Title: Senran Kagura Burst
Genre: Beat ’em up
Publisher: XSeed Games (NA), Marvelous AQL (JP)
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: November 14, 2013 (NA), August 30, 2012 (JP)
Senran Kagura Burst is a beat ’em up with a great deal of focus on jiggle physics and clothing damage, as well as its all-female cast (well, okay, there’s a few supporting male characters). The kind of game that would certainly earn the ire of major reviewers but gain a small but dedicated following. Either way, enjoy the oppai.
Senran Kagura is a very standard beat ’em up with a focus on female shinobi-in-training who happen to possess large breasts. Ironically, the only one who is flat-chested happens to top the popularity polls every single time. There are plenty of clothing damage opportunities, panty shots, and of course, jiggle physics. Nobody is surprised, for the creator’s primary intention was to make some 3D boobs (and later on, made a Dynasty Warriors-style spinoff on the Vita because he wanted to make some 3D ass as well), and regularly tweets about sharing his love of breasts to the world. Anyone appalled at such a concept has probably gone far, far, away, a long time ago.
Despite the frequency of the fanservice, the game is rated T because said fanservice isn’t that extreme. The girls wear swimsuits under their outfits, and while talk about groping breasts come on quite often, those are restricted to text-only. The average ecchi-tolerating anime fan will probably have no trouble jumping into the game. In some ways, this is the exact opposite of Idea Factory’s Agarest War games, which like to use scantily-clad women and erotic-looking CGs to advertise, but end up offering tens of hours of grinding and gameplay so that anyone drawn in solely by the ecchi will never make it there.
Senran Kagura Burst is actually two games in one, telling two sides of the same story, and providing two sets of five playable characters (plus an unlockable) in total. It tells the story of the conflict between students training to become “good shinobi” who will work in national interest, and students from a hidden school training “evil shinobi.” While the story is rather by-the-book and likes to pull many cliched moments reminiscent of some battle shounen manga about justice and friendship, the characters get their own backstories, motivations, and conflicts that allow them to escape from the fate of being one-note characters. This is especially true for the “evil” side, who provide more interesting backstories and also a stronger variety in both character and playing style. It makes sense, as the story detailing the adventures of the girls on the “good” side was the original game, whereas Burst is a upgraded sequel that also contains the original game for simplicity’s sake.
The game might have bouncing breasts and a cast of likable stereotypes combined with comfy character interactions, but is it any good? Is the game enjoyable purely from a gameplay point of view? Yes, I would say. But would I have purchased it for $30 off of the Nintendo 3DS eShop if it didn’t have the attractive females and the promise of jiggle physics and clothing damage? Probably not. Of course, this is speaking from the point of view of someone who follows otaku-targeted video games but not the beat ’em up genre.
Senran Kagura Burst, when stripped of its decorative elements, is a straightforward beat ’em up game where the player melees her way through mobs of generic enemies (all human, in this game) while scrolling through levels of various environments in a sideways view. It isn’t a true side-scrolling game since the player is capable of moving in a 3D plane, but visually, it is close enough to fool anyone not playing. You get to jump, dash with a frame of invincibility, and the ability to use light and heavy attacks that chain into a combo and can launch the enemy into the air. You can then follow the launched-up enemy and mercilessly attack them mid-air. As you progress through the game, the stages get longer, enemies get more health, and long-ranged enemies will piss you off. While plowing through mobs is very fun and the game is rather forgiving to newcomers to the genre, it gets repetitive. The way the game is fed to the player in short stages that usually take less than 10 minutes makes it perfect for a handheld, though.
Plowing through generic masses is button-mashing fun, but the bosses feel severely lacking. Although they are established story characters with larger health bars and their own special attacks, the player deals with them the same way they deal with a member of the generic stage mobs. Every boss battle (save for a select few) plays out similarly, and end up rather one-sided in its favoring of the player. In most video games, bosses are the developer team’s opportunity to display creativity and variety in designing while adhering to an established gameplay system. That is not what happened here. The fun lies in mashing through mobs in this game.
Ultimately, the highlight of the game is on the characters plus their backstories and banters. While the game’s fanservice is in-your-face and reflect the creator’s intentions exactly, the setting and characters are decent enough to distinguish themselves from other games that try to sell using the same tactics, and the gameplay is enjoyable but not remarkable enough to grab my attention without the help of attractive girls. Graphics-wise, the backgrounds and gameplay sequences look pretty dull but the close-up models of the girls (used during story and clothing damage sequences) look much better than I expected from a 3DS game. I’d put Senran Kagura in the “stupid fun” category, as it was a shallow, but genuinely enjoyable experience.
Best girl? Ikaruga!