In recent times, more and more Asian game developers started to realize that branching in the PC market is a worthwhile investment. Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is the first of the series to be released on PC and the latest proof of this ongoing shift in Eastern publishers. While Shinovi Versus is, of course, not a game for everyone’s tastes, it surely is both refreshing and beneficial to the PC gaming environment as a whole to have the possibility to enjoy this former PS Vita exclusive.
In the Senran Kagura universe, two ninja societies constantly fight each other. The so-called good shinobi work directly for the government while their rivals, the evil shinobi, work for the highest bidder. The story of Shinovi Versus, like the other titles in the franchise, follow the adventures of ninja students that fight against rival schools. The peculiar thing in all of this is that apparently clothes are made of fragile paper in that universe.
The game’s story spans through three campaigns (plus a fourth bonus one to unlock). Every campaign follows the squad of one of three available Shinobi schools in the midst of a shinobi battle royale, a fighting competition where the winner burns down the losers’ school. The story is told in a classic Visual Novel fashion. While the plot itself is pretty barebones, it features some interesting bits here and there.
The fighting itself is a mix between a classic Musou game formula and an arena-style beat ‘em up. In each mission of the campaigns, the player will fight a boss (one of the other girls) after going through few rooms of generic enemies. There’s a pretty low amount of variance in these generic goons, and this phase is, more than anything, an excuse to build up your shinobi power which is fundamental to shift form and execute special attacks.
By fighting, you fill a gauge that, when full, will grant you a scroll. If you’re in your first form (the one wearing school uniform), you are then able to perform a shinobi or frantic transformation. The Shinobi transformation will have the character wear her combat uniform of choice while also allowing her to use special skills by consuming scrolls and boosting both attack and defense. The frantic mode will also enable the ninja to use unique skills and will expand her attack power enormously at the cost of defense. Oh, it will also have her clothes explode down to just lingerie.
If it’s not clear at this point, fanservice is a huge part of Senran Kagura’s success, and Shinovi Versus is no exception. When they take damage, the girls’ clothes will take damage as well, with short cutscenes and physics-defying breast animations to go with it. By meeting certain conditions, you can destroy even the last scraps of fabric remaining, making it tough to take anything they have to say afterward seriously.
Don’t let the provocative nature of the game fool you. Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus offers an enjoyable, although simple, gameplay. Each character has a combat style and moves that make them unique. The combo system is pretty basic. You chain light and heavy attacks with more chain possibilities available as your character grows in level. It’s not a perfect system, mainly because the camera control is horrible and even when locking on an enemy it’s not that easy to aim the attacks in their direction.
At the end of each fight, your fighter will get a rating and some experience. This score will determine how much money you will obtain as a reward, and the experience will make her progress. As our characters gain levels, they will unlock new combos and increase the amount of ninja scrolls they can store.
The three combat forms also have separate mastery bars. The more you fight in a given form, the more experience it gains. You will eventually unlock a number of perks that are active only when you’re in that particular state. Stuff like enhanced dashes or more forgiving combo timers. Nothing game changing, but it adds nicely to the mix.
If you’re not in the mood of jumping into the campaign, there are more modes available. The Dojo will put you in an arena with some adversaries (either AI-controlled or human if you play online) in fights with special conditions. For example, there’s a mode where you have to collect the largest amount of underwear than your adversaries.
Another thing you can do is visit the store and buy some new cosmetics to customize your shinobi. Accessories, haircuts, uniforms and the like are all purchasable with the currency you obtain at the end of all the missions. There’s a fair amount of customization options available here especially considered that the Steam version of Shinovi Versus includes all the DLCs. So if you want to visit the dressing room and decide that Hibari should wear a sexy bunny costume in her Shinobi form, go right ahead!
There’s also a mode called “Shinobi Girl’s Heart” that consists in a short story arc (few battles worth of it) for each of the main characters where you can delve a bit into the personal story of each girl. It’s filled with one on one fights, but with less of the story commitment.
On the technical side, the port is not spectacular. The camera, as mentioned earlier, is not either easily controllable and responsive. The game gives you only Xbox button prompts on screen even when no controller is plugged in, which is pretty annoying. At the same time, this is not a game that gives its best with mouse and keyboard. The graphics did not receive a huge improvement from the Vita version. The resolution is pretty much the only thing you can change in the options menu. The framerate is locked at 60, but it’s a stable 60, and I didn’t see it go below the cap once. Given the circumstances, of course, the opposite would have been worrying.
In substance, the port could have been done way better. Despite that, Shinovi Versus is still a decent game to play. If you’re in this particular genre of fighting games (and, of course, don’t mind breasts bouncing all over your screen all the time), there surely is value to be found here. It’s all in all a simple game, but an enjoyable one despite its many imperfections.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation Vita.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is a simple, frenetic and fun game that is hindered by a mediocre port. It's not a game for everyone, obviously, but if you're in this kind of gameplay and... uhm... other stuff, there's value to be found.