By Steve Baltimore / October 14th, 2014
|Title||Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus|
|Release Date||October 14, 2014|
|Genre||Beat ’em Up|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Mature|
When XSEED first announced they were localizing Senran Kagura Burst on the 3DS, I was pretty excited. Being a fan of games with lots of fan service, it seemed right up my alley. When it released, and I played it, I got much more than I bargained for. With fantastic characters, a great storyline and deep combat, it quickly became one of my favorite 3DS games. Now that they have localized Seran Kagura Shinovi Versus for Vita as the follow up, I wondered if it would meet my high expectations for it. Let’s see if it did.
The story takes place just after the events of Senran Kagura Burst. Homura’s squad has been branded renegades, due to losing to the girls from Hanzo Academy in the previous story. A new group of Hebjio ninjas has appeared to regain the school’s honor. Meanwhile, another school of ninjas, the Gessen School, seeks to rid the world completely of evil, and will even kill good ninjas if they allow evil to exist. This ultimately leads to a big battle royale with all of the groups doing battle.
The story is just as compelling and well-done as in the first game. Each individual story will bleed over into the others until the whole picture becomes clear. You will learn much about each character’s backstory, as well as get answers to a few lingering question from Senran Kagura Burst. It keeps with that theme of making you question what is good and what is evil, and how they can learn from each other. Even though it is very serious, there is still plenty of humor and fan service mixed in.
In addition to the main story, there is also a side story for each of the twenty characters found in the game. While I haven’t completed all of them due to time constraints for this review, I have done about half of them, and they are fantastic. Most of them are very light-hearted, and let you get to know some of the quirks of the various girls. For instance, Shiki’s story revolves around her getting some lewd pics to boost her blog’s hits while you find out Mirai is a hardcore otaku – I knew I loved her for a reason. XSEED’s localization work is great and really makes these character shine. These stories are like icing on an already delicious cake and a blast to play through.
Now let’s talk about the technical stuff, starting with the graphics. This is one of the best looking games on the Vita. The shaded artwork is bright and really pops out on the Vita screen. All of the characters are, ummm, well designed with plenty of “life and hometown” to go around. The environments themselves look pretty decent. For instance the rooftop stand and the field stage look really good, while the others come off as a bit plain.
In the sound department the music, just like in first game, is wonderful. Senran Kagura Burst has one of my favorite OSTs on the 3DS, and this entry keeps up that tradition. From classical Japanese-style tunes to hard-rocking battle themes, this one has you covered. The voice work is also well done, it’s all in Japanese, and the cast from the first game returns to reprise their roles. My one complaint here is when you unlock that voice set, they didn’t subtitle those clips, so you really don’t know what they are saying when you get them unlocked.
The gameplay is a lot like first game, with the only big difference being that this one is in full 3D. Square triggers your quick attacks while Triangle does your breach attacks. Just like before, you chain the two together for some impressive combos — once you have gained enough EXP to unlock the moves, that is. You will still gain Yin, Yang, and Balance Points at the end of combat. Not only will this unlock certain moves, you will gain skills with each level to make your ninjas better. The first level is improve short dashes, and they only get better from there. The Ninja Arts Gauge is slightly different this time around. As you complete the bar, you will be given a scroll. You can carry up to three scrolls to start with, but will gain more as you level up. Press the right trigger will do a Shinobi Transformation, and consume one scroll. Each character will start off with two secret Ninja Arts, they are done by pressing the right trigger and Square or Triangle. The art assigned to Square will consume one scroll while the art assigned to Triangle is stronger, and will consume two.
Another thing to note here is that, if you use the Square Ninja Art, you will break the bottom part of the costume, while using the triangle will break the top half. If your opponent is down to their underwear, that is gonna if you finish that battle with said art. You will be treated to some humorous censorship of the naughty bits. Those beams of lights are always destroying a man’s dreams… You will gain a third ninja art as you complete the story and it can only be done when you have five scrolls and are in the red on health. Frantic mode is done a bit differently this time as well; you still press the left trigger and triangle to active it. When you do this a screen will appear with the girl’s boobs and two arrows. Pull the arrows left and right to break the costume. Frantic mode is much more powerful this time around, but just like last time you take a ton of damage as well.
The combat seems much faster-paced this time around and boss battles are much more brutal than before. The new enemies in the animal costumes can give you fits. These special enemies are much stronger than normal ones and require some tactics to slay. You will have to use your combos and skills to make it through some of more difficult missions and boss battles, but this makes the combat feel more rewarding. Another tip is to save your shinobi transformation till then, since it fills up your health meter when you use it, but, be warned, going frantic does not fill up your health. The only drawback in the gameplay is the camera. Since the game is now in full 3D, you sometimes will get some horrid angles. You can move the camera with the right analog stick. You can also lock onto enemies by tapping the touch screen. This will help sometimes, but not always.
Each of the girls offers something different in terms of fighting styles. For example. Kat and Yozakura are similar in some ways, since one uses her fists while the other kicks. They can charge moves for greater damage by holding down the attack buttons. The main difference is that Kat has better range. Asuka would be great for beginners since her attacks are easy to chain together, and Ryobi offers a balanced approach with ranged attacks from her rifle and up close attacks via the axe attached to the stock of her gun. It’s a little strange, I know, but effective. So, there are some that will fit everyone’s playing style in here somewhere to be sure.
There are tons of outfits to unlock. Some are unlocked by completing story or side missions while others are unlocked via the store. You can buy costumes, accessories, CG art, music and voice clips from the store using in-game cash. You will have to complete some story missions before some items are available for purchase. There is also a Lingerie Lottery. Yes, folks, I’m not joking. You bet in-game coins to unlock various undergarments for your characters, and some of them are very very skimpy. There are 98 to unlock in total, with odds of getting a different pair decreasing with each pair you obtain. No worries, though — the more cash you bet, the better your odds of getting a new pair.
There is an online Versus Mode found in the game, but, unfortunately, I was not able to test these features out at the time of this review. If there is anything really broken in there, I will update with more information as it becomes available.
All in all, this is fantastic game. It has a great story, wonderful characters, and some top-notch gameplay to go with it. I know this is not for everyone because some do not like the fan service games, but, underneath all of that, there is a really deep and meaningful story. You will likely find this is much more than it appears to be on surface. If you were a fan of Senran Kagura Burst, this improves on it in almost every way possible. There are few minor camera issues and other minor flaws, but the good definitely outweighs the bad. For the asking price of $39.99 digital or $49.99 limited edition physical you get around 30 hours of gameplay and more to unlock everything. I have no issue recommending this to fans of the series or to anyone that enjoys a beat ’em up with some fan service.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is available on Amazon: