When I decided to review Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, I thought I was going to play a fun action title featuring female shinobi trying to save the world or freeing a country from a tyrannical rule. Oh boy, was I wrong on so many levels.
Don’t get me wrong, I did get to play as female shinobi in a fun action game, what I was wrong about was pretty much everything else. Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is one of those titles that players will look at and shake their heads saying, "Only in Japan." But gamers shouldn’t be discouraged by what they see. Sure, the female shinobi are overly sexualized with their large breast sizes and skimpy outfits, and even the game’s dialogue is borderline erotic at times, but those who can look past these issues will find a surprisingly fun action game with some humorous dialogue and interesting multiplayer.
The game tells the story of three shinobi schools who become entangled in an old battle ritual called the "Shinobi Battle Royal." The school’s students that lose in this battle will never be allowed to practice the art of the ninja and will bring shame to their families. Players pick from three different schools and control up to five distinct characters with their own skills and abilities from that one specific school. This allowed me to experience the story from the perspective of my rivals and their schools. Although the game offers the perspective of each school, the overall story isn’t anything special.
The longer I played the less it seemed to be about the battle royal itself and more about friendship and being kind to the people around you. Even the twist towards the end of the story didn’t add much as it just randomly pops up without any sort of indication; it’s as if the writers just threw it in to add some flair. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the story is presented with text across a static background, with the worst part being that it’s hard to figure out who is talking in these conversations.
Although the overall story isn’t that good, players can participate in each character’s personal stories. Not only were these stories humorous to read, they showcased each character’s personalities perfectly. My favorite was "Katsuragi," who sets out on a quest to find and squeeze the perfect breasts as she’s gotten bored with squeezing her own teammates’ breasts. It’s absolutely bonkers, but very entertaining to read.
Gameplay, on the other hand, doesn’t disappoint. The combat’s fast and furious with plenty of challenge and a lot of disrobement–a LOT of disrobement. The game acts as more of an arena battle; players are either thrown into a battle with another student in the spirit of the Naruto Shippuden games or they’ve got to fight through waves of enemies to reach the boss fight.
As a third-person action game, players are able to string combos together, launch their enemies into the air, and pull off special attacks. Players will be able to use three different fighting styles as they play: Flash, Yang, and Yin. Each battle starts with Flash, and at any time with a tap of the L button, players can activate their Yang mode which is followed by a Sailor Moon-like transformation. Yang instantly restores a player’s health, increases their attack damage and defense, and allows you to use that character’s secret ninja arts. These moves come with a nifty animation, and some are just completely insane; at one point, I was scratching my head, thinking, "Did that girl just pull a massive cannon out of her lady parts?”
The third style, as mentioned above, is Yin. Yin has the character explode in a rage, which sees them stripped to their underwear and sent into a frenzy, drastically increasing their attack power at the sacrifice of defense. Despite the objectification, combat boasts depth and great animation. As characters complete missions, they level up, unlocking more combo moves and increasing their stats. The three styles also increase in level and feature their own combo maneuvers.
The game also features body damage, or as I like to call it, "stripping." As players take damage, the character’s clothing will get torn off; when a player gets into the red danger zone of their health they may even be stripped completely naked (and censored). As frantic as the combat is, I used this body damage as a good indicator of just how low my health was getting, but others may take it as unnecessary eye candy.
Indeed, with so much happening on the screen during combat, it became hard to follow who was hitting whom and where my character was ending up. This became a real problem when placed against walls where the camera just couldn’t adjust and was so closely zoomed in to my character that all I could see were the effects of attacks. Additionally, a lot of battles are quite difficult, with some of the characters using downright cheap spamming moves that are completely unblockable. These attacks also add stun effects on your character, so trying to evade the attacks will only leave you exposed to another variation of move. Players can block and parry attacks with a perfectly timed press of the block button, but this become almost impossible to do as you can’t block while airborne and most of the attacks used by your foes break guard.
When choosing a school, players are put into that school’s dojo; this dojo acts as the hub of the game. Players can go practice their skills, go to the dressing room to change their clothing, and select missions. I will admit, I spent quite a bit of time accessorizing my characters with the plethora of options available. Players are able to buy new outfits, lingerie, and accessories such as bunny ears and doggy tales. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can select from school outfits, pajamas, or even more exotic costumes. Like a lot of RPGs, prospective players can also purchase the music heard throughout the game and character voice packs. There’s another addition to the shop in the form of the ‘’Lingerie Lotto." By spending their hard-earned cash, players can enter a lottery of sorts to randomly acquire special lingerie. I don’t know how many different types there are to unlock, but it’s safe to say it may be over one hundred (though that includes color variations).
Shinovi Versus also boasts a robust multiplayer. Outside of the slandered Death and Team Deathmatch, players can partake in "Strip Battle," which sees who can earn the most points by destroying the other players’ clothing, and "Understorm," where players run around collecting underwear that falls from the sky. Underwear can also be taken from other players by beating on them. These modes can be played with up to three others, yielding fun and entertaining battles.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is one of those games you just wouldn’t expect to release outside of Japan. If you can look past the overly sexualized characters, players will find an entertaining action game with some humorous dialogue, fast and furious action, a plethora of customization options, and some fun and unique multiplayer action.