Senran Kagura Burst Review

By Shawn Collier on December 8, 2013

It's taken quite a while for Senran Kagura Burst to see a western release, with many wondering if it would struggle due to the bulk of its content focussing around the lives of well-endowed teenage girls. There is also a common theme relating to the quality of these titles, as there is too much focus in the wrong areas, but you might be surprised to find that there's still a half-decent beat "˜em up hidden underneath all of the awkward perviness.

The western release contains both the original title and the sequel that came out in Japan, which featured enhanced graphics and tweaks to the gameplay. It has a campaign that split in two, with each campaign centring on a different academy. The Hanzo National Academy campaign features girls training to be "good" shinobi, while the second half based around the Hebijo Academy where girls are being trained to be "evil" shinobi. Both campaigns intersect with each other, which gives players a look into what happened from the other side's viewpoint during various scenes in the game. Also, once players get further into the game it's apparent that their backstories are much more detailed than meets the eye, instead of being two-dimensional caricatures.

Like most games in this genre, Senran Kagura has your chosen girl facing off against identical-looking enemies. The story-critical missions usually require use of a specific character, but once the player completes the level it opens up for all of the characters to play through. Unlike older games in the genre, Senran Kagura plays to more of an aerial than a ground game in terms of its mechanics.

The idea is to deal enough ground attacks to knock an opponent off the ground, which lets the player initiate an attack called an aerial rave. If you get the timing correct, this will then launch them into the air. The combo element comes into play as if you score a long enough combo, these can be chained together, allowing for near-endless juggling as enemies don't technically die until they hit the floor. Most of the time blind button-mashing works, although for larger enemies you usually need to perform a strong attack to be able to rave them. During boss battles, however, you'll be paid back in spades for doing it, which is where careful and planned-out strategy is key in completing the levels.

Where the sexual content comes in is in the clothing damage system. As the player takes damage the character's clothing will start to tear away until she's left in her underwear, which causes her to take much more damage. The idea is to launch enough attacks on the enemy to build up your transformation gauge which lets the player perform a Shinobi Transformation, which recovers your clothing with a new outfit, greater speed and strength and the ability to use special moves which hit multiple enemies at once.

To make it a bit more risqué, there's also something called Frantic Mode, which allows you to start the battle in the most-bare form, but with the option of better transformation bonuses. The game records your stats in both modes, so for completionists you'll have a lot of work cut out for you.

Speaking of those special moves, there's quite a bit of amusing variety included in these. Probably one of the favorites is when Mirai pulled a stationary machine gun from under her dress and proceeded to rain fire on all of the opponents on the screen

This game was somewhat of a budget-funded title in Japan due to being released at the start of the system's lifespan, and it shows to some degree. After the first few times of launching 500+ hit combos, things start to become routine as the game doesn't really change things up outside of including cheap tricks to artificially boost the difficulty. The ranking system, which is required to unlock some bonuses, means that since there's five playable characters (along with a hidden unlockable one) and each one requires beating the level in both normal and frantic modes, there will be quite a bit of grinding. At times it feels like padding more than gameplay --- especially if one is a completionist.

Graphically, the game is a mix. The main character models are quite well-done, as should be expected considering the attention to detail on their "assets", but the cannon fodder enemies are under detailed and a few of the stages have a blurriness to them. Also, outside of battles the framerate has noticeably severe drops, but oddly enough the battles themselves aren't affected by this outside of combos where it slows down on purpose for style purposes.

And as far as the music goes, it's not award-winning quality, but it does the trick when being played in the game.

Final Thoughts

Senran Kagura was an earlier release for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan, and it's now starting to feel its age. There's a good combat system baked into the title and an actual story, but the generic cannon fodder enemies and artificial difficulty boosts feel like the developers didn't have the budget to go all-in.

Nice risk/reward for advanced players with the frantic system.
Character's backstories aren't as two-dimensional as their character models appear.
FPS in battles is relatively stable.
FPS outside of battles chugs quite a bit
Gameplay becomes rote after a while, especially for completionists.
Some might be turned off by the sexyness factory in play with the character's assets.
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