Thursday, November 20, 2014

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit (Vita) Review

Hot off the heels of Shinovi Versus, Senran Kagura hits us with another domestic release, Bon Appetit.  While the previous two are action games, this one is... a rhythm game about cooking battles.  Yes, you read that correctly.  As is clearly stated from the outset, this is just a silly side game and has no bearing on the actual plot.

Being a rhythm game, you must push the correct button or direction at the correct moment.  There are two different lines that go from right to left that these buttons appear on.  I'm not sure why there are two, but I think it's so they can fit more buttons in a smaller area.  The directional buttons that must be pressed are color-coordinated to correspond to the face button (circle, triangle, etc.) so it's easier to see when there are a lot of quick moving buttons on the screen.  Granted, the buttons are color coded on the system controllers, not the Vita, so it's borderline silly to do that for a Vita game.  Silly as it is, it's still helpful, especially when there are so many buttons shooting along.

Each of the 10 songs are separated into three rounds.  Winning one of the first two rounds will damage the clothing of the opponent.  If you win the first two rounds and do really well on the third, you will completely strip the opponent, and they will be wearing the now infamous chibi faces and light stripe.  There's also two halves of a heart meter (one per round) that if you fill, will create a special heart button that can give you a humiliating camera view in the background for a few seconds.  While this is a reward for performing well, it's also distracting.  If you ignore it to do better, then it's not much of a reward, huh?  I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've almost dropped a combo a few times while they are playing in the background.  Plus, they look so sad at the end of the scene that I almost feel bad doing it.  Almost.

Winning a round treats you to a scene of Hanzo (Asuka's grandfather, master ninja and tournament creator) enjoying the dish.  Each girl creates a different dish, so there are 10 of these scenes.  The are definitely silly and over the top, but they get old pretty fast, and I was skipping them after seeing them two or three times.  However, the real treat for winning and completely stripping your opponent isn't Hanzo's scene... it's the special.  Your opponent will be placed on a pastry and covered with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.  It's as suggestive as you might think.  While it fits the tone of the game, I think it's even more risque than anything else so far in the series.  And that's an accomplishment, to be honest.  I didn't think it possible while keeping the game under an AO rating, but they did it.  To me, it's not a problem since it's on a handheld system, but as with the action games in the series, I wouldn't play it around my kids.

There are three settings, easy, normal and hard.  Easy is really easy.  I rarely missed even one note in a song, and I'm not really well versed in the current rhythm genre (I was really good at Bust a Groove and decent at Parappa).  Normal seems like a big step up from easy, and was challenging.  I can now consistently win at the normal setting (except Daidoji's song), but not without a mistake or two.  Hard is ridiculous to me, since that's where they add in the up direction and the triangle button, plus have more and harder button sequences.  The way it plays reminds me of the Hatsune Miku game demo I tried a year or so ago.  On the harder settings, the challenge for me was hitting the strange sequence of buttons and not on getting the timing.  I'm not sure if that's how rhythm games are nowadays, but I would prefer the focus be on timing.  Even so, I was able to complete all 10 stories on easy or normal.

Each character's story is 5 levels long, and takes about 30 minutes total to make your way through.  There's 10 girls to use (or 11 if you purchased the DLC characters for Shinovi Versus) and many costumes and underwear selections to unlock.  Each girl has their own song, 2 of which are vocal.  There's also an arcade mode which picks opponents based on the difficulty you select.  It's a decent value for $15, and you'll get your money's worth if you go after the platinum.  A few of the trophies require you to grind out a lot of songs, so if you really like the game, you might want to hold off on those until you get the DLC expansion that adds the girls from Shinovi Versus to give you a broader selection of characters and songs.

Fans of the Senran Kagura series will get the most out of the game.  It's a different style, but you'll know the characters and situations, and get more out of whatever story is present.  Rhythm fans may also enjoy it, but I'm not sure how it stacks up to other rhythm offerings.  Plus, if you aren't accustomed to the world of Senran Kagura, some of the racier aspects might be startling.  The game itself is decent, but I don't think it would convert anyone not into the series.  If you are a Senran Kagura fan and rhythm games are not your thing, you can skip it and not miss out on any ongoing plot.  If you are interested, the game isn't very expensive unless you get it and the forthcoming expansion, plus, a lot of the Shinovi Versus DLC (free and otherwise) will also work in Bon Appetit.

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