Overall - 70%
One small touch I did like was that classmates will wish you luck and welcome you back before and after missions. I'm fully aware that I'm not the target audience for this game, and story moments that I found bizarre or grating, others will love. That said, I found a lot to like in Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus' combat, and whilst I could never be comfortable playing it on the bus, I can certainly see myself coming back to it.
Have you ever played a game so alien to your typical interests that you feel like a tourist just playing it? Something that goes beyond the boredom that sets in because you have no interest in, say, FIFA or dry racing sims. Playing Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus was like being thrust into a world I’d heard the rumors of, but had never been brave enough to visit. Join me, oh reader, on this strange journey of mine. Mind you don’t trip on that loose stone though, your clothes might fall off.
Welcome to Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, where the weapons are huge and so are the chest sizes, and finishing a fight with your clothes on is an achievement. The game introduces us to a world where Japan is home to schools of skilled shinobi, each school dedicated to battling for either light or shadow. Rather than cutscenes however, the plot is largely conveyed through walls of text explaining what’s going on, which did little to pump me up for beating up gangs of baddies. They’re not completely forgettable though, engraving choice lines such as ‘I just wanted to see what elite boobs felt like’ and ‘He kneads Murakumo’s breasts’ into my mind, no matter how hard I try to scrub them away.
By the time I got to gameplay, which took far too long, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus was not doing well. Agency was finally granted to me in the school dorm room, which to its credit has a lot of options to fiddle around with. Most notable is the option to pick one of five girls to play as, the roster changing depending on the school you pick. A particular favorite was Yozakura and her very nifty gun gauntlets, which fired mini explosions out the back that I couldn’t help but find cool. Unlocked outfits are found in the dressing room, none of which have even heard of modesty. I joke, but for those that want it the dressing room allows plenty of flexibility and customization, mixing and matching outfits that belong to one character with another character, after unlocking them first of course.
Stick with it long enough to reach the combat, and there’s two choices; Shinobi Girls’ Code and Shinobi Girl’s Heart, or story missions and character missions respectively. Shinobi Girl’s Heart missions are specific to each character, and string together a number of arena battles with a loose plot thread between them. Shinobi Girls’ Code missions, on the other hand, are each one arena battle long, and require you to play a specific character for each one, but a number of these make up a chapter. Either way, it all leads to throwing down with a bunch of faceless enemies, punctuated by boss battles against rival shinobi. Not usually one for 3D brawlers, unless the Batman Arkham games count, I was surprised to find that I had a ton of fun with Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus’ combat. The moves consist of light and heavy attacks, dodges, jumping and blocking, or parrying if you time it just right. Each character has their own move list, which grows as you level up, but one can easily get by on button mashing, and will have a great time doing so.
Keep the pace up, and the combo counter can reach into the hundreds, only breaking if you slow down, smartly encouraging constant and relentless attacks. One of the game’s touted features is clothing degradation; if you or a boss takes enough damage, pieces of clothing tear away to reveal the underwear beneath. Although clearly for perving purposes, I genuinely found it useful to keep track of my own health, which I would often forget to check. Each character also has access to Shinobi Transformations, which not only refills health and bestows a new outfit to its user, but unlocks new super moves. This leads to the usual pattern of when a character’s health is low, they transform, so the final moments of battle are almost always filled with super moves being triggered, keeping the action tense right until the end. Deep and complex it is not, but on fun it delivers.
Whether or not Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is for you will come down to the little touches. Although there are English subtitles, all spoken dialogue is in Japanese, which I imagine is right up some people’s street. Boobs jiggle and skirts float upwards with even the slightest provocation or movement, and one particular loading screen tip advised me that ‘You can peek up skirts and blow them up by blowing into the mic’, which to be honest I found more than a little creepy. One small touch I did like was that classmates will wish you luck and welcome you back before and after missions. I’m fully aware that I’m not the target audience for this game, and story moments that I found bizarre or grating, others will love. That said, I found a lot to like in Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus’ combat, and whilst I could never be comfortable playing it on the bus, I can certainly see myself coming back to it.