Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus

7.5 / 10 Banzai!s

The Game:
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus coverAccording to rumour, Kenichiro Takaki, game producer for the wacky Tamsoft developer that brought such hentai games as Dream Club and The OneeChanbara, had decided to create a game for the Nintendo 3DS.  But what?  As Takaki thought about what he’d like to see in 3D, it took him only a few seconds to realize…boobs!  Hence, in 2011, Senran Kagura was released for the 3DS, followed by a sequel in 2012, Senran Kagura Burst.

The third installment of the series, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus (閃乱カグラ SHINOVI VERSUS) is the first to be released on the PlayStation Vita, and along with it, quite a few changes.

The game features a group of high school girls, most of whom are rather busty, secretly being trained to become ninjas.  In the original Senran Kagura, we were introduced to the Hanzou Academy which featured five girls, learning both their backstory and the history of the secret group.  In Senran Kagura Burst (“Burst” meaning explosion, but in Japanese is pronounced like “bust,” a reference to their chest size) the Hanzou Academy face a new group of challengers – the Homura Gang, which includes another five characters.

In PS Vita’s Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, the Hanzou Academy now confront two more schools: the Hiritsu Hebijo (snake girl) Female Academy, composed of “evil” ninjas, and the Shijuku Gessen Girl’s School, now bringing the total number of female characters to twenty.

The game is divided into four separate stories, one for each of the four Academies, that deals with their interaction and fighting against the other schools in a battle royal.  On top of which, each of the characters have their own short story to play through.  The story portion of the game is told either through pictures and text, similar to Japanese “visual novels,” or in spoken dialogue with animated characters, like in Tamsoft’s Dream Club series.

Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus screenshot 1In the two Nintendo 3DS versions, the fighting scenes are a 2-D side-scroller.  With Shinovi Versus, they decided since the Vita wasn’t capable of 3D visuals, they would make the game 3D, which adds to a more dynamic gameplay.  Each level is usually in two parts: you begin by battling an onslaught of enemies, much like a button-masher “Musou‘ game in order to raise your Shinovi power, then face off a boss – one of the other female ninjas – in a more complex, fighting-game style where dodging, parrying, and perfect timing is required.

What is the Shinovi power?  Once you have enough of it, your character pulls out a green scroll (sometimes out from her dress or cleavage) and tosses it in the air, causing her costume to transform.  Now she can use special attacks, such as pulling a cannon out from her skirt, growing in size and using a butt-crush on the enemy, or throwing deadly heart kisses.

Meanwhile, between missions, you return to each of the Academy’s secret hide-outs, where you can shop for new outfits, play a fortune-like gamble for new pairs of panties, or dress up your character in the change room.  With the touch panel of the Vita, you can have fun poking the girl in her underwear and watching her react, or even blow into the mic and cause her skirt to lift.

If by now you’re wondering how a developer can get away with creating a game like this on the PlayStation Vita, all I can say is…welcome to Japan.

What I Liked:
Overall, it’s a pretty fun game.  The fighting is a nice balance between brainless button-mashing, and skill-required boss battles.  While the game is generally not too difficult, I did face some bosses that I just couldn’t defeat.  But not a problem.  Once a portion of the story is unlocked, you can go back and replay it as many times as you like, thereby boosting your character’s level.  Aside from your overall attack damage and strength, there are other aspects such as new fighting skills and an increase in your special attacks, which are boosted depending on how much damage you perform per costume – either fighting in your High School uniform, your special costume, or in your underwear.  Then go back, and take on that boss again with success.

Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus screenshot 2And you gotta love the special attacks, which are fully animated and fun to watch.  I found myself playing not so much for the story, but to see what each new character will do.  As you battle, you fill up your power meter, which then transforms into a scroll.  Using one scroll will do a mild attack, and two for a stronger one.  Or, if you health is below 20%, you can use five scrolls for a super-duper, crazy-zany special attack that can really drain your enemy’s life.  And each special attack is different, and unique to each of the twenty characters.  And hey, if you get tired of watching the short animation, just hit the circle button and return straight back to the action.

For such a simple game, there’s quite a variety of things to do.  On top of the four main storylines, as well as each of the characters own individual stories, and the online multiplayer, you can roam about in the hideout, interact with other characters, dress each of them up in a vast assortment of costumes and headgear, or play the fortune.  If you’ve ever visited a Shinto shrine in Japan during New Years, you’ll recognize the tradition of paying a coin, shaking a wooden round chest until a stick pops out.  The symbol on the stick represents a drawer which you open and collect your fortune, stating how good/bad your year will be.  In the case of Shinovi Versus, you earn a pair of panties instead, which you can apply to any of the characters.

What I Didn’t Like:
Changing the game from a side-scrolling to 3D took some getting used to, particularly during the boss battles.  Now you need to pay close attention to where your enemy is, and finding her using the camera.  the developers tried to make things easy, by “targeting” the enemy by tapping her on the touch screen, thereby locking the camera on her.  Yet, trying to tap the portion of the screen where the boss battle is positioned, during the heat of the fight, and considering that she’s jumping around, is no easy task.  Hopefully, this might be something they can improve on a fourth installment, if released.

But my only real criticism is the story.  The text and pictures portion was only mildly interesting, which occurs at the opening and end of specific chapters.  But between each stage, we have the characters animated and talking, usually about nothing.  The point is often to make some joke about groping breasts, lesbian love, or simply to reveal more of the character’s personality.  It wasn’t so much that these segments were boring, but there was too much, and I just wanted to fight.  Halfway through the game, I started skipping these by hitting Start and going straight into the action.

Overall:
While Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus isn’t the most bizarre Japanese title I’ve played, it probably ranks up their in my top ten.  A game where the whole theme is centered around large breasts.  Where a character’s damage is indicated by her clothes being torn, until she’s defeated and completely nude (though the private parts are still covered by a glare).  Where characters pull machine guns up from under their skirt in special attacks.

A bizarre game?  Yes.  But to be honest, despite all its hentai perverseness, after having lived in Japan for fifteen years and playing games for that long, nothing really shocks me anymore.

But Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, while not for kids, is a fun little game that shows-off what Japanese developers can create when they push the envelope.  And it’s refreshing to see something original, rather than another Street Fighter or Tekken sequel.

Will it ever see the light of day outside of Japan?  Well, it’s possible, as both Senran Kagura and Senran Kagura Burst are available overseas on the 3DS as a digital download.  So who knows.

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