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Senran Kagura Estival Versus (PS4) review

On March 15, 2016 by Aaron Meehan

To date, Senran Kagura games have been known for fun beat-em-up combat and copious amounts of fan service, but after playing the through the latest game in the franchise, Estival Versus, I think great character driven story telling will have to be added to the list.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus story once again brings the twenty well-established characters together again as they experience an emotional story that sees them reconnect with those who they lost. Estival Versus story sees the four factions Hanzo Academy, Gessen Girls’ Academy, Hebijo Academy and Crimson Squad brought to a world that exists between life and death to take part in the “True Shinobi Girl’s Code Kagura Millennium Festival”, an event where Shinobi who have died in vain can be laid to rest. The festival, which is run by Sayuri, Asuka’s grandmother, and the Mikagura sisters, has the 4 groups and the Mikagura sisters fight each other and attempt to destroy one another’s festival platforms, with the winning characters being named Kagura, the highest title a Shinobi can earn.

While at first glance the story is straightforward, the decision to focus on the characters makes the story great as members from each of the five groups have incredibly powerful emotional arcs that revolve around trying to reconnect with someone they lost. The emotion shown on screen are incredibly powerful as we see characters such as Ryobi and Ryona grapple with their emotions concerning their dead sister, Ryoki, and Hebijo Academy’s leader Miyabi having a tearful reunion with her mother.

With Estival Versus, the festival story is a crux that exists to lay the groundwork for one of the most emotional stories I have played in a long time. What also adds to the story is the fact that it is a single unified story, which means there isn’t a separate story for each team like in previous Senran Kagura titles.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus review shots (1)

Outside of the story, what else is there to do in Estival Versus? Well, there is an online mode, which unfortunately didn’t have any players online during my time playing, a dressing room that allows you to dress up and pose characters, and finally a selection of character specific side stories. It is worth noting that the side stories are best played after completing the main story as several characters are locked until you destroy a certain number of festival platforms.

So, enough talk about the story, let’s talk about the gameplay. Well, the gameplay is straight forward as there are just the visual novel style dialogue scenes and combat. The visual novel dialogue scenes are straightforward as they are a bunch of characters looking at you, as they say, their lines.

Combat in Estival Versus is similar to previous Senran Kagura titles as it is a beat-em-up that has you fight hordes of grunts until you fight between 1 and 3 named enemies. Although, combat does have some variety with time elements and straight 1 on 1 or 1 on 3 matches, but these are rare. For me fighting was very much a button mashing affair and the reason for this was twofold, 1) I found it the quickest way to eliminate enemies, and 2) the constant changing of characters meant that learning all 20 characters moves would be a chore. Although while the constant changing of characters and as such weapons, which range from dual wakizashi swords to guns to gauntlets, was at times frustrating it helped living up combat.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus review shots (4)

So, while I called combat button mashing I did enjoy it as smashing through numerous enemies and defeating a named enemy was for the most part a good stress reliever, although sometimes the combat was a stress inducer as I began to notice some issues with the combat. The issues, for the most part, weren’t game breaking, but they were equal parts frustrating and immersion breaking. The issues ranged from characters getting stuck on terrain to the camera clipping through the environment. I feel if some of the minor issues were cleaned up the combat would be much better although I still find the constant changing of characters to be mildly annoying. Before I finish talking about combat I have to mention creative finishers, which add a pretty funny closure to a match, for example if you defeat an enemy near an octopus pot, an octopus will emerge and grope the defeated enemy.

Now, I think it’s time to mention the main contentious point of Senran Kagura games and of this game too, the fan service. Yes, like previous Senran Kagura games Estival Versus has a lot of lewd content, with its most obvious being the fact that when either you or your enemies take excessive damage your clothes get ripped until only their underwear remains or in some cases no clothes remain at all but don’t worry fully stripped characters are covered with a bright light. The lewd content is also seen in the dialogue with characters such as Ryona being an open masochist who loves to be verbally abused and Katsuragi who can’t seem to go five minutes without wanting to grope another character.

So, what is my opinion on the fan service? Honestly, I didn’t really care. Clothes ripping in combat makes sense and the lewd conversations didn’t really bother me at all, but with that said if you are uncomfortable with seeing some skin or the odd innuendo than you might not want to play this game.

An example of one of the visual issues with the game.

An example of one of the visual issues with the game.

Now before I reach my conclusion let’s take a brief look at the graphics and audio. Graphically the game has rich vibrant colours that make for a colourful experience, but the rich colourful appearance causes some minor frame rate issues especially at the beginning of a match. Audio wise the game is Japanese audio only with English text, and the music in the game is almost perfect as a lot of sad sombre tones hit their mark.

Conclusion

Senran Kagura Estival Versus offers an incredibly emotional and character driven story with some fun combat, however, immersion breaking issues and excessive fan service are a slight turn off.

SCORE: 8.5/10

Pros Cons
 + Emotional character driven story  – Fan service may turn off those not used to the franchise
 + Fun button mashing combat  – Numerous immersion breaking issues
 + Music
Developer Publisher Genre Rating Platform Release date
 Tamsoft Marvelous (EU)/XSEED (NA) Action 16+ PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita March 15 (NA)/March 18 (EU)

*A review code was provided by the game’s publisher.*

For more information on Senran Kagura Estival Versus, visit http://estivalversus.com/.

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.


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