By Benny Carrillo / October 11th, 2017
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is finally available for the world to enjoy. When the game was announced last October, I found myself quite confused. I had just finished the story of Estival Versus and was more than ready for the next game in the franchise, especially since I personally felt that we still had a lot of unanswered questions. While Senran Kagura had ventured away from its classic beat ’em up style with Bon Appétit!, I would have never called them deciding to develop a third-person shooter. When you consider these are shinobi and half the cast doesn’t even use guns, how would you even do that?
The answer was water guns, which is just that kind of crazy I’m used to from Senran Kagura. That said, I am not a fan of shooters in general due to the dexterity required from them. Much like fighting games, it’s not my cup of tea. However, it is Senran Kagura, so it could still be a lot of fun. Plus, I’m just one person. This really could be something the fanbase never knew they wanted and could lead to interesting things. Come time for E3 I was still on the fence about the entire thing. Then XSEED Games reached out to us with an opportunity to speak with Kenichiro Takaki himself.
While in-person interviews are not my forte (I’m someone who can easily get flustered) I decided we couldn’t pass up this chance and agreed to the interview, which indeed took place at E3. If you’re curious as to why this is coming out now, in short, it’s been a hectic couple of months personally. My apologies. However, I still wanted to get this out to you so I figured we’d publish it around Peach Beach Splash’s launch window.
As for the interview itself, well it’s probably more apt to call it a conversation. This is probably a little more free-form than our standard interviews, but I hope that some of Takaki-san’s personality does come through. This was my second time meeting him and both times it’s been a pleasure. As for the content itself, we touch upon quite a few topics, from Senran Kagura’s history, to the development of Peach Beach Splash, to even talking about the relationships between the girls.
So sit back and enjoy what I’m calling “Life, Hometown, Relationships and Water Guns”
Operation Rainfall: I am at E3  with Kenichiro Takaki, the producer of Senran Kagura. We’re going to talk a little bit about Senran Kagura and Peach Beach Splash.
Senran Kagura: Shoujo-tachi no Shinei came out on September 22, 2011. Now almost six years later, how has the Japanese fanbase grown and what influence have they had on the franchise’s direction?
Kenichiro Takaki: So, the game over the years – its fanbase has been growing. And there’s always this certain amount of changeover in the fans. People who get introduced to it, people who leave it behind, but at the same time, there’s always this core base that has been with it since the very beginning until now. And also, each character has its own mini-fanbase within the fanbase. So, we see those fans of each particular character become more prominent. And so [I] specifically don’t think very hard about what is it, what the fans are asking for, what they want. But it’s probably impossible to say that there is no influence because obviously, we’re watching their reactions all the time. I guess most of all [I] am considering, ‘Well, what is it that the fans are interested in? What are they looking for?’ And that’s sort of in the back of [my] mind, designing new titles.
For PBS [OR Note: Peach Beach Splash] specifically, the transition to the third-person shooter genre, part of the inspiration for that was the amount to which Senran Kagura has started getting more popular overseas. And a TPS being a more accessible, more mainstream kind of game for overseas fans.
OR: That leads into the second question. Senran Kagura Burst was released November 14, 2013, in the US, and February 28, 2014, in Europe, about four years ago if we go by the US release date. What are some of the ways that the Western fanbase has contributed to the growth of the franchise?
KT: Obviously, we just mentioned changing to TPS being partially for overseas fans. But as the game has grown overseas, we’re becoming more aware of the cultural differences and the responses to the sexual content in the game. And we’re aware that Japan has probably got some of the easier standards to get by with sexual content in video games. And so [I] don’t want to change the direction for the game or water it down or anything like that. But, over time [I] have become more aware of what kind of things are too over-the-top for the overseas audience. And keeping that in mind while making the games is one of the things that perhaps has changed a little bit.
OR: I’ll say as a fan myself I’m very happy with the way the games are, so please continue.
The third question is, are there distinct differences between the US, European, and Japanese fanbase?
KT: [I’m] more so surprised with how the same they are. [I] go back to – the content is very universal. Everybody likes the same sort of sexual content. Breasts are popular all over the world.
OR: (laugh) That’s an interesting answer.
One of the more recent developments in the Senran Kagura franchise was the recent ports of Shinovi Versus and Estival Versus to Steam. How has the reception been from the Steam audience, and was there anything you found interesting about the porting process?
KT: The Steam releases have had great reactions, and so [I’m] very happy to see that they’re doing well. That they’re popular with PC players. Developing for PC, obviously, the biggest challenge is that the hardware is not standardized – [among] consoles that’s changing too. Everybody has their own machine and [are] customizing it, you really have to be careful and make sure that your game runs on all different hardware setups. So it’s obviously a challenge. But, it’s also one of the things that makes PC gaming interesting and fun.
OR: Recently I rebuilt my own PC, so I can actually play games on it now. So, I eventually plan to download Shinovi Versus and try it out because I platinumed the Vita version.
KT: [I] hope you enjoy it because the graphics are better, [it has] a higher resolution and runs at 60 FPS. So it could be a good new experience.
OR: Let’s talk relationships for a moment. One of the unique things about Senran Kagura is how openly affectionate the girls are with each other. For example, Katsuragi enjoys the female body quite a bit. But other girls seem to have serious romantic feelings for each other, like Yagyu’s infatuation with Hibari or Imu’s love and devotion to Miyabi.
Why did you decide to include these romantic elements, when many other franchises would shy away from such content?
KT: The game’s setting has the girls – they’re ninjas, they’re in ninja training school. It’s a very harsh life that they’re leading. And this is based on the way relationships form among girls who are on the same sports team, for example. They form very intense relationships – they’re teammates. And whether you want to see it as romantic or as something else, that’s maybe up to everyone to interpret on their own. But it’s [my] idea that people who spend very close time together, working very hard together on something, will have this sort of bond between them. And that’s basically what [I’m] trying to show. And just the idea that we shouldn’t shy away from these things. There’s beauty in a relationship when it’s two women together.
OR: One of the things I like, personally, about Shinobi Versus, was that in the prologue for Hebijo, Imu took care of Miyabi when she was sick. And the way she was bathed, fed, and clothed felt like—to me—was something that you would not do unless you’re pretty much married to each other. So that was just my own interpretation, but I really like that aspect, because you don’t see that in a lot of games these days sadly.
KT: The story was definitely designed to make you feel that bond – like they have a bond, perhaps even greater than romantic love, and to show that their hearts are connected.
OR: Now some Peach Beach Splash questions. Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash is the latest addition to the franchise and was released on March 16, 2017, in Japan. What’s the Japanese reception to the game?
KT: It’s had a very good reception so far.
OR: Peach Beach Splash is a third-person shooter, which is the first [such entry] in the franchise. Were there any challenges you faced in adapting Senran Kagura to this genre?
KT: Since the games have been action games so far, this is really a new challenge for the team all around. Mostly, people on the team have a lot of experience playing TPS games, but it’s the first time they’ve tried to actually make one for themselves. So, they had to just learn all of the basics from scratch – how the camera’s supposed to move, how do you hold the gun and things like that.
The games had been made by mostly the same staff members since the very beginning. So, because they’re making action games all along, after a while, you get sort of into a rut, where you feel like you’re making the same thing over and over again. Going to TPS this time really was just to stir things up, to give everyone a fresh perspective – and there’ll be another action game, but hopefully when they’ll go back to action games now, they’ll feel re-energized and have new ideas that they wouldn’t have thought of if they hadn’t had that break away.
OR: So, the hope is that what they’ll learn from here they can take and apply to the next game they do.
KT: Yes, exactly.
OR: Peach Beach Splash seems to have a heavier focus on multiplayer elements than previous Senran Kagura titles. How difficult was it to balance Senran Kagura’s focus on a deep story while also fleshing out the multiplayer aspect?
KT: It was a challenge to have such a heavy focus on multiplayer because multiplayer itself is hard to balance – to get all of the characters just right, so no particular feature is more advantageous than another. And in fact, we’ve been tweaking it a lot since release in Japan, and there’s still places where we think ‘Maybe we should shift this, this way or that way.’ So, the biggest challenge so far has been bringing multiplayer in to make the multiplayer really balanced and fun on its own.
OR: When I played a little of the game outside [at the E3 booth], and I talked to one of the reps and asked him how it was working with the multiplayer, he said one of the things they were working on was weapon patches for balancing that.
KT: Yeah, in addition to the weapons, since there’s lots of skill cards – there’s the skill cards to balance, but then you have to consider about how things can be combined. How this skill is with this weapon, how does this turn out? There are a lot of things in testing or since the game was released that we found or tweaked.
OR: I can imagine. You can playtest something as much as you want, but players tend to be really smart and creative and find ways to break things you didn’t realize could be broken. (laugh)
KT: Yeah, Lots of things happen. Unexpected things.
OR: First and third-person shooters tend to be common in the West. What makes Peach Beach Splash stand out from other games in these genres?
KT: There are certainly a lot of first and third-person shooters out there, but the prevailing trend is for war-type games. Games with heavy amounts of violence. So, by having something that is so lighthearted with just pretty girls shooting each other with water guns, we think that this will help it stand out pretty well.
OR: I would say I would definitely agree. There’s not another game like Peach Beach Splash.
The last question I have prepared is that the development of each game is a learning experience. What was lessons from the previous games you worked on did you apply to the development of Peach Beach Splash, and what have you learned during the development of Peach Beach Splash that you hope to apply to future games?
KT: One of the things that’s been a challenge in multiplayer in Senran Kagura, there are a lot of cutaway scenes where a character’s clothing gets stripped [away] and you see the fancy demonstration of it. And when you’re doing multiplayer, you can’t quite stop time for everybody for something like that to play – so for example, in [Estival Versus], we took the simple route where we just took those scenes out, they wouldn’t happen in multiplayer.
This time around, there’s actually – when one player does a special finisher on another player, it’s like a tent that appears and other players can see that they are doing something together in that tent, but you can’t see what it is. And then the other players – they actually to get to see the finish themselves, but they are not affecting the rest of the game and they’re not gonna get shot by other players during it, for example.
OR: So inside the tent, the players are invulnerable. Outside of it, everything else continues.
OR: That’s a very interesting way to do that.
KT: It looks interesting when you see it in game so you can look forward to seeing that. All of the sudden a tent appears and the tent is sort of shaking.
OR: I am really bad at shooting games, I don’t have the reflexes for it. But I want to give Peach Beach Splash a try when it comes out. I think I’ll definitely enjoy the single player, but I’ll have to find some friends to play multiplayer with. Online play is scary [to me].
KT: Yeah, the multiplayer is team-based. The standard is five-on-five. So even if you’re not great at the game, as long as you’re working with your teammates together, you can still have a good time.
OR: The auto-aim was something I was very thankful for.
KT: In this game, if you shoot your teammates, that actually has a positive effect on them. So, if you shoot the enemies, you damage them. And if you shoot your teammates, you power them up. They have a ‘wetness’ gauge, where the more wet they get, the more powerful they are. So even if you’re not good at shooting the enemy characters, you can help your team out.
OR: That is very helpful. When I was looking at the game I did see the wetness gauge but didn’t know what it did. (laugh)
That is all the questions I have prepared, was there anything you wanted to talk about real fast?
KT: Just to continue the answer from the question about what [I] have learned from [Peach Beach Splash] that we can do in future titles – in this title, we focus very much on water and what effects it may give the girl’s clothing when it is wet. And that’s something definitely something to carry over to future titles, you know – have more water-based attacks, more water-based stages, and then you can use the ‘wet clothing look’ to enhance future games.
OR: Kafuru will make very good use of that I’m sure. (laugh)
So, what are your thoughts on the interview?
I actually learned quite a lot about not just Peach Beach Splash, but Takaki-san’s overall approach to Senran Kagura. One thing that could be taken out of context is the fact he’s being more aware of what’s acceptable to international audiences. As he points out, his intent isn’t to water things down. Instead, it’s to push the envelope and have fun. The problem is that pushing the envelope in Japan is very different from many other countries. And because he does want the franchise to be enjoyed by international fans as well, he’s got to watch that he doesn’t cross that line. That’s not a bad thing since situations like this often result in a creator finding new and interesting ways to get around those limitations. So if anything, I just think he’ll push the envelope in new ways. One way I’d honestly like to see that occur is with the various relationships between the girls.
One of the reasons I brought up the idea of Miyabi and Imu feeling like a couple is because that’s actually somewhat rare in a lot of Japanese games these days. Female characters are either regulated to the interest of the main male hero, or can’t be paired with anyone since they belong the world as it were. This is something I’ve personally never liked. As someone who values character development I want to see the characters I like end up with someone. I want them to be happy. And what better series to break this cliche than the one that already pushes things as far as they can? But that’s just my own thoughts on the matter. What’s important is that you ensure you communicate your own thoughts (respectfully) to the development team so that they can know what does and doesn’t work for you.
In closing, once again I apologize for the delay in getting this all to you. The last few months have been trying personally to say the least. However, I’ve stuck with doing this because I do believe in making a difference and constructively highlighting the positives and negatives of the various games we cover. Hopefully, in some small way, I am succeeding in that.
First and foremost I’d like to thank Kenichiro Takaki for speaking with me and being so open about Senran Kagura. It’s not often you meet a person who is so open and passionate about what they love. If you want to follow him directly you can do so here:
I’d like to thank XSEED Games for inviting us to speak with Takaki-san and for bringing him to E3. Hopefully those of you who were there and got to meet him enjoyed the experience. If you’d like to follow XSEED Games you can do so here:
If you’re from the EU then also please be sure to follow Marvelous Europe, which is the publisher of Senran Kagura for the EU region.
Also, special thanks to our own Quentin H. who assisted me with the transcription of this interview. You can check out several other interviews he’s done here.
Finally be sure to follow Operation Rainfall on all the things using the links below:
That’s all for this interview, and here’s hoping that these awesome water effects are put to good use in the next Senran Kagura game. I can see Kafuru gaining quite a few fans from them.
InterviewKenichiro TakakiMarvelousOperation RainfalloprainfallPeach Beach SplashSenran KaguraXSEED Games