Thursday, October 16, 2014
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus (Vita) Review
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus picks up six months after the ending of Senran Kagura Burst, a 3DS game. It introduces a new shinobi school, Gessen Academy, and a new crew for the evil Hebijo, since the previous elites have gone rogue. Of course, the fan service the game is built upon is in full force, and maybe even a little more risque.
While the 3DS game, Burst, is more of a side scrolling action game (think Final Fight or Streets of Rage), Shinovi Versus is more of a 3D hack and slash (think Dynasty Warriors or Sengoku Basara). Thankfully, blocking has been added, making some fights a lot easier (yes, you strangely couldn't block in the 3DS one, even though the enemies could). Attacking and moving just feel a little better and more fluid than before. The only real downside is that it can be much harder to keep track of your opponents. Before, they mostly stayed on one screen, but now they can easily attack from offscreen or even behind you.
The biggest thing the Senran Kagura series is known for is the fan service. Most of the girls have big chests that bounce around a lot, and in combat, damage can get your clothes ripped off. Since the bosses are all playable characters, they, too, can shed their clothing as you damage them. Now, if you finish off a boss with a super move while they are in their underwear (top or bottom), it will shred that. They won't be totally nude, since there will be little chibi faces covering their top, or a streak of light covering their bottom if you do it. Ironically, some of these cover up more than the underwear they replace. Yeah, not everyone is going to like this aspect (it doesn't bother me at all), but at least the game is upfront with its focus.
Last game, ranged enemies and characters were easily the most annoying, because you couldn't block their attacks. Now, they can still be really annoying (Yagyu in the air being the main offender), but notably less so. The AI overall is much more aggressive, and chase you down whenever you escape their attacks. This makes them all harder than the previous game, but they didn't feel cheap or unfair (except maybe Asuka's strong attack). Still, it can get annoying when you are just trying to air recover and escape, only to have the boss and their minions hound you incessantly. Another cool addition is the midair fights. Previously, when you launched a boss, you could follow them up and pile on extra damage with little resistance. Now, if the launcher person recovers fast enough and attacks as the other is, it enters a clash where you have to button mash to win. It's pretty fun, but there ended up being too many of those toward the end of each school's story mode.
From the outset, there are now three schools to choose from and go through their story. Plus, you can unlock another group from the previous game, bringing the total to four groups of five girls, meaning there are twice as many characters as last time. The returning characters have been tweaked as well, which benefits most of them (especially Hibari). Sadly, I felt like Katsuragi was changed a bit for the worse, but it could be because she was my favorite to use in Burst. Most of the new characters are just as good as the old, but I feel like each school still get at least one character that isn't that good. I'm sure it's personal preference, as someone will undoubtedly love a character I don't, and dislike the ones I do. I guess the point of this is that no one felt out of place. They were all usable, and the new characters fit in perfectly.
One of the surprises of the previous game was how much story and character growth they had, and Shinovi Versus continues this. A lot of the story is told through on-screen text with some spoken dialogue (in Japanese). If you are willing to pay attention to it, it's actually good, and you see growth and depth in many of the characters. Sadly it's easy for people to completely ignore it, since they will dismiss the game out of hand. I'm not saying the story is the reason to buy this game, but it's actually done well, and better than many AAA games that I've played.
Content wise, there's also a lot of stages in the game. Four playable schools with 24 or 25 stages each adds up to 97 story stages. Each character also has their own mini story of 5 stages. That's 100 more stages. Even if each stages only takes a few minutes, counting story and loading, you'll get around 30 hours just to get through everyone's story. This will also net you most of the trophies, since the list is pretty standard. Expect trophies for story completion, purchasing costume pieces and other similar things. The stage areas themselves aren't super interesting, but I was usually paying attention to the enemies, so I wasn't bothered by them getting reused a lot.
Supposedly, the draw, or at least unique aspect, of this entry in the series is the versus mode. Ad-hoc and online are both supported. While this would be cool to some, I feel it's unnecessary. It tried the modes out because thankfully you can put bots in the empty slots instead of waiting around for someone (I had the game before release so it would be even harder to find a game). There are three modes, but they all feel the same. There are four people, so you just pick an opponent and keep fighting them. You could switch targets, but there's little point unless it's the down time between respawns. One mode has you attack each other for points, and another gives points for knocking their clothes off. The third sounds different, as you collect underwear. However, since getting hit knocks some out of you, you just sit there and hit each other. I have no doubt there are people who will love the versus modes, and play it with their friends, but it still feels tacked on. Thankfully, it can be ignored (save for 3 easy trophies that only require participation, not winning) and it doesn't seem to have affected the main game.
I really like Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus. It's a fun hack and slash with lots of fast-paced ninja action. It revels in its fanservice and doesn't shy away from its risque nature. If that doesn't bother you, or you enjoy that, I'd recommend playing the game. The story is better and more developed than most people would give it credit for, and there are a lot of stages to conquer. The versus mode is forgettable, but overall I had a lot of fun playing the game. I'm also eagerly awaiting the two DLC characters that should be coming out soon.