It seems like just yesterday that I reviewed Senran Kagura Reflections for the Nintendo Switch, the weakest entry in the franchise to date. It lacked depth in both gameplay and story departments resulting in what was little more than a tech demo parading as a spin-off. Senran Kagura: Peach Ball is not that. It’s an actual component spin-off that stands on its own merit due to it’s genuinely good gameplay and plot.
Peach Ball is a pinball game set in The Senran Kagura universe. The game features 6 girls from the mainline series split among the factions. The plot of the game is fairly simple yet pertinent to the overall Senran Kagura ethos. It begins with Haruka of the Crimson Squad working at an arcade, because as you know they’re renegades and as such have regular day jobs. The Arcade she works at happens to also be holding a tournament and Asuka, Yumi, Yomi, Murasaki, and Ryona enter it for varying reasons. Ryona doesn’t last long on the completion and before long finds herself needing to use the loo.
In the restroom she notices there is no hand soap and thus uses some from the cupboard under the sink, but as it turns out the liquid under the sink isn’t hand soap. It happens to be one of Haruka’s formulas that turns the user into an anthropomorphic animal version of themselves.
This formula also has a plague-like effect in that it infects anyone who touches someone afflicted with it. The entire group subsequently ends up turning into animal girls excluding Haruka of course. She then enlists you the player to save the girls before they become stuck as animals. To do this you are required to use a special ball that is capable of reversing the effects of the formula by robbing and hitting it against the girls bodies. As such the obvious tactic to saving them is to trick them on to a pinball table and play pinball.
Each girl has her own plot-line which see her as the lead attempting to save her friends. You can decide for yourself which is the one true plot, but for me it’s Yumi’s plot-line.
The story segments play out in a visual novel style with full Japanese voice acting and English subs. There are also extra story dialog during the pinball playing, but it’s almost impossible to read those and play the game at the same time.
Speaking of gameplay, it’s pretty good actually. It’s standard pinballing with a bit of Senran Kagura flavour. You play the game just like you’d play any other pinball game by trying to keep the ball from passing the flippers while attempting to rack up a high score by hitting different objects on the board to activate multipliers and gain points. The main difference between this and a traditional pinball game is that this game has objectives to complete which culminate into a mini game of sorts that allows the player to destroy the clothing on the girls. These missions can range from hitting the girls with the ball to triggering then defeating little creatures on the table. There are also some which cause the girls to fall over for a period of time to prolong the session and gain a higher score. The game also has multipliers and the possibility to activate special abilities.
I’ve always fancied pinball and can clearly remember my first experience with it. It was back in the early 2000s, we had just gotten our first PC with Windows XP on it. Since the PC wasn’t a powerhouse and my parents were not keen on getting us games for it we had to work with what we had. That meant Mavis Beacon and 3D Space Pinball were my two most played games on the system. I remember the sounds, highscores, and of course the sobs of my sister as I crushed her highscores… Ok I may have made that last part up, she didn’t sob, but I did destroy her highscores even though to this day she I’ll deny it.
Oooooh … but that’s the good thing about games like pinball. They have a way of bringing out the competitive side of people. Back then a high-score meant something. It meant something to go over to a mates house, set a high-scores, put you name on the top of their leaderboard then leave them to suffer the shame of seeing your name taunt them every time they played. As a kid I made it my duty to do this to every one of my friends, and 3D pinball was my weapon of choice. Unfortunately despite the appeal of the Peach Ball gameplay, it lacks that capability. For one it doesn’t take into consideration the switch from local to online leaderboards, and no one is likely gonna get their mates to come over to set a high-score in a game like this. The game also lacks variety in that it only features two pinball machines. Without the possibility of competing for high scores they get old quickly, especially the second machine which doesn’t have enough interactive objects on it as the first.
Each of the tables have different background images to unlock for them, and like all other Senran Kagura games the girls have different outfits to unlock and choose from. The game also has unlockable balls that come in two varieties which only change the intensity of the vibrations on the joycons. It should also go without saying that this is among the smallest rooster and outfit lists in the franchise, but it’s forgivable given that this is a pinball spin-off.
It has multiple modes including Story, Free, Shop, Gallery, and the full robust Dressing Room mode from the main series, including fully customizable costumer sets all the way to pantsu. Oh and that’s not all. It also features the Intimacy mode because Nintendo doesn’t think we’re kids who need censorship in our games as well as the Diorama. Peach Ball also has DLC, but we couldn’t verify what they would be, but based on the Japanese release they’re likely just outfits that were present in the previous games being sold at a ridiculous premium.
Senran Kagura: Peach Ball isn’t robust nor is it as system seller of any kind. You’ll likely play it for the story then set a high-score or two in single player free mode then never pick the game up again. It’s one of those experiences that are great while you’re engaged with them, when in hindsight they’re nothing more than a distraction. The best I can say is that it’s quite fun while it lasts and I can see it appealing to fans of the series along with P-Life appreciators but no one else needs apply.
The copy of Senran Kagura Peach Ball used for this review was provided to us by it’s publisher XSEED Games.
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