Those are some pretty fresh ingredients
The Senran Kagura series has quite a reputation by now, I’d say. Come on, could you name another series that displays such a delicate balance between life and hometown? Probably not! With everything that the series has built itself up to be it was only a matter of time before the spinoff games started popping up, and that time has finally come… again… with Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course! Originally released on the PlayStation Vita back in November of 2014 (you can check out our review of that version right here!) as Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit!, and following in the footsteps of Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, Full Course has finally opened up shop on Steam. I hope that you’re hungry, because it’s time to eat! …This review! …By reading it! That was bad, I’m sorry. Just keep reading.
Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course follows a tournament set up by legendary Shinobi (and pervert extraordinaire) Hanzō, who also happens to be the grandfather of Senran Kagura protagonist Asuka. While the prize for the tournament – a Ninja Scroll capable of granting any wish – is certainly a reward befitting of a Shinobi, the tournament itself isn’t quite what you’d expect. No, there won’t be any clashing of weapons on the battlefield or life-and-death scenarios this time around – because it’s a cooking tournament! Yep, that’s right, a wish-granting Ninja Scroll is being handed out as a prize for a cook-off by a legendary Shinobi. Even the nonsensical nature of the tournament isn’t enough to scare off any of the Senran Kagura cast however, and soon enough each Shinobi-in-training is cooking like their life depended on it. This series certainly never fails to amuse, does it?
Okay, so, let’s make a list of what’s going on so far in Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course. We have a bunch of Shinobi. In scantily-clad outfits. In a cooking competition. And the prize is a wish-granting scroll. Pretty obscure, right? Well it’s time to add on yet another layer of obscurity because, despite both the name and theme of this game being about cooking, it’s actually a rhythm game. No, really, it is.
While the Vita version of Bon Appétit only featured the 10 girls from the Hanzō National Academy and Homura’s Crimson Squad (with the option of purchasing extra characters as DLC), players can expect to get a bigger helping of content with the PC version. Rebranded as Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course, this newly-released version comes with every bit of previously-released DLC already included and bumps number of characters – and thus the number of tracks as well – from 10 to 22. It also adds other stuff like additional costumes and underwear for the characters, but I doubt anyone buying this game cares about that.
Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course, in contrast with its outrageous and risqué themes, is fairly standard and straightforward in terms of actual gameplay, with players pressing specified buttons scrolling along the two lines on-screen in time to the music (I’m sure most of you know what a rhythm game is, but an exploitation can’t hurt). Each level is set up as a one-on-one competition between your chosen Shinobi and an AI-controlled opponent (sorry, no multiplayer). The dish being prepared and the song playing during each competition are determined by your opponent. Because of this somewhat ironic twist, if you end up becoming partial to a particular song (or food, I guess), then it’s advised to never play as that character.
I’ve got to give props where props are due; Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course ended up doing really well in terms of difficulty. The Easy and Medium modes provided a great warm-up, and the Hard mode managed to present to me an experience that was quite challenging without ever becoming absolutely ridiculous. Performing well during the level also ensures a higher-quality meal for culinary judge Hanzō, and for me this was one of the best parts. Upon tasting the winning dish Hanzō completely freaks out, usually commenting on the incredible flavor and texture while performing some kind of crazy action on top of a giant version of said dish. Despite Senran Kagura’s focus on anime babes, this game paid a lot of attention to animating scenes of an old man freaking out over food – and it was incredibly amusing to watch. Of course, being a part of the Senran Kagua series, Full Course had to find a way to sex up the cooking in some way or another and, well, they did. If watching an old man dance around and cry isn’t your thing, getting through levels with near-perfect accuracy will net you an additional scene. I won’t ruin it for you, but I’ll tell you that involves the opponent you just beat and a whole lot of whipped cream.
I feel like I’ve given Full Course quite a bit of praise so far, which is good because it deserves it. With that being said, this game isn’t perfect. Full Course definitely has its faults and, though they may be few, they’re pretty noticeable and both about the same thing – the music. Music has always been incredibly important to me when it comes to video games, but I generally don’t let a middling-to-bad soundtrack impact the way I look at a game too much. Seeing that Full Course is a rhythm game, however, I feel like it’s substantially more pertinent.
Cute and quirky as the game may be overall, I was pretty disappointed in the number of tracks that Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course had to offer despite the inclusion of all previous Bon Appétit! DLC. I mean for a game about gigantic proportions (of food, duh, get your mind out of the gutter), I would liken the track list more to something like a big appetizer, or a lunch-sized meal. It was there, and it was noticeable, but it just wasn’t enough. Considering that each of the 22 character had hear own story, and each story consisted of several rounds, you’re going to be hearing each of those songs quite a bit. Now, that wouldn’t be so bad if all of the songs were totally jammin’ – I’d be fine playing a rhythm game with 5 songs if they were all top-notch – but that just wasn’t the case.
None of tracks in Full Course were bad; not a single one. Unfortunately, none of the tracks were particularly stellar either. I’ve never sat down with a rhythm game and said to myself “man, all of these songs had better be amazing or I’m going to be so mad”, because that isn’t fair. So long as a rhythm game has at least one or two songs that I can totally get into, I’m completely happy. I didn’t find that with Full Course, though. Featuring an OST primarily comprised of oddly-upbeat versions of classical pieces and traditional Japanese-style songs, with the occasional J-Pop piece thrown in, Full Course left me wanting more in terms of musical quality. This was especially frustrating due to the fact that the actual gameplay itself is quite good. That’s just my opinion, though. I’m incredibly scrutinizing when it comes to music. While I don’t think that people will have any of the songs stuck in their heads, I have a feeling that the OST will suit most people just fine; especially considering what’s going on on-screen.
Graphically, Full Course was pretty close to Shinovi Versus in terms of quality. Some of the textures were watered down a little bit this time around, but there really wasn’t anything major to complain about. The game presented itself nicely overall, and a lot of the Super Dish foods looked absolutely delicious.
Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course’s unique rhythm game recipe may not add up to a 5-star gaming experience, but it’s certainly still quite appetizing. What it lacks somewhat in actual musical quality, Full Course makes up for in legitimately challenging gameplay, decent replayability, and that unashamedly in-your-face Senran Kagura charm that we’ve all grown to love (or tolerate).
FINAL VERDICT: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc. ; Developer: Meteorise ; Players: 1 ; Released: November 10, 2016 ; MSRP: $29.99
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a PC review copy of Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course provided by the publisher.