Senran Kagura Estival Versus – Review
PS4 (Reviewed) & PS Vita
WARNING: Some of the images included in this review could definitely be considered NSFW. You have been warned.
My first encounter with the Senran Kagura series took place on a flight to Japan. I picked up Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit, a Vita cooking/rhythm game offshoot of the series, while it was on sale in preparation for my trip. Just as we were about to take off, I fired my Vita up and settled in. By the time we were in the air, I had already changed games, mortified at what the stranger sitting next to me must have thought about the images on my Vita screen and by extension, myself. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so this screenshot should go a long way to explaining my embarrassment.
Developed by Tamsoft and released by Marvelous Europe on both PS4 and Vita, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is an arena-brawler sequel to 2013’s Shinovi Versus. The overall plot of the Senran Kagura series concerns competing factions of female shinobi, all hailing from different training schools. The catch being that whoever is in charge of enlisting potential shinobi wouldn’t be out of place hiring for Hooters, given exceedingly large breasts seem to be a prerequisite for admission. The storyline sees sisters Ryōbi and Ryōna drawn into a parallel dimension, where they come face to face with their deceased sister. In order to put her and many other spirits to rest, the shinobi schools must compete in the Kagura Millenium Festival, which mostly takes place on a beach to help facilitate the amount of bikinis the developers went to the trouble of modeling. Estival Versus expects players to have some knowledge of series lore up to this point – while current events are explained satisfactorily, the history between the different shinobi schools and the girls themselves are not, leaving newcomers a little in the dark.
Much like a certain other series – whose latest entry isn’t receiving a western release – Senran Kagura takes cartoonish breast physics to the next level. It’s as if every shinobi is packing a pair of inflatable tube men under her top, flailing about wildly in a desperate bid for freedom. Across the 30+ girls on the roster, only a handful have less than a handful (boom-tish) in the mammary department, at least until they undergo a Shinobi Transformation, at which point they swell to mammoth proportions. This mechanic can be triggered in the middle of battle and treats players to a nearly nude ‘magical anime girl’-esque transformation sequence, a side effect of which is complete health restoration. Taking it a step further in the titillation department, all clothing is destructible and degrades as damage is taken – you can literally beat the pants off your opponent. While fan service oozes from almost every frame, it’s fortunate that Estival Versus actually has some enjoyable, albeit repetitive combat to back it up.
The main story mode missions in Estival Versus shift between lengthy battles against wave upon wave of mobs across moderately sized environments and smaller scale battles against other AI controlled shinobi. Control wise, combat falls closer to the musou end of the spectrum rather than a dedicated fighting title with simple combos that function across all characters. While different tiers of enemies encourage the use of bomb items and abilities like wall-running, the AI is a bit dimwitted and can usually be overcome with basic combinations. Unfortunately, this also applies to Team partner AI characters who provide very little help during two v. two missions. The main element which differentiates characters are their weapons, which affect their move set and speed. Estival Versus is at its best when the combat is light and breezy, leaving a few of the slower characters in the lurch as high combos seem to be favoured over slower power moves.
Outside of battle, players can indulge their voyeuristic whims in the ‘Dressing Room’ mode. Here, characters can have every item of their clothing altered before being posed in front of an array of backgrounds. The sheer amount of outfits on offer is mind-boggling, with many of them needing to be unlocked with funds gained through the story modes. There’s also the option to whip out a pair of virtual hands to slap, grope and fondle any of the girls, which might explain why Xseed have deftly removed any mention of their ages in the localisation. While many would no doubt find this feature offensive, I found it hard to take Senran Kagura seriously enough to get to that point, pushing so far to almost become parody.
While online play is an option, I’m unable to cover it in any detail in this review given that no other players were around whenever I tried to get a match going. Bear in mind however that the game had not been released at retail during my time with the it, so the player base should increase significantly now that it’s available to the public.
Provided you know what you’re in for, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is a decent brawler that provides a few laughs along the way. While the combat is lacking in depth, the sheer ridiculousness of the dialogue and varied personalities keep proceedings rolling on smoothly.
It was whilst toiling away in the bowels of the now mythical Australian Gamer forums that Stephen’s attempts at writing were recognised by then up-and-coming Matt ‘Hewso’ Hewson as “not terrible”. Since then he has contributed to such sites as The Age’s now defunct Screen Play, the now-long retired Black Panel and currently serves under Editor-in-Chief Hewso for Player2.net.au, at least until the pattern of decline obvious in his previous engagements is picked up on by Hewso and he is exiled from games journalism forever.
Writes on Yugambeh land.