When you looked at the Nintendo 3ds did you think: "This could do with some Boobs!" No? Good.
That, however, didn’t stop one Japanese developer!
Yes, as some of you may have guessed, I’m talking about Senran Kagura (well it is, the title of the page). Senran Kagura was released in the UK in 2013 and um… had an interesting ad campaign that made me wonder why it even existed. Due to the curiosity I ended up pre-ordering it.
Now it’s certainly made as a game that appeals to the few rather than the many, after all who wants a box like that on their shelf? (I cunningly left it out of my collection)
It is set in a Japanese school that has a secret group of shinobi students who do things... I guess…? These lead to inevitably clichéd anime moments involving misunderstandings that have no effect on the story. The game plays out as a pseudo visual novel/ side scrolling beat em’ up and is actually quite fun.
The story is a pretty generic affair, it follows each of the girls through their shinobi life where they find new rivals and friends as well as face some rather generic lovey dovey plotlines which usually result in nothing. These scenes play out in the visual novel style I mentioned earlier you scroll through text as it’s read out by the relevant voice actor (these are acted quite well actually) but unfortunately they usually play out over a static background and when there are characters on screen it highlights the downfalls of their models.
The graphics are decent if a little chunky. The main characters are far too out of proportion to look appealing (like zero suit Samus who has become tremendously cringy). This isn’t helped by the animations that are stilted and awkward, these would have benefitted hugely from some motion capture to bring in some fluid movement.
Now, technically the game is sound, for the most part, although… it suffers from major slowdown right from the off. Literally, the first room you enter makes the game stutter only subtly but enough to notice. Now imagine a later level… screen full of enemies… *shudder*
However the combat is solid enough, if a little repetitive… The game isn’t terribly great at giving you feedback, it always feels like your achieving nothing everything is a little light handed rather than fast paced and hard hitting. There are two modes in which you can play a mission:
Yin style: In Yin mode (Frantic in the EU) your character forgoes their clothes in favour of a swimsuit, this gives you instant access to special moves but adds a huge disadvantage in terms of defence meaning you’ll die faster. Completing a stage in this difficulty gives you more points and EXP.
Yang style: This is normal mode. In this mode your character wears their basic uniform and can transform into their shinobi burst mode to use special attacks. These take time to charge up and last a limited amount of health (yes not timed but if you take too much damage you lose the upgrade).
The levels are split up via invisible walls, effectively ringing you in with the set waves of enemies, this can give you some sort of feeling of progression as the enemies get harder each area leading up to the boss.
The special moves suffer from repetition as well. Once you’ve seen an animation once you’d rather not see it over and over in short intervals, gladly the game lets you skip them after the initial one.
The game’s damage system is presented in two ways, if you’ve heard of the game you will most likely know where this is going.
Number 1 is a standard health meter. This acts as you’d expect. However…
Number 2: Okay here goes! When your health reaches certain levels your characters clothing goes through a set stage of destruction. Yes, their clothes break ala Soul Calibur but with more… bounce?. This makes the game nigh impossible to play on a train. It also adds a tiny little bit of depth as, if you can destroy a characters special mode costume they are removed from special mode and left in their swimming attire (I don’t know either so don’t ask) which drastically lowers their defence and can lead to a quick victory against bosses.
The soundtrack for the game is surprisingly varied and for the most part fairly enjoyable. Each character has two tunes. While they are in normal mode they have much slower more classically themed tunes and when you activate, overdrive mode you get a much heavier rock tune to help motivate you as you smash the heck out of your enemies.
However the sound design is a little less fantastic when we look at the sound effects… for some reason the sound effects are extremely repetitive and the vocals are just a little too fuzzy even for a 3ds game.
The game has copious amounts of content, Senran Kagura Burst for the 3ds has its story told from both sides (good and bad) which makes for a long and fairly interesting interwoven campaign mode. Each level is also scored and, after an initial play through, available to complete with every character. Each character can also be levelled up, which constitutes the game’s RPG element, the only problem with this system is sometimes it’s necessary to grind a characters level in order to progress the story.
Having played the game almost to completion I have to say there is plenty there for people who are curious enough to take the plunge and buy a copy. So while I couldn’t recommend it I certainly won’t give people a funny look for owning it.