A face-smashing, button-popping good time.
You’d be forgiven if, at least at first glance, you overlooked Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus as just another dose of sweaty-palmed fan service. Marvelous and Tamsoft’s new musou brawler is rife with pendulous teenage pugilists, out-of-control upskirts, and breast physics that are so outrageous they could make Hironobu Itagaki himself blush. The game certainly looks the part of something you’d see being peddled by a shifty looking man in a long overcoat, eager to entice you with his unsavory wares.
However, tucked deep within the heaving bosom of this sexualized slugfest like a fat stack of sweaty Washingtons lies a surprisingly deep and fluid fighter that belies the title’s raunchy and shallow surface.
Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus begins with players picking from one of several shinobi schools. From there, you’ll play as a variety of each dojo’s top-heavy kunoichi as you progress through the main story, which has each school participating in a grueling battle royale, or you can choose to embark on a series of side quests which delve deeper into each of the game’s 20 playable character’s (which include such classics as a demonic Buddhist valley girl and a gothic lolita packing a mighty phallic howitzer between her legs) back stories. Once on the field, gameplay plays something like a mash-up of Dynasty Warriors and Capcom’s fan-favorite fighter, Power Stone. Players run around a small arena, pummeling hordes of faceless female ninjas with light and heavy attacks, performing devastating aerial juggles, and flashy combos as they eventually progress to the stage’s boss character. From here things get more interesting, as the goal of these bouts is to slash, shred, (and occasionally drop a hot load of pancakes upon) your foe until both their pride and clothing are in tatters, effectively defeating them. However, both you and your adversaries have the ability to perform Shinovi Transformations, which fully restore your naked ninja’s ratty threads with a new, often hyper-sexualized outfit complete with new, devastating attacks.
Speaking of attacks, in addition to the requisite smacks, slashes, lunges, and projectile attacks, the full-bodied femme fatales of Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus can also execute devastating “Shinobi Arts,” which have the seam-shredding power to turn most any garment to a worthless pile of threads in no time. To utilize these mighty stripping maneuvers you’ll need to spend scroll power, which you accrue during combat, and from collecting pickups scattered across the game’s arenas. Learning when to make use of both your Shinovi Transformations and Shinobi Arts is key mastering the game’s surprisingly lengthy story modes, which feature some truly aggressive opponents just itching to pop your buttons and leave you broken on the floor.
In addition to the game’s single player experience, Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus also features a surprisingly robust suite of online modes which range from your typical deathmatch brawls to a strip battle, which has players fighting for points as they attempt to shred one another’s clothing. Most interestingly, however, is the hilariously titled “Understorm” mode, which has players running rampant trying to collect underwear as they rain down from the sky. Each of these modes perform great in both ad hoc and online matches, and the fast and frenetic bouts begin to feel like a potent cocktail of Power Stone, Silicone, and methamphetamine when they hit their stride, creating a multiplayer experience with more addictive potential than candy-coated bacon.
When you’ve had your fill of cracking skulls and snatching heavenly undergarments you can spend your hard-earned fight money on a staggering amount of clothes and accessories to outfit your characters. From the typical schoolgirl attire to military fatigues, casino garb, and, of course, cat-girl costumes, to racy lingerie and assorted hairstyles, there is a veritable smorgasbord of gear you can use to change the appearance of your characters. If you’ve ever wanted to play dress-up with a wide array of supernaturally slutty schoolgirls, Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus delivers.
Unfortunately, not everything in this risque rumble stacks up to the cast’s outrageous measurements. As is to be expected in games of this variety, the camera can become very uncooperative when the game is at its most heated, oftentimes leaving you struggling to figure out where you are amidst a flurry of particle effects, repetitious enemies, and low, vision-impairing ceilings. A lock-on feature helps, but it can be difficult to target exactly who you’d like when in the thick of it. Additionally, fighting the same old handful of identical foes gets stale after awhile, adding a few more enemy types would have gone a long way towards making the game’s waves of identical cannon-fodder a bit more memorable. Of course, the game’s fearsome kunoichi are the stars of the show, and they more than make up for the faceless drones that make up an admittedly small part of the overall experience. Lastly, it’s worth noting that the load times are pretty serious in this Vita-exclusive brawler, which can become burdensome when forced to repeat a particularly challenging encounter over and over again.
On the visual front Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus shines. Featuring rich, vibrant colors, silky-smooth character animation, and gorgeous character models who pack a stunning array of small details into their designs and extravagant costumes, the game is a feast for the eyes. The game’s lush cell shaded visuals do a fantastic job of bringing the game’s characters to life, and the animations for their Shinobi Arts look fantastic, offering a highly stylized look at some impressive special effects and obscene, Jello-esque chest physics. The game also features a catchy soundtrack, and, while the game may only feature Japanese spoken dialog, it’s admirably performed, with character’s voices fitting their in-game personae like a glove.
Playstation Vita owners looking for a solid beat-’em-up would be well suited to pick up Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus. While the game’s almost incomprehensible level of fan service is sure to scare away some, the game’s deep and rewarding fighting system and veritable mountain of content tucked away into this tiny cartridge should be enough to satisfy even the most jaded fan of digital slugfests. If you’ve got a good sense of humor and are looking for some mindless fun, Marvelous and Tamsoft have crafted one bountiful and bouncy brawler you’re bound to enjoy. Just be sure to pick up something for motion sickness before you play, you’ll need it if you hope to withstand this battle royale’s unrivaled undulations.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Playstation Vita (Reviewed); Publisher: XSEED Games; Developer: Marvelous, Tamsoft; Players: 1-4 ; Released: October 14, 2014; Genre: Action; MSRP: $49.99
Note: This review is based on a PSN review copy provided by the game’s publisher, XSEED Games.