When the first Senran Kagura game was released in the west on the Nintendo 3DS, many never thought they'd see that day come as the series itself is known for its buxom female characters and dialogue that at times treads on the lewd side of the scale. Both the original Nintendo 3DS game and the Dynasty Warriors-inspired Shinovi Versus for the PlayStation Vita managed to tread the line between fleshing out the female characters (no pun intended) while still appealing to the lewd factor that was the central reason for the series' creator creating the game in the first place.
So when XSEED Games announced they would be localizing Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit!, a cooking rhythm game spin-off, people naturally wondered how this different take on the series would turn out. And while it treads much more on the lewd side of the scale, there's still enough here for fans of the series to enjoy.
The basis for the story in Bon Appétit! is the news of a cooking competition in which the winner gets a scroll which can grant them a single wish. As expected, word of this quickly spreads among the female ninjas and it becomes a free-for-all between them to each win the competition. Of course,, this entire competition is a front for an old man who wants to see the buxom ninjas move about in tight-fitting aprons --- it wouldn't be a Senran Kagura game without something to turn up the lewdness factor.
Like the original game and Shinovi Versus, Bon Appétit! features a story mode in which you play as one of the female ninjas. These story sequences use the visual novel-style narrative found in the previous games to explain why each of them is trying to acquire the scroll for themselves. If you've played either of the previous games you might be expecting a mix of normal dialogue with some double entendre mixed in, but in Bon AppÃ©tit! the latter is peppered in so heavily to the point where it's cringe-worthy in a good way. If nothing else it's impressive how XSEED Games was able to keep the exceptionally racy dialogue from not getting stale but at the same time turning things up to eleven in terms of how many ways they can make a sexual joke.
Of course, though, this isn't just a visual novel game and that's where the rhythm sequences come into play. After selecting your character you partake in a one-on-one battle with another fellow ninja in a cooking contest. The catch for the player is that instead of using the Vita's controls to actually cook the dish you cook it via button presses timed with the music.
On the bottom of the screen you'll see two bars, which have buttons that correspond to the Vita's face buttons flowing from the right to the left. The goal is to time your button presses so they fall in line with the music. The game shakes things up as the song progresses, as you'll also have to contend with notes which need the button to be held, notes which require a series of button presses and directional buttons which use the Vita's directional pad on the other side of the handheld.
Each of the songs is broken up into three phases where the "judge" (being the deviant old man mentioned earlier) samples the dishes from both sides and makes his decision, which is based off the meter at the top of the screen during each phase. The goal is to get your meter further filled out than your opponent's, as the loser during each phase as part of their clothing stripped off until they essentially have nothing left to wear with the typical anime-inspired naughty bit cover-ups that veterans of the previous games will already know of.
Things get even worse for the ninja who loses the battle as they're subjected to a rather humiliating pose in which they're essentially made into the full-course "meal" with chocolate and other dessert toppings sprinkled about on them. Basically imagine the stereotypical "sushi on a naked woman" image and you'll have a pretty good idea of what happens here.
The issue with the story mode overall is that unless you're a big fan of each of the characters it becomes a real drag due to the way things are unlocked and the variety of the song choices. None of the songs, which range from holiday-inspired tracks to instrumental themes, were particularly memorable even if they did work well when used during the matches. The series itself isn't really known for its music outside of few tracks, so Bon Appétit! tends to stretch things a bit too thin in that regard. Considering the source material, it's surprising more cute/pop-ish tracks weren't utilized here.
Unlike Burst or Shinovi Versus which had enough extras to bring in players who weren't totally into the titillation factor, Bon Appétit! in both its dialogue and gameplay caters almost exclusively to the latter crowd and the hardcore fans of the series. If you can't get enough of the series, there's more than enough here unlockable in terms of the girls and different clothing options and attachments you can dress them up in. For everyone else, Bon Appétit! is a tad undercooked.
|While standard for the genre, the rhythm mechanics work well.|
|No noticeable input lag.|
|The sheer amount of sexualized puns present is certainly an accomplishment.|
|Song choice is a bit lacking.|
|If you disliked the lewdness in the previous games, this one turns things up to eleven.|
|Not much for those who aren't a fan of rhythm and Senran Kagura.|