You know there are times when a review code from a PR company or distributor just won’t do. You HAVE to have a physical copy of the game for your own. This is one of those times…. Having been exposed to the Senran Kagura franchise via the two Nintendo 3DS games, I was eagerly awaiting the Playstation 4 iteration of the series – entitled Senran Kagura Estival Versus (and yes that does seem like a lost in translation spelling mistake) – if only to see the “jiggly-boob” physics is glorious high definition! I joke of course, whilst the Senran Kagura games to feature their fair share of sexploitation and general sleaze, what makes them great – for me at least – is the combat.
But first lets get the (flimsy) plot out of the way: Senran Kagura Estival Versus takes our heroines to an idyllic island where a special event, the Kagura Millennium Festival, is taking place. The stakes are high – after 8 days of elite ninja action, only one Shinobi will attain the coveted rank of Kagura, the highest honour a Shinobi could aspire to. Which – to be fair – is just an excuse for players to beat the living crap out of wave after wave of opponents, mastering the usual Senran Kagura super-moves to unleash some crazy, and scantily-clad, fighting action.
Much like Deep Crimson built on the first 3DS iteration of Senran Kagura, Senran Kagura Estival Versus further builds on what has come before: only this time in high definition! The full 3D environments are back, with [obviously] improved animations; and the original Japanese voice-overs are present here too – which is one thing I have to say I really love about this current generation of consoles. Games are being released across multiple territories BUT they’re keeping the quirkiness, be it original language, bizarre characers or odd visuals; that makes the games so distinctive and so original. Essentially, the reasons why – back in the 16-bit era – people imported games from the Far East, are now being embraced by distributors like Marvelous! et al. and more importantly, more gamers.
One of the big(ger) changes in Deep Crimson was the addition of the crazy aerial combos and Estival Versus takes these one step further with the Aerial Rave – which sees you send your enemies flying, following them into the air to perform further combos and damage while in the air for huge bonuses and max damage. Plus, if your mission includes an AI-conrolled partner, you can pair up with with a Fusion Aerial Rave, which takes the combos (and points score) to insane levels! Frantic mode appears here too, allowing you (should you wish) to strip your character down to their underwear, which – surprisingly – doesn’t reduce your ability to take damage, rather it allows your to dole out more damage to the waves of AI opponents. New to this game however (at least in comparison to the 3DS versions – I haven’t played the PS Vita iterations of the Senran Kagura games) is the Ninja Art gauge which, when filled, allows you character to perform a “Shinobi Transformation”, unlocking your characters shinobi form as well as special attacks which deal uber-massive damage.
Senran Kagura Estival Versus also sees all previous franchise characters return, with new moves and upgraded skills along with a host of new characters further expanding the roster. The game also features online multiplayer matches, allowing up to 10 players to battle it out at once on the PS4.
Of course the Senran Kagura games have never JUST been about the fighting game element (though that’s the part I focus on, I couldn’t care less about the fanservice element to be honest) Senran Kagura Estival Versus is packed with extra features: from the Dressing Room, where you can let your creativity run wild and compose pretty much any scene you can imagine, to the unique multiplayer modes, like ‘Capture the Bra’ or ‘Queen of the Hills’, as well as the Library, where you will be able to enjoy all the media you have unlocked, there’s enough content here to keep you busy for a really long time. I say bring on the next installment of this fan-service franchise!
Senran Kagura Estival Versus is out now on the Playstation 4 and PS Vita, courtesy of Marvelous Europe.