With Shiovi Versus being released on the Vita recently, it seemed like a decent idea to repost my little look at its predecessor on the 3DS.
Well, colour me a little surprised. Just before I was ready to complete my Japanese copy of Project X zone, it was announced that the game would get a western release! Well, the game was my primary reason to get a cool-as-hell JP 3DS but not the only reason. That would just be silly! I do have a number of other JP only games which I wanted to try out and the next game is a bit of an oldie now... Senran Kagura Burst!
Now, one of the reasons I wanted to play this game is simply because there's not much info on it! The game got some coverage on western games sites but they were all mocking in tone. You can't really blame them though, since the advertising on the game basically revolved around the gimmick of being able to see animated boobies in 3D!! Hell, even the producer of the game said that was the reason why he wanted to make the game! Not the most auspicious of starts!
This is actually the second game released. It was billed as a sequel but, to be more honest, it's more like an expansion pack, which allows you to play as the villains from the first game while also containing the previous game in its entirety! Buyers of the first game must have been peeved!!! Anyway, if you watch the Promo videos, you do get to see a little bit of gameplay, in between the scenes of clothes being torn off and whatnot and it's basically a side scrolling fighting game!
There's a whole bunch of text to go through as well, since the game does try to tell a bit of a story (Which is sorta covered by the anime adaptation) though the stories from the 2 sides don't seem to have much overlap (and when they do, they tend to contradict themselves so best think of them as separate stories).but the bulk of the game is the side scrolling fighting, with similarities to streets of rage. Stages are separated into various missions which story missions being needed to be completed to progress and must be done by a specific character (initially) and free missions which can be done by anyone. Completing missions gives your character experience points to level up as well as fill up one of 2 bars which increase your stats in the game.
Controls are very simple, with a light and heavy attack button, dash and jump button for the face buttons and a ninpo buttons and a special attack which knocks enemies around you away but takes away health. As you take damage, your clothes do as well and eventually, your character can end up playing in their undies. You can also manually trigger a mode which removes the clothes off at the start of the stage which grants you enhanced speed and strength but reduces your defence to near nothing! It's also the only way to fill one of the 2 bars to power up your characters.
Initially, you are limited to very simple combos which usually end with a launcher attack which you can follow up by using the dash button to continue your combo in the air. Once you fill up your ninpo bar, pressing the L button triggers your shinobi transformation which gives the characters their better known looks like the ones seen on the boxart. It also unlocks the characters super moves and, as they get stronger, more combo options.
The battle system in the game is incredibly simple and somewhat reminds me of Muramasa on the Wii, but without the gorgeous hand drawn graphics. There is also a high emphasis on fanservice in this game, with the ability to customise your characters looks and costumes in the game with additional costumes unlocked as you progress. And you can't really escape from the clothing damage sequences either...
So, how does it fare?
• simple yet effective - the combo system in the game is a little too basic but you still feel like a bit of a badass when you're kicking the butt off huge groups of enemies.
• 2 games for 1 - as stated above, Burst has the characters and missions from the first game, so essentially, you get 2 games for the price of 1.
• Damn challenging - despite the simplicity of the systems, don't be fooled. Some of the missions in this game are balls hard!! Completing them all will take some time and unlocking the 2 secret characters will prove to be exceptionally difficult as well!
• Varied characters - Despite the characters having incredibly similar combos (at least initially and especially in the air), each one feels sufficiently different enough to require tweaking your tactics when you play as them. Ikaruga has long range and wide attacks so can handle large crowds well, but isn't so effective on 1v1 situations and is slower too. Katsuragi is really fast and can do hit and run attacks but it can be hard to launch opponents or get her to stop where you want her to since her attacks push her forward for example.
• Hebi Joshi Gakuen - I guess the makers thought that, by adding a story to the "villains" from the first game, it may help make them appear more human, but instead, it just made them more insufferable! Mirai and Haruka in particular are annoying as hell and none of the characters are as fun to play as the girls from Hanzo Gakuen.
• Too much service - It was made around the whole concept of fanservice in 3D but sometimes, it just gets in the way. There's just too much of it at times!
• Infinite combos against you! - In later stages, enemies come at you in larger numbers but some also gain projectile attacks, which are hard to see! To make things worse, there's no blocking in this game so it's very easy to find yourself being juggled from continuous projectile shots with no recourse for a counterattack. You just have to soak up the damage, which is a very frustrating occurrence and happens a little too often for comfort.
• The jump button - Aside from allowing you to perform an aerial ninpo, which you learn later in the game, there is absolutely no use for the damn thing!!
Senran Kagura (and Burst) are a little tragic in a way. The underlying game is playable and somewhat fun but not particularly memorable nor deep. It needed a hook to get people into it. Muramasa had a deceptive system which rewarded calm, measured play and also had amazing animated sprites to look at. Senran Kagura basically went full fanservice and that is what most people will see. Underneath is a serviceable game which people will enjoy but nothing to scream about. Not that anyone would hear you anyway over the noise regarding the stupid levels of boobies in the game. The Vita game, Shiovi Versus looks to continue the trend as well, swapping out the 2D movement for something akin to Dynasty Warriors, but with the basic combat systems in place.
The Senran Kagura series is basically like Dead or Alive. Those looking for something to mock will just go on and on about the clothes stripping and the boobies but if you play it, it's not half bad!
And yes, I'm likely to be getting shinovi Versus as well. Maybe I'll do a mini review of that too.