Aside from laying the smackdown upon waves of countless combatants and avoiding (or welcoming) getting garments torn to tatters, Senran Kagura Burst is just another humdrum side-scrolling beat-em-up with nothing notable to offer from the crowd for veterans of the genre, but for others new to the arena, fairly enjoyable if you peer past the repetitive nature and some questionable content.
Title: Senran Kagura Burst
Genre: Side-scrolling action
Developer: Tamasoft (Published by Marvelous AQL)
System: 3DS (US Eshop only, Physical Release in EU)
Length: 30-35+ Hrs
When it comes video games, I don’t consider myself a selective person, but I do have certain reservations about the types I play these days. RPG’s in any flavor would usually be at the head of preferences, the occasional platformer to follow, and rarely, even a shooter would suffice to satisfy me. Generally speaking, Beat-em ups aren’t new territory for me, yet I have been wary about the ones I touch, since most left a bad taste in my mouth. Having rather fond memories of titles like: Streets of Rage 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I am glad to see that Senran Kagura appears to be more of the same for someone like myself – with a few key differences here and there. Minor as they maybe, I still was able to enjoy this title a great deal, but like most of the genre, sides-scrollers are one-trick ponies and Senran Kagura definitively makes that clear within the first few hours. You can get yourself ready for a brawler that offer you hours of fun, but don’t sit on the idea that you will be playing it for hours…
Indirectly based off the manga and anime series, the gist of the plot dissects two rival schools of shinobi thought: “good shiboni” – usually synonymous with Hanzo Academy and “evil shiboni” – synonymous with Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy. The story specifically zeros in on: Asuka, Ikaruga, Katsuragi, Yagyuu and Hibari of Hanzo and their counterparts in Hebijo: Homura, Yomi, Hikage, Mirai and Haruka as it covers personal back stories, relationships, and reasons for becoming shiboni. You can choose to play as either fraction anytime during the game, but highly recommended to stay with one until you completely done. While the general mechanics of gameplay are the same for either Hanzo or Hebijo, only the personal arc and storyline events greatly differs – so each fraction does offer a unique setting. I personally enjoyed Hanzo for the characters like Ikaruga and Asuka, but more interested in Hebijo for the backdrop information and quirky sides of characters like: Yomi and Haruka.
Before you set off into any actual combat, you have the chance to get prepared in the hub area after and before each mission. Here you can do various things like switch characters, change clothing earned from completing different missions, review move sets and records, save/load data, and of course, choose your mission. Missions are divided into chapters with some optional and others required to move the story along marked with a key. Either way, most task are easy to complete such as: defeat “XX”, reach “XX” in this amount of time, defeat all enemies, and so on. Some do require you to use specific characters and can become difficult do to unique differences and play styles or if you don’t even a specific character that much. For example, characters like: Hibari/Haruka are tough to play as since there attacks aren’t meant for doing much damage, Ikaruga/Yomi are great for their weapon range and damage output, and others like Asuka/Homura specialize in multiple attack methods allowing for swift and speedy finishes. If you do find yourself failing missions, you can take replay various others that will level your character up, allowing them to take more damage, dish it out, and even grant them special attacks. Some the missions, in my experience are easier to accomplish if you do level up and take advantage of the RPG elements embedded, but utilizing the right tactics, there is little need to excessively grind or replay levels, especially when most generic enemies adhere to the same patterns time and time again.
Combat at its core is very basic and that difficult to get into. Much like with most brawlers, you have your strong attacks, weak attacks, dodging abilities, aerial moves, and the selling point of the game: Shiboni Transformation. While you can complete missions without transforming, it is every hard to do so, since the girls only have use of basic attacks, but once transformed: greater speed, attack power, and unique specials are available. Your transformation will last as long as your health meter doesn’t hit zero, but the more damage you take, the more your clothing will become damage and thus more the health will be impacted – which also offers the play a quick scene of the opposing or player character in provocative positions, cleavage jiggling, etc as the clothing comes off. This part does not provide much gameplay utility other than for the sake of fanservice and most likely will only be pleasing to fans of anime, but not a complete annoyance or point of aggravation. It might creep out players not familiar with the anime or tropes of anime, but nothing too sensitive in nature. If you find the regular missions too easy, you can opt to play them in frantic mode, which will shed all of your clothes at the beginning of a mission, giving you greater attack power and speed, but also increase damage you take. Arguably, it doesn’t offer that much of a challenge if your level is high enough, but in order to unlock a special character unique to each fraction, it can be taxing to clear every single mission in this manner, since various stages do offer few healing item drops and enemies more sturdy. As aforementioned, once a mission is complete, you are given a ranking (albeit frantic) based on: the enemies taken down, time completed, and combos executed that will grant your character experience points and level them up increasing their status.
For a 3DS title, Senran Kagura does look very aesthetically pleasing with bright, deep colors and environments. Switching between a visual novel style of storytelling complete with CG to short vignettes with 3D models (the clothing that you change might also appear), the visuals do hold up surprisingly well, but when it comes down to specific stages of combat, there are slight framerate drops. It doesn’t happen often, yet when it does rear its head, it usually happens in areas where enemies are densely packed or environments make rapid changes. It won’t exactly affect your performance, however, is annoying when trying to get through certain areas. The soundtrack isn’t all that great or noticeable, with a majority of tracks repeating themselves and that much variety between the two fractions.
Senran Kagura definitely isn’t a game for everyone, even if you do like the genre and probably will not keep you hooked for than a few hours at a time, yet for a game that is around 35 hours max for both fractions it will offer some enjoyment and very fair for its price point. Despite all the missions bordering on repetition, regardless of the types, the different characters play styles and unique offerings will diversity things slightly. Combat does have it moments, but after a while, thin out to boredom, if you don’t take a reprieve. All-in-all, if you fan of anime or action side-scrolling enthusiast, don’t mind a bit of fanservice, and can deal with the mindless cycle, Senran Kagura can be mindless fun, but do remember: it is a one-trick pony with one trick only and one that you can easily get bored with giving seeing it enough times.
Pros: Easy and quick to combat system to learn, character variety, two playable sides of the story with varying content, unlockable characters, artwork
Cons: Mission variety lacking, poor soundtrack, framerate issues prevalent, generic enemy types are few, repetitive and doesn’t hold up to hours of play.