Bounce, baby, bounce, b-bounce, b-bounce
In the world of Senran Kagura, excess is the rule. The outfits are skimpy, the plot threads are ludicrous, and the breasts are laughably large, so huge in fact that you wonder how the skimpy bras the girls are eventually stripped down to are actually wrangling those things.
But beneath a veneer of silliness and near-parodical levels of fan service lies a brawler with plenty of hack and slash goodness to offer.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus (Vita)
Developer: Marvelous AQL
Publisher: XSEED Games
Released: October 14, 2014
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus explores the legendary shinobi, whose ninja (read: teenage girls) train in separate schools, one of which you’ll choose at the beginning of the game to follow through a special story mode and additional missions. You’ll be able to choose between 20 different brawlers in this third-person Dynasty Warriors-like adventure, where the order of the day is running your opponent into the dirt, slashing them up until you’re declared victor. This usually means your opponent has been left with shreds of her outfit left clinging to her body, humiliated on the field. Sound sexy? It’s a little more hilarious and over-the-top than sexualized, and that’s what makes the game work so well.
That’s right, amongst double-doses of fanservice, bits of ecchi comedy sprinkled into several visual novel-styled expository scenes, and fragments of character development, you’ll pepper the unfortunate bad guys with light and strong attacks, dashes, and more. You’ll have the opportunity to rack up astronomical combos, in the neighborhood of 500-hit combos (and up) when you really get going. Or more, if you can stay in range of the several baddies tossed your way.
The action is frenetic and furious, with combos performed via well-timed button presses and an advanced parry system that allows players who wish to delve further to defend themselves in a much more engaging manner. Juggling enemies with air dashes and ultimate attacks will keep you busy as well, but the fact of the matter is there’s plenty here to ensure you don’t get bored, even if it does feel repetitive as you continuously press the same buttons. There’s nothing groundbreaking about combat, but it feels satisfying all the same, especially when you watch that combo number rise all the way past 1000. It’s an addictive feeling, even if the banter between girls doesn’t quite make sense during combat, or when the arenas you’re fighting in feel constricted and narrow.
As you fight you earn energy that can be unleashed via “Shinobi Transformations,” which allows for more powerful attacks. When your fighter takes enough damage, eventually her clothing and equipment will tear and deteriorate, leaving plenty of skin on display. Bouncing bosoms and pert bottoms can be seen everywhere, but the scenes that show them off are skippable. If it’s not something you want to stick around and see, you can skip past the transformation sequences themselves and get right back into battle. But if you want to get an eyeful, go ahead and soak it all in, because these scenes happen multiple times per battle. You can also go and view the character of your choice outside of battle just in case you didn’t get enough of them while locked in combat.
When you’re not dueling with other shinobi or nameless bad guys, you can customize your characters as you level them up after each grueling battle with different hairstyles, clothes, and additional accessories. They’re fun to collect and can be quite silly when you head into battle, but keeping your favorite fighter decked out in different duds can be just as fun as beating the pants off your opponents — literally, of course. Or skirt. Or blouse, whichever the case may be.
Unfortunately, this otherwise solid brawler is plagued by longer load times interspersed between campaign segments. Waiting to get started in the mission and waiting to restart is especially painful, and given the amount of action going on on-screen with some of these parts, it’s hard to understand why such long loading times are actually necessary. They’re a minor annoyance, granted, but still a gripe that players will no doubt notice. In many cases, the camera will also conspire to annoy the heck out of you with frustratingly obtuse angles, but luckily these bits can be worked around by manually fiddling with the analog stick.
It’s important to note as well that Shinovi Versus looks and feels great. The cel-shaded character models are polished and move fluidly, and while there’s no English voice cast to choose from, the Japanese voice actresses do an excellent job, especially in terms of the “cute” factor you really need in games like these. You really feel as though you’re viewing a piece of animation, and it shows. It’s leagues ahead of Senran Kagura Burst in terms of both animation factor and content offering.
If you’re a fan of the franchise or want to get in on some good, old-fashioned melee combat with undies and lady bits in between, Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is a great place to start. Sure, it’s silly, superficial, and more than a little bit ridiculous, but that’s what makes it so darn fun. And if you dip into this Senran Kagura offering, chances are you’ll want to delve into the others as well. Buyers, don’t leave your Vita at home, ‘cause it’s Senran Kagura at night and it’s bouncin’, bouncin’.