as the enemy Shinobi Transformed, we found ourselves doing exactly the same to keep up. This just makes the preceding battle bits before the transformation completely redundant and becomes really frustrating as you have to essentially win every boss fight twice. Rinse and repeat this for every mission, which just keeps hammering at the same bikini-clad ideas. The only thing there to mix it up is a generous roster of 20 or so playable characters.
If ridiculously buxom anime girls are for you, then you’ll likely love Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus. We’re happy to say that it’s probably king of its niche genre (beat ‘em up strip ‘em off) and offers all the jiggling you could ever want from a game and more. However, we’d advise brawler fans to stay away, at least until it’s on sale. The mechanics, whilst fun, get repetitive very quickly and make an otherwise competent fighting system feel stale. If there was less focus on sex at every turn and more consideration for level design, character upgrades and generally more game-y stuff, it could have been great, especially as it’s one of the Vita’s better lookers. This is a rare example where putting boobs before gameplay turned out to be a bad idea.