Senran Kagura Estival Versus (PC) Review

By Shawn Collier on May 21, 2017

Last year, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus was released on the PS4 and Vita in North America and Europe. When we reviewed that version, we mentioned that it expanded slightly on the foundation created with Shinovi Versus, but was still very similar to that game in many ways. A year later, PC owners now get a chance to play this game. How does it fare a year later?

The game is essentially a sequel to Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus. It takes place not long after the events following that title, where the girls from each of the four shinobi schools are brought to a tropical island and forced to participate in the Kagura Millennium Festival. Besides being a convenient way to bring all of the girls together to fight one another, the festival allows the dead to return to the land of the living. So they’re essentially faced with the choice of staying on the island with those who they miss, or returning to the real world to continue on with their training.

While this plotline generally is the central point of the game, the fan service aspects the series is known for narrative-wise, specifically in the “Versus” line of titles, is still present in Estival Versus as one would expect. There’s quite a number of gags, comedy, over-the-top lewd humor and commentary, although I found it to be done in as tasteful as a manner as one could expect considering what the series is known for. It’s still something you probably wouldn’t want to have younger kids around for, but mature adults will find humor in the jokes if you fit the game’s target market.

The one thing that should be mentioned though, is that in a similar sense to Shinovi Versus, the game somewhat basically expects you to know who each of the characters are and their motives, especially the ones introduced in that title.

The combat is pretty similar to what was present in Shinovi Versus and Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson. Attacks are centered around a two-button setup that allows for experimenting with various combos along with dashing and parrying if you get into the more advanced mechanics. And of course, the infamous “transformation” sequences, otherwise known as the method in which the well-endowed shinobi strip down to change into either their shinobi outfits or down to their undergarments in exchange for enhanced power and speed but with lowered defense.

The partner pair-up mechanic found in both of those games also returns in matches where you’re paired up with a partner character, which allows you to pull off some unique co-op attacks including some cool flashy aerial rave-style attacks. Although the AI, like it was in Versus, still leaves a bit to be desired, as you’ll often need to hand-hold them on higher difficulties.

The one mechanic that I have a feeling players, newcomers especially, will have an issue with initially is the breakaway mechanic. The idea is that you press down on the controller’s directional pad to push back surrounding enemies in exchange for some of your remaining health. But the catch is that the rival shinobi have access to said ability also (thankfully the weak filler enemies don’t, though).

So let’s say you get in a good combo against the opponent --- you’ll most likely get your combo broken. You can break back at them again, but that means you lose more of your health. So you’re forced to utilize the game’s parry system properly to succeed, which some players might have trouble with initially. I don’t have an issue with the mechanic at a basic level, but it feels like the enemy AI uses this at-will instead of sparingly like how you’re forced to due to the health drop incursion.

However, even with these issues, the sheer amount of character differences in the roster makes experimenting and learning the game's mechanics rewarding enough for those who stick with it. Similar to Deep Crimson, some of the characters in this entry got slightly reworked to make them more approachable to play as. And the newcomers have some unique weapon styles, such as Renka’s use of taiko drumsticks. Of course, like the other games you’ll almost assuredly get a C or D rating your first time through a mission or when using a new character, but as you progress and your character levels up you’ll rise through the ratings and start getting better.

And, of course, the dressing room mode present in the previous games returns in this entry as well, with more costumes unlocked as you progress through the game and complete various missions.

Since this is a PC port, you have keyboard controls available. But honestly I’d still recommend using a controller for this game if at all possible, as it’s not well-suited for keyboard controls. It just feels much less precise than controller-based inputs, and makes things such as camera movement and other control aspects more difficult.

Final Thoughts

Overall, if you’ve played the PS4 version there isn’t anything here that warrants a return trip. You might get some mileage out of it if you’ve only played the Vita version, as you get high-resolution graphics, but game-wise it’s exactly the same. Of course, if you’re PC-only this is a worthwhile pickup if you’re a fan of the series and enjoyed Shinovi Versus and want more of the same.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus (PC) was reviewed using a Steam code provided by Xseed Games. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
The solid gameplay mechanics from Shinovi Versus are back in play here again.
Feels on par with the PS4 version, if not somewhat better.
Keyboard controls aren't very optimal, controller is still the preferred way to play the game.
If you've played the PS4 game, there isn't anything new to speak of in this port that'll entice you to double-dip.
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