By Benny Carrillo / June 18th, 2015
As someone who has written editorials on the Senran Kagura franchise you can imagine I’d be excited to get a chance to play Senran Kagura: Estival Versus for the PlayStation 4. Thankfully XSEED Games delivered and the game was playable on the show floor. While there will be a PlayStation Vita version of the game it was not present.
For those of you are unfamiliar with the Senran Kagura franchise the idea is pretty simple. You play as one of many lovely young shinobi girls in training and your goal in each stage is to either reach the goal or defeat another one of the shinobi girls in combat all while tearing through anything that stands in your way, including clothes. While fan service is layered into every portion of these games, they are not only fun but often have a surprising amount of depth to them. However for the purposes of this hands-on we’ll be skipping the story sequences to avoid spoilers and focusing on the game mechanics.
I played four separate missions over two days, using Asuka, Homura, Miyabi, and of course Katsuragi. If you’ve played Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus then you’ll already have a basic idea of the combat. Square is for your light attacks which you can chain together, while Triangle executes a strong attack that has the ability to knock an opponent away or into the air. If you do happen to knock the enemy away you can chase after them by pressing the Circle button which executes an Ariel Rave and allows you to keep attacking your opponent and keep your combo going. Combos are important because they allow you to fill a guage under your health bar that when full grants you a scroll. After one scroll you can press L1 to transform into your shinobi state which then refills your health and grants you access to your “Shinobi Arts,” which are basically your super moves. While these moves are of course highly effective against all enemies catching a foe with a level 1 Shinobi Art will damage or remove the clothing covering their bottom half, and the level 2 will damage or remove the layer of clothing covering the top half. In addition the famous “Frantic Mode” from Shinovi Versus returns. This mode strips your character down to their underwear and nullifies their defense in return for a massive attack boost. I’ve been told that the amount of the boost was toned down a bit in Estival Versus in order to better balance the game and while early on you’ll still feel like you’re just tearing through enemies towards the end game you may have to be more careful. Also while in Shinovi Versus the activation for frantic mode required you to pull apart your girls clothes by using your thumbs, here the touch pad on the controller is used instead and the mechanic still feels just as good.
While basics of Senran Kagura’s mechanics remain the same there’s been some tweaks to the formula that should please fans of the series and newcomers alike. First off occasionally in levels you’ll have an AI controlled partner that will follow and assist you in combat. If you press R1 and Circle after knocking an enemy, or group of enemies into the air you’ll execute a special combination attack called an Arial Fusion which is very useful for dealing with large groups of normal enemies should you be able to get them airborne. Another new mechanic is the ability to run up walls by pressing Circle while jumping at a wall. If you then press and attack button you’ll instantly turn around and attack the nearest enemy allowing for you to quickly turn the tables on a pursuing foe. Also added in this game are bombs. Once collected these can be thrown to damage a group of enemies by inflicting a status effect, either poisoning, paralyzing, freezing, or setting them on fire. While you can only collect one at a time it’s a welcome addition to aid in crowd clearing, especially when more difficult enemies appear and begin to swarm you.
Visually the game looks amazing, the game was running perfectly fine at 60fps even when 20-30 enemies were on screen at a time. In addition, players of Shinovi Versus will be happy to know that both the transformation sequences and Shinobi Art cinematics have been shortened and streamlined, making the game feel much more fluid and cohesive. Also the girls have never looked so expressive, one of my favorite moments from this hands on was just seeing Homura’s smirk as she goes into her Shinobi Art and then proceeds to of course tear through enemy mooks.
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus certainly looks to be the next evolution after Shinovi Versus. It builds off the mechanics of its predecessor and focuses on trying to fix and improve elements from the previous game. Returning fans should enjoy the faster and more fluid combat and new fans are in for a treat as they dive face-first into the “Life and Hometown” that is Senran Kagura this Winter. In the meantime take a look at our review of Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus just to see some of the differences between Estival Versus and it’s predecessor.
marvelous interactiveOperation Rainfalloprainfalloprainfall @ E3 2015PlayStaion 4PS4Senran KaguraSenran Kagura: Estival VersusSony PlayStation 4XSEED Games