- Format: 3DS
- Unleashed: Out Now (EU), 15th September (NA)
- Publisher: Marvelous AQL
- Developer: Tamsoft
- Players: 1-2 (local & online)
- Site: https://senrankagura2.com
- Game code provided by PR
The Senran Kagura series of games, for the benefit of the uninitiated, goes out of its way to thrust cartoon cleavages and knickers in your face (even more so than the anime, if our skimming of episodes is any indication). You already know if this is the game for you; but let us fill you in on the details.
We have to spend time on the titillation, because the developers sure as heck did. There are huge boobs everywhere in this game, and they are hilarious. We must stress that at the moment, Critical Gamer has an all-male team, so take the following as you will; but we find it difficult to imagine the boob movement being offensive or exciting for any but the tiniest minority. Seriously, the boob physics – such as they are – are bizarre and, if anything, greatly amusing. Female chests virtually never stay still, even if the women attached to them do. Imagine being surrounded by various pairs of water balloons being wiggled around in zero gravity, and you’re halfway there.
The hyperactive chests may not be offensive (to some, at least), but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing creepy about the game. It’s hard to believe that the cast hasn’t been designed to appeal to a variety of fetishes, but that’s not the main problem. The now well-established ‘stripping’ mechanic means that during battle, as you or your enemies (the human ones) take damage, clothing will be torn off. Each time this happens, the camera gleefully goes in for a closeup of the affected area before returning to battle. Similarly, when your character undergoes a shinobi transformation (a form that allows for more powerful attacks), there’s a scene where the relevant lady transforms – by pushing a ninja scroll through her cleavage whilst in her swimwear, of course – that plays before the battle recommences. Objectifying? Hell yeah. Creepy? Not so much. Though as an aside, these scenes have a negative effect on gameplay; when you return to battle after they play, any action you were carrying out has been cancelled, but enemy actions have continued – leaving you open to attack for a frustrating moment.
The boob fixation and upskirt shots during play clearly weren’t enough, and this is where the creepiness comes in. There’s a ‘viewer’ mode where you can take shots against various backgrounds, or even make use of AR (shudder). You can put the women in various far-from-innocent poses, move the camera around, and even change their hair and accessories. They’ll even spout playful phrases while you go through the choices, to make things extra uncomfortable. In the unlikely event that you’ve bought this without being aware of/harbouring an interest in ambulatory cleavages and exposed skin, you can spend time dressing characters up in slightly more modest clothing that will then transfer to gameplay.
Now that’s (mostly) out of the way, let’s concentrate on the rest of the game. It’s a brawler made up of over 50 missions, each of which is either an extremely linear journey through a series of fights, or a boss encounter. There are a total of ten playable characters (with a further two unlockable by finishing the game), and you’ll go into battle with either one or two at a time as the story dictates. Controls go beyond the standard ‘two attack buttons and jump button’ setup, by also including a dash button and super moves charged up by landing consecutive hits. Surprisingly perhaps, most of the characters are also very distinct, with very different weapons and varying strengths and weaknesses.
Further dispelling fears of a cheap and lazy product decorated with boobs, the story should last you a respectable 10-12 hours – and completed missions can be revisited with any character/s of your choice. There’s online and local co-op. There’s XP and levelling, which makes a noticeable difference. There are special missions with strict rules, and an endurance mode where gambling your skill can result in a significant XP payoff. There’s a story/character glossary, and stacks of costumes, pictures, music and more to unlock.
Despite all the time and effort that’s clearly gone into making the game, it’s unfortunately just not that fun to play.
The combat system is theoretically solid, but the inability to block and lack of a dedicated dodge button – combined with the enemies’ tendency to rush you and/or spam hits – steers the experience towards button bashing. Mission structure is unerringly move forward–kill things–move forward, which makes sessions even as long as an hour tiring. In addition, bosses have life bars so long that they’re layered on top of one another, which is fair enough – until about four fifths of the way through the final chapter. One of the final bosses is gigantic and spews forth an almost constant stream of hugely damaging, screen-engulfing attacks. Even after grinding for XP (which we hadn’t needed to do up until that point), we had to reluctantly knock the difficulty down to Easy in order to progress. Even more annoying than the end-game boss who can (and does) teleport constantly. A lot of effort has gone into the storytelling but that, too, disappoints; with too much of the dialogue predictably centred around boobs, and all attempts at serious issues of friendship and loyalty blown away by series such as Persona.
Established Senran Kagura fans will buy this regardless, and are well catered for here in terms of continuing the story with established characters and, of course, plenty of unnecessary underwear shots. It may not be the disaster that may have been expected, but if you’re not bothered about the licence and just want a new brawler – and/or something anime flavoured – there are many, many better examples out there.