After having played most games within the Senran Kagura franchise, I assumed that I pretty much knew everything about Peach Beach Splash before even diving into it. I figured that I would be in for yet another wild, over-the-top adventure, filled with plenty of action, tons of clever-yet-tasteless jokes, and a level of fan service so great that it pushes the limits of what one could consider “acceptable” within even an M-Rated game. And, of course, I was right. The game absolutely had everything that I imagined it would. But there was also one more thing that it had. Something that, although admittedly not the main reason people are drawn to a game like this, is still incredibly important; quality.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that this is the first game in the series to feature quality gameplay. On the contrary, I’ve found all Senran Kagura games to perform excellently comes to gameplay. But this game still manages to outdo its predecessors. Despite being a spin-off, Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash undoubtedly takes the quality of gameplay within the series to new and exciting heights. It also, undoubtedly, takes the raunchiness to new heights. And, seeing as though Senran Kagura thrives on the lewdness of its bouncing beauties, I’d say that that’s a win-win all around.
Peach Beach Splash may be a confidently shameless attempt to feature dozens of anime girls jumping around in bikinis, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s sans story! The game’s narrative surrounds the events of the latest Peach Beach Splash. An ancient Shinobi tradition, the Peach Beach Splash is a tournament which welcomes Shinobi from all walks of life — and even Shinobi who may no longer be living — and promises to reward the victor with anything they desire. There’s one major catch, however, that separates Peach Beach Splash from other Shinobi traditions — the use of weapons and Arts are strictly prohibited. Instead, the only the only things combatants can use to mow down the competition are water guns.
I’m going to tell you something; Peach Beach Splash‘s story isn’t terribly serious. A lot of the dialogue tends to center around boobs, and/or getting wet… with water, I mean. It may however come as a surprise to hear that the game does actually have its serious moments. In fact, most Senran Kagura games do. You just have to dig through the game a little bit in order to find it. Throughout the myriads of giggles and jiggles, Peach Beach Splash contains some legitimately emotional parts. Dialogue about doing what it takes to survive, or finding the appropriate way to live your own life without hurting those you love. Although I do appreciate the over-the-top cheekiness contained in a good 90% of this game’s story, I can also appreciate the fact that it interlaces things with a bit of real talk here and there.
I’m aware that most of you aren’t here for heart-warming tales of love and friendship, though. You want crude humor and lewd jokes, right? Well you’re in luck, because Peach Beach Splash has plenty of that, too. Every time a new Senran Kagura game comes out, I always say to myself “there’s no way that this could get even more pervy.” And every time I’m proven wrong. Senran Kagura always seems to excel at what it does, and Peach Beach Splash is no exception. And the fact that the franchise’s several dozen supple Shinobi are in nothing more than revealing swimsuits for the entirety of the game only serves to enhance the special kind of questionable writing that you’ve come to love and expect from the series by now.
Lock and Load
Rather than falling in-line with the hack-and-slash Senran Kagura norm, Peach Beach Splash presents itself as a team-based, third-person-shooter (splasher?). This means that a lot of its gameplay deviates from what Senran Kagura fans may be used to. In fact, it’s way more akin to something along the lines of being a sexed-up Splatoon (which is a really weird phrase, now that I think about it) than anything else. Being a shooter, your goal is to take down your opponents while making sure that you don’t get taken down yourself. In that sense, it’s similar to most other shooters out there. Things start to change after that, though.
One of the major things that sets Peach Beach Splash apart from other shooters is the fact that your frequent firefights are actually water fights. In lieu of traditional ammo, your guns have a water reserve which depletes as you shoot and use your water jets to jump and dash. And, while that might not sound too out-of-the-ordinary from the get-go, it doesn’t take long to see the difference it makes. Water reserves are pretty small overall. And, depending upon what gun you’re using, the number of shots you can take before needing to reload is even smaller. This isn’t a huge deal in every situation, but it can make close-range fighting very tricky if you aren’t careful. Fortunately, reloading is fast and free. This means that the only thing you ever have to worry about when it comes to reloading is when to do it.
Friendly fire is also a core component in this game. And this time, it actually lives up to the term “friendly”! Rather than damaging you, any splish-splashing from allies builds up your character’s Soak Gauge. Once completely maxed out, your character enters a “Soaking Wet Power-Up” mode, temporarily giving you unlimited ammo.. er… water. Since entering this mode requires help from your allies, this can be tough to pull off in single-player modes. The AI tends not to focus on that kind of thing. It’s a whole different ballgame in online play, however, which adds a refreshing extra level of strategic depth.
Now, let’s move onto the guns themselves. Despite being a water gun fight, Peach Beach Splash does offer a number of different firearms (water arms?) for your splashing pleasure. Most of these are actually pretty similar to what you would find in other shooters, and include things like pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns, and more. Each gun comes with two modes of fire. Most of the time, this just adds up to something along the lines of “extra power vs extra ammo”. Certain guns, however, come with unique functions — such as the ability to lay traps. There seems to be a good level of balance in-between all of them. It was hard deciding which one I liked using the best!
If Beach Beach Splash still doesn’t strike you as being unique, then what if I told you that there was also a deck-building element? It’s true! In order to truly become a Peach Beach Splash champion, you need both killer aim and killer cards. And no, for those of you worrying, there isn’t any microtransaction nonsense. Any and all cards you earn (and trust me, you’ll be earning a lot of them), are done so through gameplay. Peach Beach Splash offers plenty of opportunities to rip open new boosters by beating levels. The harder the challenge, the better the booster. And, if you’ve got any leftover zenni, you can also buy boosters via the in-game shop!
Each deck is made up of three different kinds of cards (four, if you include your character, I suppose) — weapon, pet, and skill. Weapon cards are exactly that — weapons. Each weapon card represents a different kind of water gun. This means that equipping a weapon card is basically akin to equipping the weapon itself. Pet cards summon pets (ie familiars) into battle. Most pets fly beside you for a limited time, either attacking nearby enemies, or providing passive buffs. There are a fewer more… extravagant pets out there, however, like giant, ride-able mechs. Regardless of what you’re taking into battle though, all pets end up being useful.
Skill cards are probably the most notable of the bunch. Serving as this game’s version of Ninja Arts, skill cards allow players to pull off a number of unique offensive, defensive, buff, and debuff skills. There are over 100 skill cards in total, which is a little intimidating at first, but but they quickly become easy to sort through after some practice. Rather than all providing individual skills, many skill cards actually utilize the same skill, although with different levels of power — such as Yozakura cards unleashing a barrage of close-range melee attacks, and so on. Skill cards also come with varying degrees of rarity, ranging from one to five stars. Rarer cards are, obviously, stronger.
Peach Beach Splash offers plenty of cards for players to use. None of them are ever too powerful at first, though. That’s where enhancement come in! Rather than letting you stockpile dozens of the same card, Peach Beach Splash automatically places any and all duplicates you receive into an EXP pool. The rarer the duplicate, the more EXP they’re worth. These duplicates, in turn, are used to power up other cards. Everything — including your character, guns, pets, and skills — is capable of leveling up. Levels are, quite honestly, optional in the beginning, but they soon become necessary — especially during online play. Leveling up doesn’t actually take that much effort. You can accrue plenty of EXP just by playing the game normally! I can see this mechanic being a turn-off for those opposed to grinding, but I personally like it a lot.
If anime fan service isn’t your thing, this is a water gun fight you might want to avoid. But, I’m telling you right now, you’ll be missing out if you do. With Not only is Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash the wettest and wildest game in the franchise to date, but it also manages to be one of the most enjoyable and mechanically sound ones as well. And the fact that it manages to reach this new level of mechanical fortitude in a spin-off is all the more reason to applaud it.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), PS4 ; Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc. ; Developer: Tamsoft ; Players: 1 (Offline), 2 – 10 (Online) ; Released: March 7, 2018 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.