By Josh Speer / July 9th, 2019
|Title||SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball|
|Developer||MARVELOUS!, Honey ∞ Parade Games|
|Release Date||July 9th, 2019|
|Genre||Board Game, Pinball, Party Game|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch|
|Age Rating||Mature 17+ – Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes|
In a way, I’m really happy I’m the one that got to review SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball. I’ve been a fan of the series from the beginning, and it’s been nice to watch it grow over the years. On the other hand, I kind of feel like a displaced time traveler, since I played the first couple of games, took a long break, played Bon Appétit! and that’s it. In other words, while I am familiar with the series, there’s a lot I’ve missed out on for various reasons, mostly my ridiculous backlog of games. But that didn’t stop me from deciding I would review Peach Ball. The question then, was this a great SENRAN KAGURA side story? Or should I have stayed put in my time machine?
Much like Bon Appétit! before it, Peach Ball is not a game that’s supposed to be taken as seriously as the main franchise. Which is saying something. So if you come here expecting a deep plot and agency for the various characters, you’ll be disappointed. While I kind of expected that, I still was hoping for just a bit more story here. Part of the fun of SENRAN KAGURA isn’t just the action and fanservice, but rooting for the girls as they overcome their fears and pursue their ideals to become stronger human beings. For better or worse, that’s not the theme of Peach Ball.
Peach Ball starts at Haruka’s new side job, working at an arcade. Several of her shinobi sisters are there to watch Yomi and Murasaki compete for the grand prize in a fighting game, when Ryōna sets chaos in motion. She’s just washing her hands in the bathroom and she finds a bottle hidden away that she thinks is soap. Instead it’s a dangerous chemical concoction, called Beastall, that Haruka made in her spare time (idle hands and all that), and it quickly goes into hilarious effect. Ryōna suddenly transforms into a dog version of herself, and runs about licking everyone in sight. Thus the contamination spreads to everybody she touches, and suddenly you have 5 rampaging ninja girls who think they’re animals on the loose. Now it’s up to Haruka and a random bystander from the arcade (played by you) to set things right.
Story mode is split into 5 separate, though largely similar, campaigns. In each, after you pick the shinobi whose campaign you want to try, they are quickly returned to sanity and work with you and Haruka to bring the other girls back to their senses. The one nice thing in this mode is there’s pretty solid writing for each campaign, and there’s some gut busting humor here if you don’t mind things getting a bit raunchy. Each campaign, except one, also culminates in a confrontation against the girl you start out with, as they are inexplicably reinfected by Haruka’s Beastall concoction. You’re probably wondering how you can cure your friends, and the answer is pinball.
Yes, I was confused too. Haruka gives some explanation about needing to use the titular Peach Balls to cure your friends. By accumulating enough vibrational energy, it will release a cleansing mist that returns the girl to her senses. It all is pretty much an excuse to get crazed shinobi girls to sit and jiggle atop pinball machines and bop them with balls until they are fixed. And because it’s a SENRAN KAGURA game, there’s plenty of fanservice. I wasn’t bothered by it, but it can get pretty risque, especially when you start participating in the various mini games required to save the girls. It’s definitely not the sort of game to play on a crowded bus or in polite company, since the moans and various sound effects can be very distracting. There’s also definite suggested elements of BDSM here. But rather than harp on all that, let’s move onto the meat of the game – the pinball itself.
I should note that the last time I played an actual pinball machine was probably a good decade ago. Having said that, the pinball mechanics in SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball are pretty entertaining. You control the flippers with either of the shoulder buttons, and can shake the machine with the joysticks. Like any pinball game, your goal is to keep the ball in play as long as possible and bop things to get points. But because this is SENRAN KAGURA, there are some weird little twists. Your goal is to accumulate enough Peach Points, but you don’t just do it once. In story mode you need to fill up the meter 3 times to win, and you have a limited amount of Peach Balls. Each time you get enough energy, you can bop the girls to initiate a Sexy Challenge, where you play a mini game to increase your rank and it ends with something ridiculous happening to the girl. Examples are an ice cream truck spilling onto their cleavage or an explosive blowing up part of their already flimsy clothing.
None of the mini games are that challenging, but they throw some curveballs at you. One are when Faeries appear on the field of play. You get points for wiping them out before they disappear, but they are also really good at deflecting your pinball in awkward directions. This brings us to the Peach Missions. Basically, each machine has small goals you can accomplish for more points, such as bopping the girl a set amount of times or hitting the bumpers frequently. There’s a lot of variety, and that’s great, though it can be hard to keep them in mind as you’re frantically trying to keep the ball in play. Frankly, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the different things you have to keep track of while playing. Thankfully, I found that by just doing your best to keep the ball from falling off screen, you’ll usually be able to win. You might get less points overall, but that’s hardly game breaking.
There’s a lot to enjoy in these mechanics. I loved hitting the Luka Hole, where a demented dolphin would reward me with a random usable item, or bouncing the ball off spinning teacups, or even hitting a heart to temporarily put the girl in a state of ecstasy. However, as much as I enjoyed the amount of things to do, I do strongly wish there were more pinball machines. I only encountered 2 different ones in my entire story mode playtime. I was really hoping each girl would have her own machine with unique gimmicks but that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of wanting more content translated to several other aspects of the game. Much as I enjoyed all the girls in Peach Ball, there were so many more that could have been here. There’s only 2 Hebijo girls, 1 Hanzo, 1 Gessen and 1 Crimson Squad. My personal favorites Hibari and Hikage don’t show up at all. If you love characters like Mirai, you’re also gonna be disappointed, since there are no flat shinobi in the game. And while Haruka is front and center the entire time, you never get to cure her of Beastall infection. Though to be fair, you can pester her in the credits.
It wouldn’t be a SENRAN KAGURA game without tons of extras you can purchase, and that’s the case here. There’s tons of accessories you can buy to dress up the girls, as well as entirely new outfits. You’ll want to buy everything, including the music and story art. You can even buy different types of Peach Balls, though I’m still not really clear on the differences between the Yin and Yang balls, and whether it really matters strategically. My only complaint regarding all these extras are that altogether they cost a ton of money, and even after beating every story campaign, I’m nowhere near flush enough to buy them all. On the other hand, that does give me proper incentive to play the free play mode a lot more to get enough cash.
Visually, Peach Ball is a great game and it looks fantastic on Nintendo Switch. It’s very colorful and the designs for all the girls’ animal forms is distinct and attractive. The many cutscenes further add to the fabric of this humorous adventure, as well as reminding me why I love this series. The banter is especially hilarious, and Ryōna quickly cemented herself as my favorite girl in the game. Her lewd nature and twisted sense of pleasure made her by far one of the funniest shinobi in the entire story mode, with some amazing one liners. Musically, the game is okay, but the voice acting more than makes up for it. Each actor does a wonderful job of presenting a distinct personality, and none sounds identical to any other. The sound effects do their job, though you might want to turn down the volume when the shinobi start getting loud.
Overall, I did rather enjoy SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball, though I feel it will mostly appeal to longtime fans of the series. It’s fun and colorful with good replay value, but it also feels very repetitive and lacking in terms of content. I saw there’s a tab in the game shop for DLC, which makes me hopeful they will add additional character packs later on. But I still can’t help but feeling they should have loaded the base game with more content from the get go. Cause while I do feel you get your money’s worth for $39.99, I also feel there could be much more variety here. That said, I easily got some 10 hours playing through campaign, and it will take many, many more hours to unlock everything. If you’re a fan of SENRAN KAGURA, you’ll find a lot to love here. If not, you might want to wait for the next main game in the series.
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
fanserviceHoney Parade GamesMarvelousoprainfallPCPeach BallpinballSenran KaguraSwitchXSEED Games