Like so many Japanese ports coming to the PlayStation Vita these days, Senran Kagura is only going to appeal to a very narrow audience. Luckily, the first sentence of the game’s description serves as a great litmus test to determine whether or not you fall into that audience or not. Ready? Here goes: “The buxom shinovi of the Senran Kagura universe return in a 3D brawler that’s as over-the-top with its fighting mechanics as it is with its gratuitous depictions of female ninja in various forms of undress, indicating dame through clothing destruction.
If that description has you rolling your eyes and preparing to write a strongly-worded message board post, then nothing that the game accomplishes is going to convince you otherwise. If, on the other hand, your gaming library includes both Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball and Dynasty Warriors, then you might find yourself smack in the center of the title’s target demographic. Be very happy someone has made this game for you.
"If, on the other hand, your gaming library includes both Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball and Dynasty Warriors, then you might find yourself smack in the center of the title’s target demographic."
The game’s story follows one of three ninja houses in modern-day Japan, with chapters divided among one of several busty brawlers, each one packing their own unique fighting styles and weapons. And while it’s impossible to ignore the massive chests and exposed lingerie present on all the characters’ models, it is also easy to admire the some of their more imaginative takes on the lethal art of the Shinovi. Yagyu, for instance, is an eye-patched warrior who wields an umbrella, and whose Special Ninja art involves summoning a giant squid and spinning its tentacles to wreak havoc on surrounding foes. Another ninja from a rival house, Minori, fights by throwing candy at her foes from a bucket and is capable of dropping a pancake the size of a Studebaker on her opponents. Yes, the game’s playable characters are little more superficial fantasy objects, but at least they are original superficial fantasy objects.
"It’s like Super Ghouls ‘n’ Goblins starring the supporting cast of Leisure Suit Larry."
Combat plays out in a similar manner to the Dynasty and Samurai Warrior series. Hordes of opponents line up to be juggled in complex combos, the on-screen counter frequently clicking into the hundreds. The game derives a lot of mileage out of its two attack buttons. Timing your combos and mastering how long to charge your attacks differs greatly between characters, and players are sure to find at least one that matches their personal preference. Lengthy combos can be extended with air dashes that follow your sky-flung foes above the fray, and once you activate your first ninja scroll, you are granted the use of your Special Ninja arts and a new range of moves. As promised, as your character (or the chosen mission’s boss) take damage, you begin to shed clothes—often leaving your avatar on the screen with nothing more than her underwear and some low-gravity jiggle physics to defend herself.
"French maid outfits, leather collars, pacifiers, and even animal tails are all available, if that’s your kind of thing."
It’s like Super Ghouls ‘n’ Goblins starring the supporting cast of Leisure Suit Larry. In between missions, you can mingle with the other shinovi, watch the ludicrous story play out via Japanese-voiced visual novel sequences, or purchase items to customize your chosen character. The alternate outfits, as one might expect, leave little to the imagination (the naughtiest bits do remain censored throughout), and the available accessories to choose from leave nearly no fetish unturned. French maid outfits, leather collars, pacifiers, and even animal tails are all available, if that’s your kind of thing.
The phrase “if that’s your kind of thing” hangs over the entire experience like an asterisk. No matter how much you might enjoy the frantic and often stunning combat or enjoy the greater challenge that some of the higher difficulties settings provide, if you are not prepared to spend a few hours ogling at barely-clothed young women, then Senran Kagura is an utter slog. Nevertheless, the gameplay here is sound. Hate it for the way it depicts women, or for the negative stereotype it perpetuates about male gamers. But don’t hate it because it isn’t any fun. That is just not the case.
Review by: Nick Walge | Reviewed on: Playstation Vita