If there is one thing that the Senran Kagura series is proud to boast, it would have to be its dedication to fanservice. Both fans of the franchise as well as its detractors seem to agree on that front, as even the director of the series doesn't hesitate to show his absolute devotion to the female body. If you're reading this review, you probably knew this, but in case you didn't Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, much like its predecessor Senran Kagura Burst, is a game that simply will not hesitate to get a little bit saucy. Or very saucy, for that matter.
[caption id="attachment_31305" align="alignleft" width="300"] The best thing that the game does to combat reptitive combat, is by allowing players to choose from 3 different ways of tackling challenges. Flash, Yin, and Yang; each mode allows for a different style of play.[/caption]
Much like the previous game in the series, Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is a beat-em-up. Players will fight as one of a cast of 20 playable characters against an onslaught of enemies as they make their way to a goal before fighting a boss or 2 (or 3, occasionally). What Shinovi Versus does to differentiate the formula is not only making the gameplay completely 3D, instead of the 2.5D of the original title - but also to incorporate new elements to the gameplay. For example; the original title only had one type of transformation for players to utilize, meaning that strategy was limited in regards to exactly how you could decide to turn the tides of battle. In this release, alongside the original "Shinobi" transformation that replenishes your health (and changes your attire, drastically) players also have access to a separate transformation that sacrifices defense and the replenished health, for the ability to assume an all out attack and combos that can be near permanently stringed together. Another example is how each character has a new "ultimate" special attack that can be utilized after unlocking them in each schools' storylines.
Overall, combat could best be described as a faster and more agile version of Dynasty Warriors - though that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The game's differences are enough to make the combat entertaining, and a good way to describe it is that it feels like you're playing as various ninjas, which is certainly a good thing for immersion. Each character fights very differently, much like in the Dynasty Warriors titles, and the extra movement abilities alongside the ability to parry (that annoyingly is harder to use until one of the characters' 3 combat levels is increased...) allow the game to stand out enough as to feel different. However, the game does get repetitive unless you can find yourself attracted to a good portion of the games fighting styles and not just the characters' bodies.
In an odd decision on the original developers part, the story for this Vita title follows the events of the 3DS exclusive prequel almost exactly. Inquisitive players can get up to speed on the events of the first game by looking up a synopsis online, but the decision to have what essentially is the sequel to a 3DS title on the competing handheld is interesting, to say the least. The story itself is a relatively cliché coming of age story, but character interactions and developments help the story stand out a little. Although each and every character is idealized to at least a certain extent (one character even goes from an A cup to what could be assumed a D cup after activating a transformation...) none of the characters rely solely on their "assets" to drive the story forward. By far the meat of the story can be found within each character's side story - and indeed, most of the time I found myself playing through at least some of each characters' personal storylines before using them in the main game.
There is an in-game shop that specializes in customization options, and by far this is the most developed portion of the game. There are sound tests to unlock, concept art to view, cutscenes to re-watch, and costume piece upon costume piece to dress each of your characters in. Complete with a "lingerie lottery", where you can spend some in-game currency (or use a dlc token) to try to gather as many of the over a hundred pairs of underwear for your character to utilize!
The game's art style is alright, but besides the character models, nothing really stands out graphically. Music however manages to be at worst consistently catchy, while at times it ends up being truly fantastic! Each story's final boss theme is especially memorable, and each "school's" hub has an accompanying soundbite that is pleasing enough on the ears to not get grating after the 10-12 hours that each story can take up if you find yourself foraying into some of the characters side stories. Content, although same-y, has some great replayability - every level in the game can be played at various difficulty levels and challenged again after the first playthrough as a separate character. Any moves you've unlocked can carry over into online play; and the multiplayer can be frantic fun, albeit similar to the boss battles in the single player.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is an entertaining romp that will probably engross you for the length of time needed to complete 2 or 3 of the games 4 storylines - but unless you can find yourself lost in the games dizzying amount of fanservice, all that's left to find is a decent beat-em-up, with some surprising character to back it up. Your enjoyment depends entirely on what you come into the game expecting to find.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is available for digital download on PSN for $39.99. A limited edition physical copy of the title was released at the time of the games launch, and retails for $49.99 as of this review. If you are interested in picking it up; you can do so here.
A review copy of the title was provided for this review by the publisher.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is an entertaining romp, that will probably engross you for the length of time needed to complete 2 or 3 of the games 4 storylines - but unless you can find yourself lost in the games dizzying amount of fanservice, all that's left to find is a decent beat-em-up, with some surprising character to back it up.