Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is a fairly competent and capable (if not purely risqué) fighting game, much more so than its 3DS counterpart, but still carries a few minor issues that hampers the enjoyment to a diminutive degree.
Title: Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus
Genre: Fighting, Beat-em-up, RPG
Developer: Tamasoft (Published and localized by Xseed)
System: PS VITA
Length: (Estimated 40-45 hrs for story and extra content)
Last year, I reviewed Senran Kagura: Burst for the 3DS – any unusual, if not unlikely beat-em-up candidate for localization that featured two rival schools and all female cast of ninja students battling for supremacy, with their clothes the only thing seemingly destructible and the jiggle physics aplenty. While it was a gimmicky game – it was decent, albeit repetitive and very unlikely in my mind to sell as well as it was reported. Well, enough for two of its other games to be considered for localization for the US and Europe – Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus being one of them. Refining a few gamplay elements and improving upon technical limits that the 3DS could not satisfy, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus (SKSV) is certainly a better looking game than its progenitor, yet still manages include a few shortcomings that seemingly also give this entry elements it can work on.
Following off the heels of the last game, SKSV still includes the ninja schools of Hanzo and Hebijo academy following the path of the shinobi, however two new schools join the fray. Gessen, a lawfully good school of girls trying to follow the example their deceased grandfather/master left behind and Hebijo Clandestine, the rebuilt branch of evil elite ninja tasked with taking out the former Hebijo girls for going rouge 6 months ago prior to the last title. You can only choose 1 of the 3 schools to beginning the game with (the 4th being unlocked later), but like Burst, can switch between anyone of the schools whenever you choose to. With new arrivals on-board, the roster of playable characters is up to 21, each one unique with their own strengths and weakness to master. With each school having 5 chapters in total of story content and each girl having their own short side-stories with 5 parts, SKSV does offers a lot to accomplish – easily taking up 40hrs for it all and still then some if you fancy mulitplayer matches – both ad-hoc (which includes bots) and online.
Like with Burst, before you begin any activity, you start in the hub that has several options open to you for preparation: switch characters, go shopping for new outfits and unlockable content, put to them to use and change clothes in the dressing room, participate in online matches with the dojo, save/load/delete game with the records, view gameplay stats and said unlockables in the library, and finally – get into the game with the missions. While you can go ahead and jump straight into the story, you also take time out and complete the girls side-stories, short 5 stage vignettes that open fun little diversions to the story and helps you gain some one-on-one time with favorite as you level them up, gaining access to new moves, and even get a cheap chuckle from the quest line. If you feel as if you just need training, there is also a tutorial that teaches you what you need to know or test out your new gained moves from the story/side-stories. Finally, the missions are the real meat of the game, 5 chapters taking through the trails and tribulations each team is met with as well as personal backstories. However, unlike Burst that has some very variable missions objectives, by comparison, SKSV missions are rather bland thoroughfares of smacking around a few foes until the boss arrives, defeat her, then repeat it all again next one. You can replay missions with other characters than the one required, but still doesn’t rectify the lack of diversity.
Combat wise, SV doesn’t reinvent the wheel so much from what Burst did – the only difference is aside from side-scrolling you can roam freely around the battlefield. When you do come across foes, a Dynasty Warriors style of combat ensures as you use a mix of simple combos and super moves to clear out throngs of enemies. While most enemies do down without much effort, the game is at least thoughtful to include one or two more trickery types that usually take a couple of more blows. Regardless, it is somewhat satisfying being able to clear a dozen that culminate into a massive combo chain. Reaching the eventual boss, same techniques apply – expect with each blow, not only do they lose HP, but clothes too. When too much HP is lost, they usual use their shinobi transformation, giving them access to all their special techniques as well as fully restoring HP (and clothes). Again, even on hard difficulty, many of the battles are relatively short and easy to get through without issue. When you end a mission, you get a calculated score of how well you did: A-F, with A for the best and F for worst (usual resulting in failure). Add to that, you gain EXP that usually levels you up and depending on your fighting style, gain new techniques corresponding to 3 disciplines: Ying, Yang, and Flash. Overall, it is a process that exist and pleasurable for the first couple of hours – although quickly loses it luster.
Not to sound like an echo – although it is hard to ignore how great the visuals and artwork looks. Discounting the lovely ladies you have to use, the backdrops and even dressing room bits are very eye-catching. The framerate also keeps even performance – something that Burst couldn’t. Sadly, for all the graphical improvements, it does seem to inversely affect the loading times – mainly going into missions where it takes around 6 minutes for one mission to get going. Then again, it does provide some helpful hints on characters and other aspects of the game you might not know. The soundtrack also is very nice, if not droning after a while.
Even though the explosive dress wear has novelty rather than anything risqué, SKSV does at least has it priorities right for a game centering on fighting. Minus the ridiculous loading times, lack of variety, and idiotic camera in battle (be prepared to babysit that thing with the right analog stick), it is offset by loveable characters, nice combat (if superficial on the surface), comedy, and a nicely localized script. Definitely isn’t a title I would recommend to anyone, but if you are a fan of the series and found that the 3DS version inadequate, SKSV has a bit more – yet not as much as I hoped and still carries similar flaws. If you are curious or looking for a complex fighting/beat-em-up, it is safe to pass this up or at least wait for a discount…you are not missing much.
Pros: plenty of unique characters and movesets, multiplayer option, excellent soundtrack, 4 different story perspectives to follow, nice visuals
Cons: Missions lack variety, finicky camera in combat, lengthy loading times, no other side missions (sans the personal stories).
Notes: The physical version ($49.99) includes the collectors box, music cd, and booklet. All the booklet is a list of characters movesets/tips, creator commentary, and some character art. FYI for those interested.
Like Burst, SV is Japanese voice only, but subtitled for spoken dialogue.