Game Review | Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus

Short Version: This is the game that turned me into a Senran Kagura fan. After spending more than 100 hours playing the PS Vita version, I’m still having a lot of fun spending countless hours on the PC version and enjoying all of the included DLC I never used before. Thanks to the added power of the PC, the game runs, looks and plays better than ever before. For any fans or newcomers of the series, this is a great place to start.

P.S. An Xbox controller will be your best friend on this one.

Long Version: I felt nostalgic playing this game again. It made me remember the very first time I played a Senran Kagura game, in which I spent most of my time judging it from the surface and not thinking about it on a deeper level. Amidst the hilarious amounts of fan service that the game is known for, I started to discover a surprisingly solid and relatable story with characters I cared about. This, along with the addictive combat and fun variety of characters involved, I knew there was more to this game than just simple sexual titillation. On top of it being sexy, it’s also a pretty good game, which isn’t something that a lot of fan service-filled games have achieved.

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Path of the Shinobi

Don’t let the reactionary, screaming Let’s Players confuse you when they yell out, “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS GAME?” It’s actually pretty simple to understand after you get over an infantile reaction to the female body and just pay attention to what’s in front of you. Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is a 3D brawler in a similar vein to Dynasty Warriors, but much more compressed, fast and to the point. The game is centered around a cavalcade of incredibly attractive high school girls that are secretly studying to become shinobi. There are both good and evil shinobi schools in this world, so naturally these groups of girls will bump into each other and fight for what they believe in, with tons of dialogue, backstory and internal struggles in between the main set pieces.

Judging by the fan service-based nature of the game, many people will make the assumption that the game’s story is not worth looking into, or that maybe all of it is just an excuse to fight and slash each other’s clothing off, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When I took the time to actually listen to what was going on, I found myself to be pretty interested. Pretty much all of the characters have a good (and sometimes very heart-wrenching) reason to follow the “Path of the Shinobi.” Seeing these reasons unfold through lengthy dialogue scenes make the characters more relatable and human than simple eye candy. Many of the morality-themed questions posed during the story and the many ways that it challenges players to get over the “OMG BOOBIES!” hurdle makes this for a solid experience that leaves you thinking.

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Sacrifice Myself To The Will Of Our Dance

However, even amongst the seriousness, there are a lot of laughs and ridiculous moments to be had. This game knows how to be serious when it counts, but it also has many occasions where it doesn’t take itself seriously at all, turning this game into one of the most unexpected sources of comedy I’ve played in a long while. It’s admirable how this game is capable of balancing the struggles of a shinobi group fully comprised of orphaned girls trying to keep their master’s philosophy alive with hilarious scenes featuring Hikage, a girl with no emotions, having a pointless conversation with Imu, an evil shinobi with a bone to pick after countless ridiculous incidents. Seeing this game balance emotional character development and comedy in this way makes me think about how much of a shame it is that people tend to brush this off as nothing more than just breasts on a screen. Even the fan service itself is done in a really funny way that adds to the overall aesthetic of the game. None of it feels sleazy or in poor taste. It is very clear that this game was meant to be sexy in a fun way from the very beginning, and the pure innocence of that desire is pretty well reflected overall. But on top of that visual appeal, we also have some pretty decent gameplay.

The actual combat in the game is very simple to understand, but can be open to a little bit of nuance if you let it. As previously mentioned, this game is similar to Dynasty Warriors and other games of the Musou genre, so the first few hours will be met with a lot of button (s)mashing. However, all the characters can level up, learn new moves and get an ultimate attack over time, which will quickly open up the possibilities to more complex moves. Every level has an initial segment where you beat up enormous mobs of enemies, later met with a boss battle between you and one of the girls from the cast. Here’s where most of the fan service will occur, since the characters’ clothing will be ripped off based on how much damage they take and how they take it.

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A Dance Cloaked In Shadow

Unlike the PS Vita version, the PC port runs at a smooth 60 frames per second with 1080p resolution, making the gameplay much faster, smoother and more satisfying than ever before, which is very reminiscent of the 3DS game Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, which I like to consider the best game in the entire series so far. Instead of playing on a small mobile device with small speakers, I am now playing on a larger screen with headphones on, which makes all of the bright colors in this great art style and the incredible soundtrack pop in a way that I had never experienced before. Playing the game on PC with an Xbox 360 gamepad felt so much more natural and fun than a mouse/keyboard setup. Most of my time playing in the latter manner felt awkward and very uncomfortable, but plugging in a gamepad immediately solved all of my problems. Even though I’m still having a lot of fun with it, there are a couple of cracks to be found in the game.

A lot of the problems that existed in the original PS Vita release still persist in this newer version, such as repetition, lack of a challenge and some things within the story mode that were left to be desired. For starters, it is very clear that pretty much every single level in the game is exactly the same and barely distinguish themselves from each other. Sometimes you’ll see a level that contains some sort of time limit, but it is usually not enough to set it apart it from other levels; especially not when everything is focused on just beating hordes of people up in a variety of different ways. The huge variety of characters available is a good remedy to that issue, but the total lack of variety in the levels sticks out like a sore thumb, despite how addicting and fun it can be.

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Sink Into The Dreams Of Sleeping Souls

It also doesn’t help that after leveling up a couple times, you are practically invincible and most of the enemies don’t pose a challenge at all, so long as you know what you’re doing. Also, thanks to the upgrade in frame rate, I am actually having a much easier time annihilating my enemies than I ever did before. Of course, this is coming from someone that has played 100+ hours of this game already, so newcomers might not have such an easy time. If you really wish to earn your victories, I suggest bumping the game up to a higher difficulty from the start.

And finally, there are a couple things in the story that bother me a bit. One big example is certain dialogue scenes in which an empty background is shown and a wall of text scrolls from top to bottom. The actual contents of the text are enjoyable, but I would’ve liked more visual aids to come with it. There were many moments where I found myself frustrated at the mention of certain key characters and villains, but never knowing how these people actually look like. Having to settle for some text-based descriptions for fairly important characters is something that I still can’t get my head around, especially for more modern times where you have games like the Blazblue series show an outstanding amount of variety, movement and dynamics within the same character portraits they’ve had since the beginning of their story. In Senran Kagura, you have full-on 3D models, but they’d still rather just show me a black screen and some text, which can prove to be a massive waste of potential. It’s a small nitpick, but it could take them a long way to focus on the smaller details such as those.

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The Sword And Shield

In conclusion, Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus for PC is still the awesome game that I remember it being, and now it’s even better because of the upgrades given to it. Sure, it can be a little rough around the edges in some spots and the sexual content might not be many people’s cup of tea, but I can tell that this game had a lot of heart put into it. In between all the ridiculously fun fan service and the over-the-top combat, I can see a lot of genuine characters, relatable stories and even some tear-jerking moments to be had. So no, this game is not just all about the boobs; it’s about so much more. I suggest you try it out, because you may end up being surprised over how much you’ll enjoy it.

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