By Justin Guillou / February 14th, 2019
For Valentine’s Day, I figured I would take a look at a game that has an emphasis on building affection and showing appreciation for a character featured in it. So I decided to play….
|Title||Senran Kagura: Reflexions|
|Release Date||September 13th, 2018|
The Senran Kagura series is one that I’ve spent much more time playing than I initially expected to. It’s easy to write the franchise off as cheap “fan-service” with no real purpose. While fan-service is definitely part of the appeal for many players, I actually found myself more interested in the character arcs as there were some storylines that were genuinely interesting, compelling and well written. Senran Kagura: Reflexions came out last year and it’s a title that I’ve been on the fence about for a while. However when they announced that one of the DLC storylines would be featuring Murasaki, I became interested. Steve has written about the Asuka and Yumi campaigns before and had some positive things to say about how the games actually did a decent job at developing those characters, so I went into this with high hopes. Murasaki is actually one of my favorite characters in the Senran Kagura series and considering her backstory, I was curious to see how they would expand on it in Reflexions. Many people online seem to have labeled Reflexions as some crazy and shameless sex and foreplay sim but in my experience with the Murasaki DLC, I found that it’s a lot more tame than I was led to believe. Before I get into the game itself, I’ll give a brief summary of Murasaki’s story so far, since it gives some more context for Reflexions.
Murasaki had a bit of a “troubled” upbringing that resulted in a series of unfortunate and tragic events including her nearly killing her sister, Imu. This event led her to shut herself off from the world out of fear that she would only bring harm to everyone around her. It wouldn’t be until meeting Asuka and Mirai during Shinovi Versus that she slowly began to realize the importance of the bonds we make with others in this world, and that she needs to come to terms with her past if she ever wants a chance at actually being happy. She decides that she wants to make everything right for herself, including conquering her inner demons even if it means having to sacrifice the very power she possesses which feeds off her negative emotions. I was rather impressed and satisfied with how much positive character development she received across the two Versus games. When I first played Shinovi Versus, she was one of my least favorite characters and I think that was the whole point. Back then, she was at rock bottom and an unlikable person who actively portrayed herself that way because that’s what she thought of herself. But after the events of Shinovi Versus she realizes that she has so much more to offer the world and throughout Estival Versus, she actually went out of her way to try to take small baby steps in trying to overcome her anxiety and issues around others. Sure it didn’t always work out for her and she stumbled a bit on the way, but she didn’t give up and kept on trying. By the end of Estival Versus, I found myself rooting for her and she went from being one of my least favorite characters to one of my favorites because her character development was genuinely satisfying. It’s funny because she’s far from being the most important character to the overall plot of either Versus game, yet I think her story was among the better written ones, as you really got to see some genuine and realistic character growth which carries over into Senran Kagura: Reflexions.
The premise to Murasaki’s campaign in Reflexions is that she is looking to continue to get over her fear and anxiety with people especially around boys. She does this by picking you: a random unnamed boy, presumably her classmate, and ask if she can spend some time with you and if you could hold her hands which would eventually lead to a massage. While this is definitely quite the leap for her all things considered, I gotta admire her courage to actually demand this kind of thing from you. Like with the Asuka and Yumi story, you begin it by holding her hands. Depending on where you touch, you may trigger one of five potential dreams or “arcs” such as the Senior Student, Explorer, Older Sister, Idol, Evil Boss, Nurse, and Magical Girl. While that might sound like a list of various fetishes some of you may have and a blatant excuse for fan-service, I actually found them to be a lot more heartwarming than lewd. Granted, some of them are played more for laughs than others, like the Evil Boss, but for the most part they highlight more layers of Murasaki’s personality that we have yet to see in the other games. We are shown that side of her that dreams and realizes her inner potential not just as a Shinobi but as a normal person; a dominant, caring, and outgoing one at that. What’s even better is that none of this felt out of character for her and only added more depth to her personality. Seeing her smile and have her eyes genuinely light up because of how much fun she is having spending time with you was a rare sign of optimism from her. And as someone who has been invested in her story thus far, I actually really enjoyed that aspect of the game.
But of course this isn’t just a visual novel, there is some gameplay with “touching” involved but it’s very brief, shallow and basic. When you enter the dream sequences you are given free reign to tap and poke around at your character to give them a “massage”. Where you massage them can trigger one of 5 colored responses which will lead you down a particular route towards one of the endings. Of course, Murasaki is going to react differently based on how and where you massage her so it’s important to read the situation and react appropriately for the route you want. While it’s true touching is a big part of the gameplay, it doesn’t necessarily boil down to grabbing their chests endlessly to see what happens, like many people I’ve seen review Reflexions seem to imply. Believe it or not, I actually played this very innocently because I wanted to see something with this game: Can this be played without being lewd? From what I understood, being a pervert can only really potentially unlock the “Blue” route but the thing is, I managed to unlock the blue route by not touching her chest but rather poking/tickling her sides. In fact I got the rest of the routes by touching her hand, poking her face, rubbing her arm and shoulder or patting her head. There are even ways to trigger the “Blue” ending without even touching the “Blue” areas at all. So what does that say? While the game won’t stop you from going full-on Katsuragi and playing with her chest, you’ll actually make more progress in this story by NOT doing that! I initially went into these segments expecting the worst, but I was instead met with a happy and playful Murasaki, the kind of person that she is trying so hard to become! It’s kind of ironic that a spinoff with an emphasis on touching in a series that has a reputation for being a “sexy” game filled with dirty jokes, actually encourages you to not stoop to that level.
I am overall pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the experience was but you should know that’s only because I happen to like Murasaki and want to continue seeing her overcome her inner issues which this campaign does address. Unfortunately, this is a very short experience and you’ll see most of what it has to offer in about 3-4 hours. Of course there are a few outfits you dress her in and a diarama mode for you to pose her and Asuka how you please, but otherwise that’s about it as far as content is concerned. This DLC is the kind of thing that will only really appeal to you if you really like Murasaki as the gameplay is kind of shallow and really only serves as a short diversion. The non-gameplay parts are definitely the stronger portions of the game as you watch Murasaki gradually open up to you and talk about her mental and physical issues along with her hopes and dreams in a way that felt very natural. Unfortunately you need to buy the base game with the Asuka story in order to play this, which makes it a very expensive purchase for what it is. I personally bought this just so I can play Murasaki’s DLC and I feel like they should have made each character’s campaign a standalone download with the ability to transfer data between them. So is it worth it? If you like Murasaki and her story, yes! If you’ve ever dreamed of going on an adventure to eat pizza with her, then you need this game in your life. Happy Valentine’s day everyone!
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