Japanese games can be very, very weird; Muscle March for the Wii and Mister Mosquito on the PlayStation 2 come to mind when I think of games that probably never should have been localized. I’m not saying that they are bad games at all, but they may be a little too out there for our tastes. The Senran Kagura series from XSEED hits all of those “out there” buttons. My first experience with this franchise was last September on the 3DS. I was tasked with writing a review about this game, and man was I ill prepared for what I encountered. The series is a voyeurs dream. If you like to look at scantily clad, large breasted animated females then this is the franchise for you. It is one of those games you just might be ashamed of if someone saw you playing. At least on the 3DS an onlooker really wouldn’t be able to see what I was playing, but that wasn’t true on my PS Vita, so I had to be careful as I played.
The game starts off with a Japanese voice over and written English text on the screen explaining the harrowingly short lives of the Shinobi. Then the seriousness of the game suddenly ends and we meet two sisters, Ryobi and Ryona who are frolicking in the woods. They hear some noises and flashes of light and decide to investigate. One of them gets on all fours and then pops her head through a bush. There you see the first Peeping Tom part of the game, the girls hindquarters are displayed promptly at you shaking back and fourth. Then her sister gets upset at her and starts smacking her on the bottom. Now I’m an adult and this make me somewhat embarrassed, even made me take a quick peek over my shoulder so no one was watching. Maybe this would be of interest to teenagers or Jared the Subway Guy but I wanted to get into the fighting; that’s the part I enjoyed about the prior game I reviewed. They notice their sister being placed into a glowing blue coffin and rush out to save her, instead a blinding flash of light appears and they’re on the ground in the forest. In the distance, they see a blue glow, so they follow and find their sister emerging from the coffin. Ryoki then explains what has happened the past eight days. She and her fellow Shinobi had been transported to a far away beach where a Mortal Kombat type of tournament would take place between rival Shinobi schools.
While the story isn’t really all there, the combat and the controls are what make this game shine. Obviously the L stick move the character while the R stick controls the camera. Circle is short dash, holding it makes it a longer dash and doing this in battle makes you invincible for a short time. X is jump and pushing it twice makes a double jump. Square is light attack, triangle is a heavy attack and if you hold down triangle, you get your character’s signature “Breach Art” move that breaks an enemies guard in one hit. R trigger is block and is very useful with certain enemies; you can parry their attack and cause damage on the whole bunch. Locking onto enemies is very important and to do that, you hit up on the D-pad. Pushing down on the D-pad triggers a limit break that drains some of your health but sends any nearby foes into the air. When you get a Ninja Art Scroll, you can perform a Shinobi Transformation by hitting L trigger which when activated changes your outfit, boosts attack and defense, gives you new combos and restores your health. All of these actions combined into one make for a great hack and slash game. The problem is that you grow weary of the same types of fights over and over.
The game looks great on the little Vita screen. The colors are vibrant and there is no lag or choppiness in the visuals. The cut scenes look to be taken directly from this game’s anime and look great. If it wasn’t such a voyeur type of game, I might pick up the anime, but I think I’ll stick to Attack on Titan. Once the cut scenes are done and it transfers into gameplay, the in-game cut scenes look great as well. They look better than the 3DS’ cut scenes. The real attention getter is the boob physics; these are physics even Einstein wouldn’t be able to explain. Every time one of the girls moved, her boobs followed in suit. If these females were actually part of our world they would have insane back problems. The game has no English voice over, so you have to read the game, which isn’t too bad; maybe after years of playing games like this I’ll finally learn Japanese.
The game has more than the campaign though; it has the Shinobi Dojo, which lets go online and test your fighting prowess. There is also a Library where you can go and look at unlockable videos and pictures. Finally there is the dressing room where you can put clothes on the Shinobi and take pictures of them. Remember when I said this game would have some voyeur purchasers, well that’s the seller right there. You can put the girls into any type of clothing you like and just ogle them without any repercussions. Different, right? And kind of creepy?
Despite some of the games’ failings and overall weirdness, it is actually built pretty well. The controls are good, there’s no lag in them and they aren’t awkward enough to make you die a lot. The music is nice and upbeat, the graphics are well done, and just like John Hammond, they spared no expense on boob size or boob jiggle. I did find it quite repetitive, but it IS a hack and slash game, which are known pretty well for being repetitive. I mean there are only so many girls that you can knock into oblivion and nakedness. Oh right, did I forget to tell you that the health meter for everyone is their clothes coming off? I don’t know if I should put that in the pro or con column, so I’ll let you decide. If you’re a fan of hack and slash games or giant boobs, this game was made for you. If you’re a tad squeamish and embarrass easily, you might want to pass this up and grab a less cleavage filled title.
A Vita code was provided by XSEED for the purpose of this review.