+Shinobi Girls Heart has returned from Shinovi Versus
+Tons of new stages. Eight to Nine Chapters with around 7 stages.
+Dialogue is rather hilarious. Come for the fanservice, stay for the stories
+Soundtrack offers a few standout tracks such, read the review for more on this
-Feels more like a side story to Shinovi Versus than a proper sequel
-Levels tend to be re-used quite a bit. Only differences are mission goals.
-Background score tends to be repeats from previous titles
-Both PlayStation 4 and Vita versions suffer from minor frame rate drops
-Fanservice has gotten even worse
When you read the pros and cons above, it’s hard to not-state that the series is all about the fan service in regards to the high-school aged or slightly older girls. It’s what Senran Kagura is known for, but in this latest version? It’s getting to be just about that. When we first experienced Senran Kagura almost two years ago, the series has become one that we highly appreciate for its combat mechanics, knee-slap worthy jokes, and even the anime-esque art style that keeps the series alive. Let alone does the series keep us around for that, it also keeps us around because the combat tends to be quite enjoyable, but so does the DLC when it actually has something to offer to the game.
Having been plying the game since its Japanese release thanks to co-writer and co-reviewer Greg F, we’ve taken a note of a few things in our joint review. Senran Kagura Estival Versus has seen some minor changes to its previous title. There are a few new mechanics such as bomb throwing, wall combat, and even special knock-outs that essentially go into a cut scene and humiliate the enemy characters in the best possible way. This isn’t odd for the franchise though, it’s all about the knee-slapping jokes and the heavy fan service and these new “Creative Knock-outs” or as in the Japanese version “Purupuru” offers a unique twist to the game. The first one players are introduced to is one of the girls being knocked up into a taito drum and getting her butt literally spanked with taito drum sticks. Literally.
While it’s worthwhile that we can shake our heads and laugh about this, this is a theme that sticks around for quite sometime throughout the entry. Something we’ve gotten used to by now even, but the real look at the game isn’t the fact that the main chapters are rather short leaving players to fly through the main campaign in roughly six hours. While that can be a disgruntling feature, one that has returned and remains soft in our hearts is the return of Shinobi Girls Heart. Or as Greg puts it, “Yo dog, I heard you like side stories so I put side stories in your side stories.”
While the main story is short, Shinobi Girls Heart allows us to once more take to the side stories to uncover new side stories to each of the girls. This giving us a true look behind the events of each character so that we get a bit more of a view from their side of things related to what’s going on with Estival Versus. While this is enjoyable, it’d be nice to see the main-campaign getting much of the same treatment. However, this wasn’t the case, and that leaves us with the feeling that this game is more of a continuation of Shinovi Versus instead of a true sequel. While that can be considered a troublesome flaw, we’ll cope with it for now. It’d be nice to see a true continuation with some of the girls either graduating from their schools or even becoming “Master’s” or in their case “Mistresses” of their schools to allow for a new and more dynamic cast.
While playing the game on both the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4, both in Japanese and English versions for the Vita, we did take note of several things. The Japanese versions patch file has been staying ahead for a few weeks now. With the launch of 1.19 the game has seen a few changes while the American version is still sitting at 1.17, which only added in some of the new Purupuru Knock-Outs, a few bug fixes, and a few other behind the scenes notes. The biggest thing though is how the game has kept up since the Japanese version, which is pretty stable and runs as one would expect for a PlayStation Vita title. Just like the Japanese version, both the American PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions run into occasional frame rate drops that can make the game seem as if it were stuttering a bit. Nothing like sitting at a smooth 60fps until combat gets nuts and a lot of animated characters appear on screen knocking that frame rate down to what feels like between 45-50fps until combat lightens down a bit. While this seems like it is isolated to the PlayStation 4 variant. The PS Vita version seems to see the same framerate drops, but hardly as noticeable since that version tends to stick around an estimated 30fps. However, the PS4 version sees a lot more stability in the long run of things.
While performance does remain a question at hand, we do take a peek at the PlayStation Vita TV since Greg ran some tests on it just to ensure our review would be as accurate as possible. While we are used to seeing the PS TV get ignored a bit, the Vita TV still remains an important part to reviewing since many owners do use it and tend to prefer it so that they can play their Vita games on TV with the luxury of not staring at a tiny screen, but for those wondering if the game scales to the PS TV? You’re not getting that treatment this time around it seems. Without a post-release update, the Vita TV remains without proper scaling and looks almost atrocious on Vita TV. It’s best to get the PlayStation 4 version for the 10 USD more. Just not that the PS4 versions enemies all seem to render onscreen at once while the Vita version has pop-in enemies, rather extra waves of enemies in comparison to the Vita version. Or so it seems.
While we do discuss the video capabilities and performance, the game does continue on with traditional cutscenes that variate between walls of text, character model reactions, and well animated shorts. All of this works well for the game as the narrating remains on-par with previous titles. But the one thing that comes down to really looking at the game isn’t necessarily just the graphics and video performance, but also controls. While we’ve become used to the franchise stun-locking our characters in combat, we’ve also seen the infamous return of button mashing in order to keep our enemies at bay, the title does enter in with some new combat mechanics. This includes wall-attacks, knock-up specials, and even parry attacks that tend to leave enemies pretty much out of the fray due to their inability to fight back. Just like before, players can use things such as bombs to knock enemies away, poison them, or simply do what I prefer and blow them up.
Sadly? That’s all that is truly new to the game outside of the Purupuru finishers that leave rival school characters in rather provocative positions while being in what little clothing they have or none only to be covered by glowing gold lights. While this is hilarious, it may deter some new series adopters left shaking their head, and wondering where the series is going to go from there. For those wanting to know about the disturbing Vita groping mechanics. It’s still there and still causes us to shake our heads. At least they censored the girls ages from the Japanese version so that American fans won’t feel as if they should be ashamed of themselves at the end of the day.
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus- PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita [Reviewed on both]
Publisher: XSEED Games
Price: 49.99 USD and 59.99 USD
Released: Available Now
While there could be more to go on about, it’s going to be hard to do so without looking at all the fan-service that has been given to this game, but at the heart of it all? Senran Kagura is a brawler that tries to take itself seriously when it comes down to core fighting mechanics unlike it’s comedic narrative that could leave a grown man or woman blushing. While fighting mechanics are at the games core, they’ve not grown enough to make themselves substantially different from previous titles. However, if you want to continue on laughing, blushing, and button smashing? This is the game for you if you can get over all the tits and arse this game has to offer.
Our review is based on a review copy that was provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writers:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.
Greg F. is an RPG enthusiast whom absolutely enjoys the niche titles that come across from the East. When it comes to beat-’em-up brawlers such as Senran Kagura. Greg knows the titles just about as good as anyone else, but his passion not-so-secretly sits with his love for retro games from the NES and Sega period. In his free time Greg contributes to B.A.T.G.R. with his knowledge of such feedback.