Sunday, July 20, 2014

Game Review: Senran Kagura Burst

Action/Beat-em-Up; 3DS eShop; Marvelous/Tamsoft; 2013
Sorry Sorry Sorry! I'm sorry that I had nothing last week, I was busy with classes, work, and last week was Kent Cornucopia Days, which is an event that happens every summer where venders, both big and small, set up booths in downtown Kent where you can buy a lot of things, and there is a parade that my martial arts school participates every year. The parade was fun, except for the fact that a kid was copping an attitude with me for the entire parade. As far the the swag is concern I got a few things, a new pair of sunglasses, a new backpack to replace my old falling apart one, and a really cool holographic poster that shifts between three different pictures of cute fantasy girls holding dragons as you look at it from different angles. Anyway, as I said, I'm sorry that I failed to post a new review last week, but I'm back now so what do we have this week. *LOOKS ABOVE* Oh son of a-

I swear, I'm playing this game for the gameplay!
Shinobi, masters of stealth, espionage, and assassination. Ever since the Meiji Restoration and the westernization of Japan, people have long thought that these Ninjas cease to exist. But they still exist, it's just now their clients have changed from feudal warlords to corporations that do not shy away from getting others to do their dirty work. To combat the rise in Shinobi activity, the Japanese government institutionalized their own Shinobi program. To teach and train "Good" Shinobi, who work for the state, to fight the illegal activities of the "Evil" Shinobi, who take contracts from anyone who is willing to pay. Thus the girls of the Hanzo academy, Asuka, Ikaruga, Katsuragi, Yagyu, and Hibari, study to become Good Shinobi, while the girls of the hidden Hebijo academy, Homura, Yomi, Hikage, Mirai, and Haruka, follow the only path available to them as Evil Shinobi. But are the differences between Good and Evil as black and white as they appear? As these girls fight, their preconceptions (and clothes) are stripped away, revealing the all too gray truth.

The story is.... well... hard for me to quantify. For the most part it is just as flimsy as the game's excuse for a lack of clothing, but it is really hard for me to say that it is bad. The game does bring up a lot of heavy concepts, like the fact that these girls are expected to kill and die for their cause, but the overall optimistic tone makes such topics feel hollow as you know that they will never have to actually face such a scenario, the plot just will never allow it, making the whole concept a none issue. And while the core themes of the nature of "Good and Evil" and how "Friendship will always prevail" are well explored territory and that Senran Kagura really does nothing to expand on it, it still has a degree of charm that is hard to over look. I guess, in the end of the day, the story is amazingly shallow, with only the illusion of depth, but then again it's kind of hard to except more from this game and what story there is, isn't necessarily bad. I guess all I can say is that if you like it, okay, if you don't, okay. I'm more or less right smack dab in the middle ground in this regard.

Not shown is the 10-Plus other enemies waiting for a pounding.
Senran Kagura Burst is a beat-em-up, a good old fashion arcade style beat-em-up, and, while it is hard to put it on your shelf (or in the case of the digital only US release, on your SD card) without the raising of a few eyebrows form people, it is one of the best beat-em-ups since the 90s where beat-em-ups where king. The game is split into two campaigns, each with 5 chapters, and each chapter having 12 missions (8 or 9 story missions and the rest optional side missions). You also have up to 12 characters (5 for each campaign with an additional character unlockable for each) to play around with. While the game has an almost unwieldy length for a beat-em-up, Senran Kagura avoids the most common pit fall of all beat-em-ups, it almost never becomes repetitive. While the core gameplay is rather straight forward with a light and heavy attack button, Special attacks, and a few defensive abilities, each of the 12 playable characters function VERY differently from one another, not only having different combo trees and special attack, but also having different stats and requiring different styles of play and most story missions require you to first play them with a particular character. While most of the Hanzo girls you can get away with just mashing their attack buttons, the Hebijo characters are so different from one another that you require a complete mental shift from playing as Yomi and playing as Mirai. In addition to the 12 playable character, each character has ultimately 3 different modes to play as, each with their own abilities, drawbacks, and even unique combo trees. Even playing as the same character will require a new strategy when trying to play in Frantic mode, which strips the character down to their swimsuit, taking a HUGE drop in Defense, in exchange for a massive boost to Attack and Speed. Enemies are also incredibly diverse, ranging from various types of mooks that pose no threat, to shinobi who have nasty combo chains and are harder to get them stunned, to large enemies that take several hits to take down. The stages and missions are really the only ones that suffer from repetitiveness,  since while there are several different stages in the game that do feel unique from each other, the shear number of missions you undertake means that you will be seeing the same stage over and over and over again. Missions on the other hand are far more limited, with most of them being simply "beat up everyone you see" with a few variations that don't change much. There are some missions that you have to finish within a time limit, or have to survive for a number of minutes, but those are very few, especially compared to the number of beat-up everyone missions. Fortunately, the variety in characters and enemies help keep this from being a problem.

Of course, I can't talk about Senran Kagura without talking about "that." Everyone who is aware of this series knows precisely what I'm talking about. This game has fan service.... a LOT of fan service... an amazingly high level of fan service. See this game not only allows you to play dress-up doll with each of the playable characters and has magical girl transformation sequences where the camera must make a pass at their T and A, but also as they take damage you get a shot of their clothes being torn to shreds. Fortunately, the some of the clothes covering the "naughty bits" seem impervious to damage keeping this game at a T rating and this DOES have a gameplay reason for being here, since once your clothes are destroyed, you suffer a defense drop for the rest of the mission, but it does little to comfort people who want to combat the impression that male gamers are a bunch of sex starved nerds. Outside of the massive levels of fan service that you will just have to get use to if you want to enjoy this game, there are a few annoyances in Senran Kagura that anyone who has played a beat-em-up have come to expect. There will be times where you have a single enemy left but you keep missing her because you are both on different horizontal planes and there will be times you can be juggled and trapped in a hit stun loop by the hordes of enemies (which can be mitigated by the game's Limit-break ability that knocks all enemies away from you at the cost of some HP). And finally, while the story segments that start and end each mission tend to be short and only loosely explain why you are suddenly going to fight nearly 100 enemies, there are times where the game goes into full visual novel territory and presents a narrated story segment that can last for quite some time, bringing the flow of gameplay to a crashing halt. This is disorientating the first time it happens, and all subsequent times it is frustrating, especially if you just want to get on with the action.

Let's be frank, Senran Kagura is a series that is built around it's copious amounts of fan service, there is no question about that; however, despite this, Senran Kagura Burst is a really fun and entertaining beat-em-up, the like that we haven't seen since the days of Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. It is just fun to play and despite being apart of a genre that is all about one thing, it never feels repetitive. If you don't mind the fan service, or can at least tolerate it enough enjoy good gameplay, then by all means get Senran Kagura Burst. Just be prepared to get a few disapproving stares from the people sitting next to you on the bus.

Until next time.

-Crescent, It's all about the GAMEPLAY! The nice soft... round... jiggling... gameplay....

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