Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is the sequel of Senran Kagura Full Burst, also known as Fanservice: The Game. A well-earned reputation for a game whose principal focus is in the generous forms of its characters, and the fact that the clothes of the female shinobi get ripped during the fights. Behind all the jiggling, though, the first Senran Kagura was a neat little brawler, capable of giving a few hours of entertainment with a simple yet fun combat system. Senran Kagura 2 follows the same road, with some improvements.
Just like the previous title, the story is centered around two opposing ninja factions that bear the very creative names of good shinobi and evil shinobi. The good shinobi work directly for the government, while the evil shinobi work as hired assassins for private contractors. The main characters of the game are 10 female students of the Hanzo and Hebijo ninja academies that train new shinobi for these factions, 5 for each academy, with some more joining later in the game. These girls will clash weapons during the main story but will also be forced to put aside their disagreements and fight together a greater evil.
The story mode is structured in missions, with visual novel-like cutscenes between them—sometimes with in-game graphics, other times showing very nicely drawn artworks. The plot itself will not go down in history but is interesting enough to make the player want to discover what happens next. The characters are as anime-stereotypical as you can get, but their interactions are still fun to watch and some cutscenes will not fail to make you crack a smile.
The combat develops in 2.5D, meaning the camera is fixed on the side of the arena and you’ll move in horizontal levels, not huge and pretty basic in their layout but they serve their purpose well. The reason why the series is mainly known is the fact that the girls’ clothes rip off when they take damage, until they remain in their underwear and show their generous curves. Now, there would be a lot to say on this kind of fanservice and sexual calls, but I feel that should be discussed maybe in a later editorial. On a game mechanics standpoint, the ripping clothes is a purely cosmetic feature since it gives no advantages nor disadvantages. I personally found that it can be pretty useful to keep track of how much you’re being hit since it can happen that in the heat of the action you forget to keep a look at your healthbar.
Game mechanics are not complicated and really not that difficult. Every character has a quite limited set of combos they can unleash on the enemies that are constantly present on the bottom screen for quick reference. At the end of every mission, the shinobi will gain exp and, when they level up, their stats increase and unlock more combos while proceeding in the game.
Despite unlocking new combos, you can play perfectly fine by button mashing. There are some characters that can change their weapons and fight style—one can switch between an umbrella, a machine gun, and a grenade launcher at will, while another one can charge her boots with wind power and start floating—but even in their cases you can complete most missions by spamming weak attack.
Shinobi transformations return as well. Chaining combos, you will increase a meter that, when full, will award you a ninja scroll. You can transform in your shinobi form only if you have at least one of these scrolls. With the transformation, you will put on a different outfit, replacing the one you currently wear or don’t currently wear if the enemies left you in your undergarments, and will recover some health. While in shinobi form, you will be able to use ninja scrolls to activate ninja arts, flashy and powerful moves that can turn the tides of battles in your favor.
The triviality of the combo system is partially amended by the tag fights. In Senran Kagura 2 you can set up teams of 2 characters. You will control one character while the other one will be controlled by the CPU, or another human in local or Internet multiplayer. You can switch between characters at will, linking together combos of the 2 ninjas. You can also activate a combined ninja art, but only if both your shinobi have at least 3 ninja art scrolls. It’s a very powerful move so it’s well worth the cost.
While fighting with two characters, the combat feels way more dynamic and, while button mashing is still a very profitable strategy, linking together combos becomes way more fun and rewarding. You lose tag fights if the health bar of the character you’re controlling reaches 0, while if your fellow shinobi gets knocked out, you can succor her and revive her. This means that switching to your other character when your current one is close to death becomes a necessity. Whenever you revive a character, the maximum health of the revived ninja decreases. This is to prevent the exploitation of the mechanic.
Senran Kagura 2 also adds few new game modes. The most interesting addition is the Yoma’s Nest. This is a survival-like mode where you select your character and you fight your way in a 14 floor dungeon. The trick is that your health does not regenerate between fights and if you die, you only obtain a fraction of the earned experience. So if you think you can’t beat the next fight, your best option is to retire and get what you can. You can start your next attempt from any room you cleared in the past. It’s worth fighting in the nest for both training your girls and for finding weapons to customize them.
You can also play the Special Missions mode. This is a challenge mode where you will have to fight battles with specific conditions—use only ground attacks, don’t use ninja arts, etc. If you manage to complete the challenge, you obtain a shinobi stone. These are stones that give flat stat buffs to your characters, and you can equip 3 for each ninja.
Senran Kagura 2 introduces a dressing room mode where you can customize the appearance of your ninja students. You can choose their haircut and outfit, both normal and shinobi mode, and their underwear since, you know, the girls will be in their underwear pretty often. New outfits and hairstyles get unlocked playing the main story. You can also change their weapons with the ones you find in the Yoma Castle. Keep in mind that all these changes are purely aesthetic. It’s a nice little addition to the original formula.
There is also Photoshoot mode where your girls can assume different poses for you to take pics of them. It also support Augmented Reality using Nintendo AR cards to make the shinobi appear right before you. So, there’s that as well.
On the technical side, Senran Kagura 2 is quite the looker. Character models and textures are pretty detailed and well-done, and so are the artworks that appear from time to time during the main story. Can’t say the same of levels, honestly. The terrain textures are not as detailed, although it is not awful.
Luckily, Senran Kagura 2 seems to not be plagued by one of the most troublesome aspects of its precedessor: a horrible framerate. In the original Senran Kagura, FPS would often randomly drop, even with the 3D function of the system off. Its sequel runs pretty well even with a lot of enemies on screen, and you’ll notice a light drop in performance only in very chaotic fights with the 3D feature turned on. This is despite the game being more technically advanced than its precedessor.
Where Senran Kagura 2 really suffer, though, is in enemy variety. Most of the times, you’ll feel like battling hordes the same enemies over and over, with the occasional slightly different enemy now and then. There’s not a lot of variation in enemy AI either. Pretty often the fights will feel the same regardless of the enemies in front of you.
On the sound side of things, Senran Kagura 2 offers a good amount of pretty good tracks. Some of those are pretty catchy as well. The voice acting is also pretty good, even if voices are Japanese only.
All things considered, Senran Kagura 2 is a solid 2.5D brawler. If scantily clothed young girls don’t bother you, you should check it out.
Senran Kagura 2 is available in both digital (via Nintendo eShop) and physical edition starting from $39.99.
This game was received from the developer and reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.
Despite a not wonderful combo system and the lack of enemy variety, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is a solid brawler that will keep you entertained for a while