Senram Kagura: Shinovi Versus - HighrezGaming

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Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus / 13th of June 2016

2016 has really been an odd year for the Western market of video games hasn't it? With big titles even to this day receiving hellish reception for not localising their titles in fear of accusations of beating their wives or for having to censor artistic works to jump the needed hoops of the current ESRB rating system and the archaically sex-negative “We won't stock Adult Only games” practice of brick and mortar stores along with the odd digital ones, it’s crazy to imagine anyone on the Land of the Rising Sun having a burgeoning market enough to sell their titles on PC, a platform the Japanese have treated as a glorified Visual Novel emulator until they realised smartphones could do the trick one-handed. Tamsoft the developer of the subject of this review however appears to have gained a fine bit of coin from Westerners after the localised release of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus on PS Vita and PS4, and have since decided to expand into the PC market and bless Steam users with shinobi girls, fluctuating bust lines and easy peel releasing the prequel to their recent release, Shinovi Versus.

Yup, the prequel to Estival Versus, I am partially confused why Tamsoft and their publishing team of Marvellous Entertainment went this route. I can only guess that in typical anime fashion, Estival Versus is a beach episode too atypical of the Senran Kagura format that they didn't want their new PC crowd's first impression to be a filler entry. So, Shinovi Versus it is!

The game thankfully doesn't have that much backstory that the players are expected to learn other than “There are Good Shinobi and Bad Shinobi” and the game follows the story of four groups of them (one group, the Crimson Squad, are unlockable by completing the main three stories or using a cheat code...remember when that was a thing?) with the first three being the super goody good Gessen Girls' Academy, the main cast Hanzo National Academy (which is really an ordinary school with a hidden Ninja School built inside it) and the “bad” Hebijo Clandestine Girls' Academy (really, the good/bad dichotomy seems more a “do you work for the people or the highest bidder” deal than any real morality). Each “school” of girls has their own overarching story in the game's “Shinobi Girls' Code” only then to include individual character stories called “Shinobi Girl's Heart”, with all the stories sporting a mix of silliness (if you can find a girl that is not attracted to other girls, then you are a far more imaginative person than me let's just agree on that) and even drama far surpassing what one would expect of the “Boobie Ninja Game” (sins of your adoptive father is a theme for one of the characters, I need not say more).

Senran Kagura's gameplay is perhaps best summarised as an arena brawling Dynasty Warriors. Replacing the expansive fields and “musos” however is the game's mechanics, fan-service (an all-girl fighter with big mammaries sporting elements of fan-service? Someone catch me, I might just faint from insincerity!) and the dynamics that tie them together. Characters attack with two buttons of strength that combo together in a predetermined chain varying from character and form, yes form, as each character has 3 differing forms that alters their move list slightly and their appearance greatly. From these combos, the character can launch an enemy into the air and upon dashing, can trigger an “Aerial Rave” (specific kind of air combo, ask your nearest FGC boffin) to deal more damage to their health and clothes. The clothes tear however are not based on any gauge or apparent formula displayed to the players, meaning that knowing how much health you have cannot be determined by how close to just traipsing around in your underwear you are, it’s more like the black and white or bloodied vision of modern health regenerative first person shooters in that it will tell you that you are taking damage, but you are going to have to pay attention to your health bar if you want to know more pressing details, such as if you have enough health to use a limit break (10% health for to break a combo and breakaway from threats) or if you should transform from your Flash state into either your Yang (a complete wardrobe change with all stats boosted) or Yin (Frantic State, drop in defence and now sporting lingerie for boosted stats) states, refilling your health back to full and allowing you access to your Ninja Arts supers for the rest of battle. Add in the variety of faceless minions and weapons to unleash onto them and you have yourself the basic premise of the game, when it isn't interwoven with visual novel cut scenes sporting character models that carry damage over from battle (basically, this game hates sex-negative feminism).

Assuming battle is not your cup of tea, the game sports a rather commendable customisation option for all the girls' outfits (including the Yang outfits) so you can dress the girls up in many ways, not only selecting from a range of clothing and their palettes of colours, but the game even allows for scaling, rotating and more degrees of movement across the XYZ axis for any given accessories you can slot in. Want to place a leg item on your character's head? You can do it and clipping be damned. The game also sports an in-game shop for to obtain more clothing variety, with zeni you can purchase more clothes, partake in a lingerie lottery, buy the two extra characters in the game or any other items you want to add to the in-game library. Navigating between the wardrobe for changing clothes, missions to progress the plot, shop to check newly stocked items and even online play (which is sadly barren from my attempts, either bad timing on my part or no one likes admitting they play Senran Kagura) is all navigated in an interactive menu as you play the last character you took a mission with and walk around the school dojo to interact with the options or characters that are hanging out and even greet you when you enter the room, a feature really reminiscent of Dragonball Xenoverse but mercifully smaller and with the additional feature of having a more traditional menu for those that don't share the allure of such freedom and interactive menus.

The port job itself is really unimpressive. While key bindings, resolution settings and even borderless windows are available, options to really push the limits of your PC are not present, which leaves the game hampered with many unneeded issues, forget frame rate (which true to their word, runs at 60 fps), there's pixelated shadows, longer than necessary load times and even screen tearing on the game's opening animated video. The one port issue that truly irked me, however, is the occasional user interface flub where the game clearly shows elements that make no sense on the PC but rather than redesigning to best work with PC, they just slapped guff over the top and hoped no one would get the idea that the game's a PS Vita port, be it a set-up where obtaining hot tips in dialogue requires using the mouse in a predominantly game pad recommended release to the Frantic Mode screen.

(An example of the whole UI issue, not my excuse to show breasts, honest!)

Before I address other issues I had with the game, I will concede that many of my concerns are very possibly already addressed in titles that followed from this one back on the PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS. That being said, if Tamsoft didn't want these critiques they were more than able to develop a title addressing those known issues and releasing that on Steam instead of this, so my points still stand. The Japanese only voice acting is a bit of a turn off for English speaking audiences, I get the series hasn't really had any English voice actors beyond its anime run, but the foreign language to me just comes off as lazy, saving money on English voice actors. Not to mention my inability to understand Japanese leaves me worried that these performances could be wooden for all I know and yet everyone is fine with it because it sort of sounds right. On less nitpicky points, the gameplay gets repetitious easily. Mission 1, beat up all these minions then the ending girl. Mission 2, beat up all these minions then the ending girl. Mission 3, beat up all these minions and then the - you get the picture. An obstacle course level (predominantly linear level design notwithstanding) or some kind of king of the hill situation, heck even more frequent objective variables like “within X minutes” or “without damaging your clothes” would have been lovely between the standard battles. On the subject of the battles, the Ninja arts are rather anno-


Ok then, the “Shinobi Nimpo” interrupt the flow of combat really awkwardly and just waste time. The animations might be nice to see the first time and are thankfully skippable after a point, but that doesn't stop you having to watch the screen transition to some bizarro universe, the character posing and then start their super move, where you wouldn't get to avoid it unless that attack triggered out of range! While these points are also true of transformation sequences and the clothes tear, the former is forgiven by instantly triggering the animation and not having to wait for a transition and the latter typically plays while the player is too busy in hit stun, making it actually more beneficial to you just in case the enemy drops their combo without you triggering a Limit Break. Not that the combos are all that hard to use anyway, I get that this isn't some complex fighting game but having all the combos being pre-set and dialled robs any enjoyment in heated multiplayer battles, online only multiplayer battles. Yes, I get this is the PC, but it’s also Steam! The distribution service that has been chomping at the bit to break into the living room, you didn't think offline multiplayer would be a good idea?

This game feels like the literal opposite of Street Fighter V. Where SFV can't seem to have any meat on its admittedly well-crafted bone structure, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is a rotten bag of bones with copious amount of meat, some of it sadly being meat that was advertised as being from a less sanitary part of an animal which makes eating it feel awkward. If you can handle the stares like a mature human being with character and good self-esteem, then feel free to dive into this game and enjoy the arena brawling romp it is, boobies and all. Now I must return to the hometown of my people that is salivating over a fine piece of ass.
Greg Baxter
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