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Review: Senran Kagura Burst

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A busty beat-em-up that lacks some polish

I never thought any of the Senran Kagura games would make their way overseas, but I admit I was pleased to learn that XSEED would be localizing the title. Not because I'm a huge fan of the series, but rather that I hate it when publishers overlook a game simply because they've deemed the content too edgy for the international audience. I believe in the free market, and letting gamers decide for themselves whether or not a game is worth their money. Unfortunately, I know there are other news outlets who don't necessarily share my point of view, but I digress.

Senran Kagura Burst isn't really what I would consider edgy, though the script is often suggestive, with the visuals to match. It's a tale of two modern ninja clans, comprised of busty teens with a penchant to tear each others clothes to pieces mid-combat. Some might find that appealing, and others not so much. In that regard, I tend not to judge, but it was enough to catch my attention, and it sounds promising enough me. The question remains, does the game deliver?


Senran Kagura Burst (Nintendo 3DS) 
Developer: Tamsoft 
Publisher: XSEED
Released: November 14, 2013 
MSRP: $29.99

The first thing you're likely to notice is that every time you enter and exit the intro screen, or navigate through the menus you'll be treated to a few untranslated lines of Japanese voice overs. This might irk some, but it's just basic phrases you've probably heard a million times while playing various fighting games or RPGs over the years -- nothing to fuss over. The options menu itself is pretty limited, and only really allows you to adjust the volume of the music, sound effects and voice overs.

When you start a new a game, you're given two paths to choose from, the Hanzou school which contains the content from the first game released in Japan, Senran Kagura: Skirting Shadows, or the Hebijo school from Senran Kagura: Crimson Girls. They recommend you start with the Hanzou path. After a short introduction which explains the purpose of ninjas, and the origin of the school your characters attend, you'll be rewarded with an animated opening sequence. It seems they didn't bother subbing the theme song, but I honestly hadn't expected as much.



You soon gain access to various features within the game such as the character select screen, dressing room, mission list, library, records and settings. You can either navigate to each option within the classroom, or quickly access each using a menu on the bottom touch screen. You can also converse with characters who happen to be hanging out in the room, though the conversations seem to be dull and one-sided. The meat of the interactions take place during the event sequences between missions. The dressing room allows you to select different outfits, accessories, and wigs you may have unlocked throughout the course of the game. When choosing an outfit, you can cycle through  different color schemes before confirming your selection. Much to my amusement, moving your character model around while in the dressing room will cause their breast physics to kick in, and may even elicit some protests from your character if you're less-than-gentle about it.

You can use the library to view your stats, titles, pictures, movies, music and other unlockables you may have obtained through play. You can also look up terms and character bios in case you want to better familiarize yourself with your favorite characters. They don't make it very clear, but you'll need to hold down X while pressing up and down in order to scroll through the text. That said, all the fun and creepy information you could want seems to be included, such as each character's measurements, birth dates, blood type, favorite foods, and so on.

Records allows you to save and load your game. The character select screen is pretty self explanatory, and so is the mission list. As you complete each mission, you'll progress through the chapters. Each mission lists out things such as the location, goal, time limit and difficulty, which is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest and 5 being ridiculous. They change up the goal from time to time to try and keep things slightly less monotonous, often to little avail. Sadly, simply plowing through your enemies will cause you to achieve whatever goal they've set. I did find that the time limits can make things difficult if you're not constantly mashing your attack buttons.

Combat is pretty simplistic. One button for weak attacks, another to punctuate with strong attacks, making combo chains pretty straight forward. There's another button for jump and one for dash, which can be used defensively to avoid enemy attacks. Most attacks and combos can also be performed in mid-air, though pressing down and strong attack allow you to launch an assault strike. Your tech and move list can be viewed on the lower screen, while most action takes place on the top. You'll gain new moves by leveling up over time. You can also select a different "balance" or stance to swap to a different move set, assuming your character has that ability. Like most beat-em-ups that feature leveled move sets however, the early going will feel totally repetitive and may turn off any gamers who lack the patience to grow the characters further.



There's also a sweet aerial rave system that lets you chain air combos when you time a jump to coincide with a green ring that appears on the screen mid-combo. If performed correctly, you can keep these going for even more damage, though I found that to be quite difficult myself. You can also launch a limit break by pressing the R shoulder button -- doing so will knock back the enemies who may have you surrounded, but it also drains your health to a measly 10% making it a risky proposition and one that hardly ever seems to pay off. You also have a gauge that builds over time which allows for your character to transform into her special shinobi costume, increasing both attack and speed while allowing you to launch a devastating special attack.

So, as some of you are likely aware, taking battle damage in this game results in not only the loss of health, but can actually cause your character's clothes to tear. While you can always restore your health with potions, your clothes not so much. This can have a dire effect if you happen to lose your Shinobi costume, increasing all the damage you take from that point on during the battle. At the start of each battle, you're also given the option to enter frantic mode. This sheds all your clothes down to your bathing suit, which somehow greatly increases your damage and speed at the cost of your defense, and perhaps your modesty. Beating each mission while in frantic mode unlocks something special, and while I wish I had time to attempt this myself, it's something you'll have to try on your own.


When you're not in battle, you're either wandering your classroom, engaged in a visual novel-esque conversation, or stuck reading a wall of text set against a static image. These pieces of exposition often read like a bad soft-h fan fiction. Fortunately, you'll find that during the event sequences or walls of text, you're given the opportunity to proceed as normal, fast forward, or skip them entirely. You can also hold down Y to make the text disappear from the top screen, much like a feature you'd find in a typical eroge or visual novel. This, at the very least, lets you move on to portions of the game you may find more enjoyable, such as the actual combat.

Unfortunately, while I enjoyed some of what I've played, the game does lack polish in key areas. The music for example is great, however the audio production could have used some serious work -- some of the music tracks will clearly hiss, click or pop which can be a little distracting. The narrative sequences can really drag, and while I'm sure some people out there will love them, others will find themselves skipping through most of it and wondering if they've missed something important.



Seeing as Crimson Girls functioned as almost a sequel to the original game, some gameplay elements have been improved. For example, the move sets have better animations and I personally found the combat more enjoyable. That said, the evil shinobi, with the exception of their sexy teacher -- don't ask -- seemed to grate on me, whereas the characters from Skirting Shadows were a bit more humorous overall. The script is completely tongue and cheek, and you basically get what you'd expect from a game that emphasizes breasts, magical-girl transformations, and torn costumes. If you're a prude, you'll probably want to keep your distance, otherwise you'll probably have a good laugh.

Overall, the game is a relatively fun experience, but one that will actually require time and effort in order to unlock its full potential. Without that investment, the game play may seem entirely too repetitive -- so much so, that you'll end up tossing it aside and forgetting you had it. The game is packed with plenty of ecchi, so that's a plus depending on how you look at it, but in the end, it's safe to say the game isn't for everyone, and even for those of us who might usually enjoy the beat-em-up genre, Senran Kagura Burst fails to truly innovate. 

6 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)


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Senran Kagura Burst reviewed by Tim Sheehy

6

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Tim Sheehy
Tim SheehyContributor   gamer profile

Tim is the former Editor-in-Chief of Japanator, a content media specialist by day, and pro-blogger by night. His posts can be found scattered throughout the Modern Method network. Also, he writes... more + disclosures


 



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