Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus (PS Vita) Review
Tamsoft’s Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is a fast paced 3D brawler based on the Senran Kagura franchise. In Shinovi Versus four shinobi academies: Hanzo Academy, Gessen Girls’ Academy, Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy and Crimson Squad (Crimson Squad is only unlocked after you finish the first three stories), fight each other for dominance in a rarely challenged “Shinobi Battle Royale”. The academy that wins this battle royale will be the only academy allowed to continue to train shinobi.
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is a good game, but it is held back by the fact it is based on popular anime and manga franchise. This means that players are expected to know certain things such as why Crimson Squad is filled with renegades, why Hebijo Academy doesn’t like Hanzo Academy etc. This reduced information does dampen the experience a bit, because if you don’t know all this it just looks like a bunch of girls fighting each other for no reason. Although to the game’s credit it does try to help non-franchise fans with notes embedded into some conversations, for example if you don’t know about Hanzo Academy and it appears during a conversation you can click on it and get a quick information dump.
In the game you get to choose to play as one of the four groups, and experience their side of the game’s story and several character story missions. The fact you can experience the story through the eyes of each school and get to experience individual stories of all the playable characters is great and helps to improve the context of what is a pretty simple story. All the characters have some interesting back story that helps to reveal their fears, strengths, weaknesses and desires. My person favourite peace of back-story information belongs to Hanzo’s Yagyu because the game reveals why she has an eye patch and why she spends so much time looking after her teammate, Hibari. I would just like to point out that there are no playable male characters in the game.
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is a hub based game, this means everything you need is right in front of you. In this hub you can select missions, train, take part in online multiplayer, change your clothes, check out your library of unlocked content, go to the store to buy new clothes, change your main character, save, and change schools. The simplicity of each school’s hub is great as this means you don’t have to waste time say trying to find a quest giver, instead you just click missions and off you go. A lot of areas in your hub can be access by using the Vita’s touch screen.
Out of these hub activities I want to talk about the dressing room. In this room you can change the uniform, shinobi outfit, lingerie, hair and add up to five accessories. All these items can be gained by purchasing them in the shop or if you want some fancy lingerie you can take a spin of lingerie lottery and try to win some nice looking lingerie. Although the dressing room has a bit of a nasty side as the game keeps informing you, via in-game hints, that you can do rather perverted actions in the dressing room such as flipping your characters clothes and touching various parts of their body to see how they react.
If you have played any 3D brawler you will know what to expect – fast, powerful and fun combat, and well Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus’ combat ticks all three of these boxes. Combat sees you fighting massive amounts of enemies followed by a boss fight with a shinobi at the end of the level. It is short sweet and to the point. While some levels can be pretty short the game’s combat offers up several ways to fight with each playable character (about 20 in total) having access to three fighting styles and power “Secret Ninja Arts”.
When in combat you have your standard normal and strong attack, which you can combo together to create powerful combo attacks to eliminate the large amount of trash enemies. You can also block and parry attacks, which are incredibly useful in boss battles as a successful parry temporarily stuns your attacker, but be warned a parry requires a lot of precision and so if you get your timing wrong you could be in for a lot of pain. As I said above there are three fighting styles, which are called: flash, yang and yin, these styles represent your three possible transformations. Flash = normal, yang = shinobi mode, and yin = frantic mode. Each transformation has its own strengths and weaknesses, for example Yang provides increases attack, defence and health regeneration, but you sacrifice the parry and experience bonuses you gain from normal mode. In Shinobi mode you are given access to your characters’ “Secret Ninja arts”. These arts act just like normal and strong attacks, but require the use of scrolls, which you can gain by filling you ninja arts gauge. At lower levels you might want to be conservative with how you use your scrolls, but at higher levels you can hold a far greater number of scrolls and as such don’t have to be as careful. In frantic mode, which is activated by having you place your fingers on your character’s breasts and moving them away, you don’t gain any new arts, but your attack strength is heavily increased.
Each character you play as has a different set of attacks and arts to play with, which helps keep combat fresh and create new ways to play as some character can do long range attacks, status alterations such as freezing an enemy, and more. While it is good to have a variety some characters can be a pain to use, for example: Hanzo’s Hibari who has a tendency to fall over after a certain number of attacks.
Boss battles can be tricky as they can also transform and perform powerful combo attacks that seem to go on forever. While they can do the same things as you they don’t feel as powerful especially when you get near the end of the game. At first boss battles feel daunting, but once you get into them they can be incredibly easy as I found myself defeating them by just bashing the normal and strong attack buttons, and doing the occasional parry, you can still do this even after they transform into their shinobi modes. While they can be beaten by button bashing the boss can sometimes catch you off guard and quickly knock your health bar down to size/
Combat has one feature that may raise a few eyebrows and that is the fact pieces of your and the boss’s clothes get ripped off during combat. As you do more and more damage in combat you can completely destroy your enemy’s clothes, exposing their underwear, but where games like Akiba’s Trip stops Shinovi Versus keeps going by allowing you to remove the bra and pants. Of course the nudity is censored with a light ray and stickers.
Nudity isn’t just left to an odd occasion in boss battles, but it also appears in dialogue scenes where you talk to the boss you defeated after battle, and so for example you ripped off their bra they will have no top or bra on during the conversation. This whole fact shows how the game treats nudity, the game treats it as a natural occurrence, and apart from the initial embracement of being stripped the characters move on and accept it. Even away from combat the dialogue and cutscene all have some nudity and sexualised humour. There is a cutscene in the Hanzo Academy where all the girls are naked (steam blocking their private parts) in a large bath just talking, and there is another sexual innuendo filled cutscene in Asuka’s character story. I want to once again point out that there are no playable male characters, and what limited male NPCs exist in the game limit themselves to giving story information.
The use of nudity in this game shows how Japanese culture does not make nudity or sexuality into a taboo like a lot of western nations do. Sure in the game they react to being stripped, but they are in a middle of combat and don’t have time to be embarrassed or they are just going to a bath house to chill out with friends.
Shinovi Versus is a perfect fit on the PS Vita as the handheld’s screen does a great job of helping to create sharp striking graphics, with character being easy to see against some nice backdrops. In terms of audio some fans might be let down by the fact that there is only Japanese audio with English subtitles. Personally I didn’t mind as I could just read the text, but I was confused as to why they chose to have no English audio as there is an English dub of the Senran Kagura anime.
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is a decent brawler, but it lacks any major challenge. While hacking through a large number of enemies is incredibly fun the story is boring and requires you to know about the franchise to fully understand everything.
+ Every character you play as feels unique
+ Slashing through large number of enemies makes you feel powerful
+ Some good character building moments
+/- A lot of partial nudity and sexual humour
– Weak story
– Boss battles aren’t that challenging
– Game can feel a bit perverted at times
|Tamsoft||Marvelous AQL||Action||16+||PS Vita||October 15, 2014|
Author: Aaron Meehan
Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.