Now you’re cooking with Vaseline
Just a month after Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus (read my review here) pummeled its way across the Vita, the series’ buxom battlers have returned for another risque foray on Sony’s handheld. However, rather than another clash of blades, cleavage, and racy innuendos, the lethal kunoichi have sheathed their swords and slipped on their oven mitts to deliver a hearty platter of sexually-charged ninja rhythm cooking action. If that combination of words made your brain hurt a bit, don’t worry; Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! is much more a hamburger than a than a wildly exotic dish. More specifically, its a hamburger stacked high with heaving breasts, double entendres, and more phallic puns than you can wrap your mouth around.
Contrary to the cooking theme, you won’t actually be dicing an meat and veggies in Bon Appétit!. Instead, you’ll be cutting a rug as you tap to the rhythm in ten different songs. In typical Guitar Hero and Parappa the Rappa fashion, the gameplay consists of you paying attention to inputs as they progress down two scrolling bars at the bottom of the screen. You’ll have to press the corresponding face and directional buttons as they line up with the center of the throwing star at the far left of the screen. Of course, you’ll also have to hold notes, tap a set button a number of times within a certain window, and perform multiple button combinations at once as the songs get more and more complicated. Which is easier said than done, especially on the game’s harder difficulty modes which feature an obscene amount of complicated button presses that are sure to test the skills of even the most coordinated rhythm game veterans.
Each bout is divided into three rounds, each concluding with Master Hanzo sampling a portion of the dish you’re preparing. If you’ve managed to successfully land enough button presses to keep your meter at the top of the screen over 50%, you’ll win the round. The chef with the inferior dish is punished by having their clothes ripped to tatters, eventually revealing their entire shamed physique (save for their nipples and downstairs bits, which are masked in what can only be described as heavenly vaginal light and chibified pasties). However, it’s easy to lose ground as inputs avalanche in growing complexity down the line. Thankfully, once you’ve successfully performed enough consecutive taps you can activate your ninja technique with the tap of the L or R button, which acts as an ever-increasing score multiplier that lasts until you miss an input.
If you achieve a perfect victory during your bout of culinary combat you’ll be awarded with a scene of your rival sprawled erotically over an elaborately arranged desert. While some may savor the sickeningly sweet sight of their bested opponent served up à la mode, I found it to be mostly creepy, and take away from the overall solid experience.
The meat and potatoes of Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit‘s main course is the game’s story mode. The delightfully pervy Master Hanzo organizes an epic cooking battle to create the Super Dish, a legendary meal of epic proportions. Hanzo promises the winner of this scandalous Iron Chef-inspired cook-off a truly marvelous prize: a special ninja scroll with the paper to grant any wish its owner desires. Of course, it’s all really just a ruse organized by Hanzo to leer at the tournament’s contestants in their skimpiest of culinary garments, but who are we to judge? In the game’s story mode, players choose from one of the game’s 10 starting characters and progress through the ranks by squaring off a handful of students from the Hanzo and Crimson Squad ninja academies. The stories, presented in visual novel style cutscenes between cooking bouts are garish in their brashness (even putting Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus to shame in their raunchy delivery), but if you’re a fan of the series this will likely do little to shy you away from the game.
Of course, if you don’t feel like sitting through the game’s decidedly tasteless story you can trim the fat you can just jump straight into Bon Appétit’s arcade mode for a quick and greasy fast food fix. This mode is essentially the same as the arcade mode, putting you against six chefs in addition to a final boss battle. This mode is great fun and perfect if you’re just in the mood to get in a few quick rounds of racy rhythm action. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to unlock any bonus characters or accessories to deck out your Sautéing schoolgirl samurai in this mode, as those goodies are reserved exclusively to the game’s story segments.
What’s mind boggling is developer Meteorise’s decision not to include a multiplayer component in Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit!, especially considering just how enjoyable Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus’ online skirmishes proved to be. Competitive play is always the most enjoyable way to tackle a rhythm game, and the lack of multiplayer support definitely works to Bon Appétit‘s detriment, squandering the potential for what could have been a welcome way to experience the game in a genre the Vita is sorely lacking.
On the visual front, Bon Appétit! unsurprisingly shares quite a few assets from the aforementioned Shinovi Versus. Hell, you can even import characters and accessories you’ve purchased in Marvelous and Tamsoft’s beat ’em up into the game. Thankfully, the gorgeous cell shaded models look as great as ever in Bon Appétit!, and the number of different cooking activities and over-the-top effects displayed on screen all look consistently vibrant and fantastic. However, it would have been nice to see a few more kitchens featured in this battle of mitts, as the game only features a meager two settings to strut your savory stuff in. However, with DLC already planned to release in a few weeks, the number of cooking locales will likely be further expanded.
Probably the biggest disappointment in Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! would be the game’s soundtrack, which is a mix of unremarkable marches, traditional Japanese instrumental pieces and J-Pop that proves to be more starchy filler than a sumptuous feast for the ears. While there are a few tracks that will grab your attention (Hikage’s in particular is a treat for the ears), they seldom reach the quality of other genre contemporaries, which is a shame. Thankfully, none of the tracks within are especially bad, but most will likely be forgotten after you’ve moved on to the next song.
Ultimately, if you’re a fan of rhythm games then your choices are pretty slim on the Playstation Vita. With the release of Persona 4: Dancing All Night postponed until early next year, Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! might just be the best choice for players dying to eat their fill of the genre sorely missing from Sony’s handheld’s menu. While the lack of multiplayer support and lackluster soundtrack may spoil your appetite, the wealth of unlockable content, abundant playable characters, and formidable challenge tucked into to XSEED and Meteorise’s musical casserole combine to serve up a tasty meal that should sate the hunger of those with an immature palette and sense of humor just fine.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Playstation Vita (Reviewed); Publisher: XSEED Games; Developer: Meteorise; Players: 1 ; Released: November 11, 2014; Genre: Rhythm; MSRP: $14.99
Note: This review is based on a PSN review copy provided by the game’s publisher, XSEED Games.