Shinobi Refle: Senran Kagura bounces onto the Switch for a short but sweet adventure
The Senran Kagura franchise has been around for a few years now. And those familiar with its beginnings will know of the earlier games that came onto the PlayStation 4 and handhelds as somewhat of a niche; an adaptation of a unique manga show that left us wondering “Is the West ready for this?”. Fast-forward to late Summer 2017 when fans of the series were treated to Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash – a solid and enjoyable run-and-gun which sold remarkably well in the United States. Judging by its success, it seems the series’ bubbly cherubs had finally bounced themselves from a niche to a somewhat mainstream status.
Now, here we are in the last part of 2017, and it looks like Marvellous is dealing us one last treat for the year. Shinobi Refle: Senran Kagura has come to the Nintendo Switch – yes, the Switch – in what is looking like a show of a more modern “laissez-faire” approach to letting developers set their own standards, Nintendo has allowed the jiggling, poking, prodding and all of the associated debaucheries that we all know and love from the other games within the franchise. However, its only fair to point out that this game is only available in the Japanese Switch eShop, which requires a Japanese account and a 1,000 Yen Nintendo e-shop card. Jumping through these few hoops will yield you your own download of the smiling, albeit unintelligible (all text is in Japanese) Asuka with her array of different outfits.
Gently Does It
Much of the game is based on the concept of touch. We start with a gypsy style palm reading/hand rub to select your outfit of choice before heading off to give Asuka a rub down. Those of you familiar with the franchise will remember the “grabby hands” from the previous games’ dressing room. Well, in this installment, they are used as a tool in the gameplay rather than a seedy side quest of groping for uncomfortable giggles in the locker room. Using the Joy-Cons and the gradual use of the thumbsticks you can stroke, massage and caress Asuka to where your love-o-meter reaches its peak before you finish up and collect your prize.
Much of the activity with the grabby hands is color based – grab and grope the arms for an orange highlight, rubbing the thighs may yield a purple, and anything in-between (quite literally!) will let you check off the remaining five colors. Gain some new massage tools as you progress for a few different variations on how to flick your Joy-Cons to make your girl happy. Check off the colors from enough of the costumes to finish the jigsaw puzzle pendant and you can sit back feeling all warm and fuzzy as you cue the credits.
There are a few other options within the game, with the main one being the wet t-shirt room. You can select the underwear, choose the style of white shirt and go to town with your hose until the shirt becomes transparent. Without the ability to read Japanese I’m not sure how this fits into the main body of the game but I’m alright with no explanation. No, really I am. It’s OK…
Cheap But Oh So Cheerful
Based upon the game’s 1,000 Yen (approximately $10) price tag, we have to take it for granted that the game is not going to provide weeks of new gameplay. It will, however, involve many repeated scenarios of touching, rubbing, and massaging to unlock new swimsuits and pictures. This concept of repeated grinding away for new items is one that is all too familiar to fans of the franchise.
We also have to acknowledge that this game isn’t intended for the western market and we have to forgo the quirky dialogue of the Senran Kagura girls. Maybe you can make up your own dialogue in your head based on scenarios from previous games, but there will be no Katsuragi bringing the conversation down with her one-track mind. For the record, Katsuragi is not in this game. As a first venture for the franchise on the Nintendo Switch, we can only assume “one step at a time” was the approach taken here.
Short But Sweet
Shinobi Refle: Senran Kagura makes great use of the Switch hardware’s various bells and whistles. From the HD rumble of the massager to the use of the unique Joy-Cons to administer leg rubs and such, one thing you cannot call this game is linear. As much we can imagine Shigeru Miyamoto shaking his head, I think he would be hard-pressed to not admit that the game is much more suited to the versatility of the switch better than some of the 10+-year-old console ports of late. However, the game is quite short. That being said, two or three hours should be more than enough to grind through enough leg massages to get you to the end.
For a fan of the series with ten dollars to spare, this would be a good way too while away a few hours with Asuka. I enjoyed the uniqueness of my playthrough even though I missed the dialogue which really does define the characters in previous games in the series. But as a framework for more things to come, I believe Marvelous could do some great things with what they have developed so far.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment ; Developer: Honey Parade Games ; Players: 1 ; Released: November 24, 2017 ; CERO: D ; MSRP: ¥ 1,000
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Shinobi Refle: Senran Kagura