By Steve Baltimore / March 15th, 2016
|Title||Senran Kagura Estival Versus|
|Release Date||March 15, 2016|
|Genre||Beat em Up|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita|
The Senran Kagura series has grown to be one of my favorite beat-em up series since it arrived on the 3DS back in 2013. I fell in love with not only the fast and fun combat, but the great story and characters the game had to offer. When Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus launched on the PlayStation Vita, I was blown away be the gameplay changes that occurred due to the better hardware. So when I saw Senran Kagura Estival Versus was gonna be on the PlayStation 4, I was really excited to see if they could make this game even better than it already was. I’ve waited patiently for XSEED Games to get this one localized and into our hands. Now we’ll see if it can meet my expectations.
The story follows the girls as a mysterious occurrence has transported them to a parallel world. This world seems like a tropical paradise. The girls soon discover that their loved ones who have since passed on still exist here. Asuka’s grandmother, Sayuri is running a strange event here call the Kagura Millennium Festival. This is a contest in which the girls from the four schools are charged with destroying their opponents Festival Pillars while protecting their own. Sayuri promises the winner not only the highest shinobi secrets, but also the chance to peacefully see their loved ones off once and for all.
Like other games in the series, there is a ton of humor and fanservice to be found in the story. I laughed at some scenes so hard I almost cried as the girls exchanged playful banter and were just being the characters we’ve all come to know and love. However just like the other games there is a very serious message here and things will get very emotional at times. The localization team did a fantastic job with the writing, which is probably some of the best I’ve seen in the series thus far.
The graphics look amazing on the PS4. All of the character models and environments are detailed, colorful, and a pure joy to look at. The frame rate is a constant 60fps, even when there are a ton of shinobi grunts and three other girls on the screen with special moves and bodies flying everywhere. I was actually really impressed with how well this game runs and it really shows why hitting 60fps in a beat em up game is important. I did notice a few graphical bugs here and there, with enemies getting stuck in floors or walls, but this was very rare and had no effect on the game whatsoever.
The soundtrack lives up to the series standard, in fact this may be the best soundtrack in the series to date. These hard rocking tracks with that Eastern flair get you pumped and excited for combat. There are also really emotional slower tracks that bring out the feels when story is getting serious. The voice cast from the previous games have returned and done a stellar job as always. Just like previous entries, there is no English dub and I honestly think it is better this way.
The story plays out somewhat differently this time around. Instead of the usual where you pick a school and do their storyline all at once, this time around everyone is involved in a single storyline that covers the eight days they are stuck in the parallel world. This is very similar to how the story played out in Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson. I like this better because it gives the story a better flow and you get a better sense of when events are actually happening. The Shinobi Girl’s Heart missions are back as well. These will not be unlocked at the start of the game. You will have to unlock these by destroying the Festival Towers found throughout the story missions.
The basic combat is very similar to what was found in Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus. Your basic attack is still square and you mix triangle in to perform different combos. They have done many tweaks to this system however, and it feels much smoother than before. There are also more Aerial Rave moves and a new type of move called a Combined Aerial Rave. This is where you and your partner combine forces for one spectacular aerial move. Another new addition to combat is wall running. Yep, you can run and attack off certain walls. This can lead to some crazy battles in the story mode, not to mention adding to the insanity of the already wild multiplayer modes.
The famous costume breaking is back and better than ever. Just like before, when you or your opponent are hit with Ninja Arts and combos, clothing will shred. You can turn this off in the options if you feel these scenes break the flow of combat, or for whatever reason. There are also a ton of stage based creative finishes, which include everything from knocking your buck naked opponent on to a stripper pole, to slamming them through a billboard butt first. These are all quite humorous and pretty easy to trigger. Just look for the signs with an ! on them, then finish off your opponent in that area and watch the fun.
There are also some new items at your disposal this time around. In addition to the power up orbs found in Shinovi Versus, you can now find different types of balls to hurl at your enemies as well. Some of these will cause electric damage and paralyze foes, some will cause ice damage and freeze them in their tracks, or you may even get a hidden ball that makes you invisible for a short time. On some maps there are giant robots called dolls, which your character can ride as well. These move slow but do massive damage. Just be sure to get away from it when it takes enough damage to explode.
The main issue I have with combat is the way some of the levels are laid out. They are full of blue or red barriers for no reason. This becomes a pain when you’re looking for the festival towers in the main story. You can see it, but getting to it may be a chore. The other minor issue is the CPU can spam Ninja Arts like they are going out of style, when there is no way they took enough damage to fill another meter. This makes some battles more difficult than they should be.
I spent a little time with the game’s mulitplayer modes and I am happy to report they are a ton of fun. There are few different match types to choose from which include: Point Battle, where you try to get a set score within the time limit; Understorm, or see how many pairs of pantsu can you grab; Capture the Bra, which is basically capture the flag; Queen of the Hills, defend your Festival Towers while breaking the opposing team’s and tons more. Some of these modes will support ten players on the PlayStation 4 while others will only have four players. You can make these already crazy battles even more over the top by turning on the Ninja Grunts and Kagura Festival options. Kagura Festival will grant a random condition at a set interval, which is decided by the host. These can be items, or maybe even unlimited Ninja Arts for a short time. This will really spice up your online battles. I can also say I had zero lag in the several matches I played online so this seems pretty solid, and you can still play with only bots if you wish.
We cannot possibly talk about a Senran Kagura game without talking about the dressing room. There are a ton of outfits you can dress the girls up in. You can customize the pre and post transformation looks and play around with tons of accessories the game has to offer. You can still use the touch features found in the other versions of the game, even though the PlayStation 4 lacks a touch screen. If you tap down on the analog sticks, some hands appear and let the fun begin. After touching the gals the right way a couple times, you can even give them a smooch. There is also a really nice diorama mode that will allow you to pose up to five girls in various positions on a large number of backdrops. There are tons of things you can play around with here, from the girls facial expressions, to adding hearts over their head. This mode will start out pretty bare bones, but as you bust the Festival Towers you will unlock more goodies to play with in here.
I loved this game from the moment I fired it up on my PS4. I loved the story and I felt like I got to know these characters I already loved a bit better. The improved graphics and frame rate make this one of the smoothest and best looking beat-em ups out there, and that fantastic OST doesn’t hurt it one bit either. It will take you around 20 hour to complete the main story and quite a while longer to finish the Shinobi Girl’s Heart missions. There is plenty of content here to keep you busy. Fans of the series should jump on this immediately at the $59.99 price for the Endless Summer Limited Edition. Newcomers will find this one quite welcoming as well, since it sports three different difficulty levels and basically catches you up on the story thus far. This is the best game in the series thus far and should not be missed by anyone that enjoys a good beat em up.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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