By David Fernandes / December 6th, 2013
At the end of missions, you are graded on your performance- A being the highest and D being the lowest- with normal experience gained from the highest combo made. Another neat thing about missions is the ability to go into Frantic Mode. Frantic Mode acts like a hard mode, your attack strength gets a huge boost, but your defense becomes pitiful, so much so that you are able to die within a couple of hits. It’s the only way to level up the Yin bar, but leveling up both Yin & Yang pays off, as when both are filled, you achieve Flash mode, which is a good balance between Yin & Yang, making almost all missions and bosses completely effortless.
When it comes to content, the game will certainly keep you busy. There over 100 missions for both sides, as well as unlocking titles, music, pictures, the plethora of costumes and accessories to use in the dressing room and two secret characters. What hampers all this is the combat itself. As with all beat ’em ups, Senran Kagura Burst has that inherent repetitious nature that becomes its biggest hurdle to overcome. Though, while monotonous at times, the combat can also be addictive. Trying to get the combo counter as high as you can go is pretty pleasing. But, even with a few good mechanics that give it some nuance in the sea of beat ’em up titles, it feels hollow. A blemish that shows this all too well is just one of the roots of the problem- the game is just too easy, even in Frantic Mode.
Stages are overly simplistic, and even leveling up feels a bit unnecessary. By doing so, for example, the Yin gauge powers your attacks tenfold, causing most levels to end in less than a minute. While there may be difficulty spikes as you progress through the game’s chapters, especially with the Hebijo route with bosses acting more like a war of attrition, even then, bosses can be juggled to death with very little effort. Another element that’s key to beat ’em ups (or action games in general) is some form of multiplayer. Now, I’m not saying that without it the game fails. But, if they had tried implementing some sort of wireless connectivity, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt if the level designs were more thought out to accompany some sort of two-player co-op mode.
Once in a while, you may get a different objective besides moving from point A to point B in the story or side missions, but they’re few and far between. This further encompasses the repetitive issue that drags the game down. So, while all characters have their share in the spotlight, when it comes down to it, they don’t play too differently from each other. Some are just faster, or somewhat stronger than others, and some specific characters having skills far outclassing the others. This is somewhat expected with beat ’em ups, and not largely an issue, though some may find this underwhelming, even with 12 playable characters.
In terms of graphics, the game looks dated, even when compared to other 3DS titles. As we know, the device can certainly do better than this when it comes to non-2D games. Character models, however, are expressive, nicely detailed and decently animated. The game utilizes the 3D function to *ahem* see more clearly how well-endowed the girls are in cutscenes or in the dressing room. Besides that, it’s merely a distraction, and doesn’t really add anything, unless you’re into that sort of thing. What surprised me most was how much emphasis was put into the voice acting. Everything from starting the game, accessing the main menu, loading or saving the game, to visiting the hub room when leaving or returning from a mission involves voice acting by the girls. They all sound distinct, and this adds some life to the game. While the game does have its serious moments, at the end of the day, it’s still a lighthearted action game, and this helps encapsulate that. The game only has Japanese voice acting, dub-only fans are out of luck, I’m afraid.
Speaking of sounds, what also needs to be pointed out is the music- it’s fantastic. From the descriptions for each track, you can see the various composers put a lot of thought and care when creating the overall soundtrack. Tracks specific to characters, their transformations or moments in the story, are helped immensely with the accompanying track that helps the scene play out, getting you emotionally invested. The game does suffer from slowdowns, especially in battles where many enemies are on-screen or when it gets quite hectic with the skill animation use. This even happens a bit in the hub room, which makes little sense to me, though it’s not as bad as the likes of Code of Princess. While the constant FPS drops can be somewhat annoying, it’s not so bad that it ruins the gameplay experience.
For $30, you get two games with a sizable amount of content. The game took me about 30 or more hours to beat the story and a good portion of the content, and I’m still not even close to finishing it all. So, while the gameplay may get incredibly repetitive, it can also be strangely addicting at the same time with its fast-paced action. The plot is a typical “good versus evil” or vice-versa, but the characters have a layer of depth you won’t find too often outside of RPGs, and the plot is at least interesting. As for the music, the voice acting and the character models, it has some good production values, albeit with low-end textures for the environments.
For the more conservative minds, it’s all about preferences. I certainly didn’t mind nor necessarily cared for the abundance of fan service the game provided, and instead I found it comical since it never took itself seriously. For some, it could be bothersome and could take away from getting anything out of the game. For me, however, I found it certainly worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of side scrolling beat ’em ups. Even if you saw the anime, it didn’t completely follow the game’s plot, so it’s still worth checking this out. I can say that I’m interested in what else the world of Senran Kagura has to offer, and I hope to see more of this series brought over or further expanded in the coming generation.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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