With manga, anime and multiple games, the Senran Kagura series is certainly quite popular in Japan. And it’s no surprise really; it’s one of the most Japanese games you’ll play this year. A bunch of busty, high school ninjas wearing all too revealing outfits with clothes that can quite literally fall off. It’s one of those games that really shouldn’t see the light of day in Europe, but it has. Even more surprising is if you dig beneath the layers of creepiness, there is a solid game there, but my word you have to do a lot of digging.
When using the word “busty”, it’s certainly no exaggeration. Breast sizes that even Team Ninja would think have gone too far, it would be offensive if it wasn’t so painfully stupid. With misogyny and the depiction of women being a big talking point in the games industry of late, it’s surprising that nobody seems to have picked up on Senran Kagura’s fixation with the female anatomy. But then it is a niche game. And quite frankly it’s so ridiculous you’re more likely to laugh than be offended, especially when damage can result in clothes getting torn and falling off. It’s not some in depth damage system, after taking a number of hits the game will actually quickly cut to a five second sequence of your character in a precarious position with her clothes coming off. This can happen twice during each mission until you’re wearing nothing but the swimsuit underneath. Or if you so choose, you can start the level in a swimsuit by pressing L and R at the start to active frantic mode.
The creepy nature doesn’t stop at the visuals; the dialogue manages to be just as bad. Characters asking if they can “motorboat” one another, an alarming amount of pantie references, and characters hiding things in their “secret” place (their cleavage if you didn’t already get it). It’s one of the few games played where we wondered what the hell we are doing with our lives. At least the dialogue is entirely in Japanese so nobody who happened to walk past understood what was being said.
Get past all this and you do find a solid, if basic, side scrolling beat em up. The game being split between these action segments and an alarming amount of cut scene gibberish. Once the scene has been set and you’re actually able to control your chosen character the game does come to life. Fights are fast paced and action packed with a number of enemy variants. Combo’s and special attacks are added to mix things up, and there is a fair bit of content. Story missions (indicated by a key icon in the mission select) are to progress the story, usually forcing you to play as a specific character (each having their own set of attacks) with side missions also scattered throughout the mission select. Completing these may not advance the story, but they do help you level up characters, levelling up gaining additional health and skills making the later missions a lot easier. Not that it’s specifically needed. Death only really becoming a problem during the final chapter.
On top of the regular story where you control the good Shinobi’s, there is another side story where you take a look from other side, giving more backstory for the evil Shinobi’s. These two groups of ninja basically being at war with each other. So there is plenty of content here, even if a lot of it is padded, the first part of the evil Shinobi storyline literally revolving around one character having smaller breasts than the other girls.
Performance wise, the framerate is a little choppy. Even during the main hub area where you can walk around, selecting missions and playing dress up (not joking) the framerate is noticeably poor. Shame really, as graphically it’s not that bad. It’s funny that during gameplay we could barely notice the 3D effect (a good sign if ever there was one), until we actually realised the 3D light was turned off and the game for large portions of the game, actually isn’t in 3D. It does move to the third dimension during the small sequences of girls getting their clothes ripped (of course it does) and the story segments, but other than that, nothing. So for pretty much the entire game it was turned off, a first for us.
You could probably call Senran Kagura Burst a seedy look into the minds of the creepiest people Japan has to offer. It really wouldn’t come as a shock if the design document just had a massive pair of breasts on every page. That aside, there is a game buried underneath that does have its moments. It just depends on how much time you’re willing to put in to find it.