Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me
The Senran Kagura franchise has always straddled the fine line between ambitious hack-and-slash and straight-up filthy fan service. It’s never been one to shy away from its more questionable content and each subsequent release has basically doubled down on everything the series holds near and dear, which is to say, big boobs and putting anime girls in compromising positions. It’s objectionable for sure, but all a bit too silly to be taken seriously.
Senran Kagura Reflexions strikes a different tone. It’s not very amusing, and it’s certainly not a fast-paced action game. Instead, developer Honey∞Parade Games is taking a softer approach, creating a more intimate setting. It strips away all of the muscle memory requirements the past games have imbued in me in favor of pure fan service.
It also strips away the fun.
Senran Kagura Reflexions (Switch)
Developer: Honey∞Parade Games
Publisher: Xseed Games
Released: September 13, 2018
Reflexions is all about getting some one-on-one time with Asuka of the Hanzo National Academy. She needs my help. There’s a feeling inside of her she doesn’t quite understand and it’s only through my embrace that she’ll reach an epiphany about herself. To put it in a less romanticized way, I need to keep touching her until she figures out what’s what. Not exactly Shakespeare we’re working with here, but it serves its purpose in making a game about groping come off slightly less creepy than it otherwise would.
To help Asuka reach her conclusions, I use a bit of reflexology, which is an actual alternative form of healing. It starts with her hands, which I take hold of and start stroking a palm or finger hoping to trigger a dream sequence. Not every finger has a thought connected to it and she lets me know when it isn’t going anywhere. These dream sequences aren’t ground in any sort of franchise history. They’re more a series of “What if?” situations where a more extended version of that question would be “What if I get to touch you all over?”
Each of these scenarios begins with a little bit of dialogue that can change depending on the order I play it in. Most are pretty inoffensive, such as helping her prepare for a hand-shaking event or rubbing her down after a massive battle. Others venture closer to Flowers in the Attic territory.
These fantasies give me access to almost her entire body. Using the motion controls — though standard controls are available too — I can squeeze, touch, massage and playfully slap her from the thighs up. Pretty much anything goes, including just batting her boobs around for a while. She doesn’t like it, but she doesn’t exactly stop me from doing it either. In fact, I’m encouraged to get lewd with Asuka because these actions are necessary to unlock the game’s true ending.
The novelty of it all wears thin quite quickly, and soon enough I’m more interested in the finding the correct color spots on her body than making sure she’s satisfied. Body parts emit different colors when caressed and these colors play into unlocking the handful of endings available. Quite honestly, I only need to see one conclusion to see them all as they’re pretty much just slight variations of her being grateful for my touch. Even when I do nothing but play with her boobs and hose her down with the water gun, she still thanks me and my magic hands in the end.
After I rub her body enough using basic reflexology, I’ll unlock the final massage session: Glorious Reflexology. These are dream sequences within dream sequences where I use my hands, a brush, or a roller to really work her muscles. Like the full-body reflexology, I can use motion controls here but they’re far less accurate than standard controls. Despite the compromising positions she puts herself in for these sequences, it’s all pretty tame by franchise standards. There’s nothing left to shock or surprise players with how sexualized this series can be.
That is until I unlock the vibrator.
Sorry, not vibrator, “massager.” Complete with a chibi Kagura head, this is by far the easiest of the Glorious Reflexology tools to use and the one I imagine most people won’t stray from once it’s unlocked. I don’t apply it to where you’re probably thinking I would; rather, I press the head into the top of her tummy and watch her as boobs begin to vibrate. It’s actually a bit of a strain on my wrist to get the Joy-Con into the correct position to pull it off, but once I do boy howdy is it absolutely not worth it.
This 90-minute game is very much a one-trick pony if a pony falling on its face were to be considered a trick. All of the different reflexology courses tire out well before I unlock the first ending, and by the time I’m seeing the credits roll on the true ending to this thing I’ve had enough. I didn’t anticipate using simple hand gestures to mimic giving a fake girl a massage would make for astoundingly brilliant gameplay, but I did hope there’d be at least a fraction of this game I could speak highly of.
There isn’t. At all. Like not a single iota of this game is recommendable. Reflexology basically boils down to just poking and prodding the poor girl, which isn’t exactly a lacking feature in Japanese games with big-breasted protagonists. I think the developer knows how monotonous the exercise is because I’m eventually given the opportunity to skip over the Glorious Reflexology portions to speed things along. The inclusion of the HD Rumble does nothing to increase immersion and the bonus features, including the different costumes I can dress her up in or the series staple diorama mode, don’t quite measure up to prior entries in the franchise.
Senran Kagura Reflexions is really nothing more than a proof of concept. Honey∞Parade Games set out to make a game where you touch Asuka all over until she’s been satisfied and in that respect, it succeeds. Just a damn shame the developer couldn’t turn all that touching into something worth playing.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]