All the cheesecake, none of the feedback
I don’t really like to consider myself a connoisseur or a purveyor of adult-oriented games, despite what some of my friends may tell you. I do, however, enjoy their content when I do play them, and I can appreciate what the creators hoped to achieve when making them. I absolutely loved the evocation of Frank Frazetta’s artwork in Dragon’s Crown. I couldn’t stop laughing at the utter ridiculousness of watching the “adult” videos in the Yakuza series. I loved the overt flaunting of sexuality Bayonetta had. I can appreciate how many polygons 2B’s butt is made from in Nier: Automata. I laughed heartily when my wife played the “bonding” mini-games in Agarest War: Mariage.
Above all else though, I thoroughly appreciate the Senran Kagura series, and what Kenichiro Takaki has done to meld absurdly “ecchi” content with legitimately enjoyable games, memorable characters, and surprisingly good writing. From the fairly wide gamut of “adult” content I’ve encountered over the years, this series has always made me smile and laugh at how utterly ludicrous they are. Originally concocted solely as a desire to see what boobs would look like on a 3DS, the Senran Kagura series started out as a couple of beat-em-up games on the Nintendo handheld. The games tend to follow the stories of rivaling schools that house secret training groups for select students to become shinobi – carrying out assassinations, slaying demons, and more. Oddly enough, almost all of these shinobi are female, and the constant fighting does quite a lot to the condition of their wardrobes, resulting in quite a lot of “unique” shots that might make one consider playing these games in public view – depending on your social fortitude, anyways.
And now for something completely different
I know how you feel Asuka; that’s how I felt every time I started this game up.
Despite the ludicrous premise of these games, as mentioned earlier they actually have more substance than just being a rigorous display of polygonal cleavage and over the top lewdness. Though that might be the hook that draws most people in, the Senran Kagura games have always been a rather well constructed collection of games that house great gameplay, thoroughly well-written characters, and stories that actually manage to make you care about the characters. Though the core Senran Kagura games revolve around being “Musou” style beat-em-ups, there have been offshoot games that have tried to be something different, and for the most part have usually succeeded. Peach Beach Splash was a third person arena shooter that was essentially a naughty Splatoon clone. Bon Appetit was a rhythm game that revolved around a cooking competition, and Reflexions, recently released on the Nintendo Switch was…well, something pretty different.
When the Switch was announced, Kenichiro Takaki expressed interest in the “HD Rumble” feature of the Switch’s Joycons. Using the varying degrees of vibrations and motion controls, you could mimic a slew of different things. While Nintendo showed it off as being able to replicate things such as filling a cup with ice, Takaki was, of course, thinking of something completely different. Such as, could you simulate giving a girl a massage? According to Senran Kagura Reflexions, yes – yes you can.
Hand Holding? DEGENERACY.
Selecting scenarios is tied to touching different points on a girl’s hands. The lack of rumble feature makes it feel disconnected, though.
The core experience of Senran Kagura Reflexions boils down to being a massage simulator, for lack of a better description. There isn’t really much to delve into as the narrative is surprisingly light for a Senran Kagura game. You assume the role as a nondescript student of the school, and you run into one of five students from each of the different schools after class, and they’re worn out and tired from their day (one can assume from doing Shinobi-type things). They ask for your help to relax, and you oblige. The massages begin with a simple rubbing the palms of their hands, but eventually go into to full on thigh kneading (smacking?) and other…interesting options to choose from, each tailored around the subtle adjustability of the Switch’s HD Rumble feature and Joycon gyroscopic controls. The eventual goal is to be such a good masseuse (or reflexologist, as the game stems its name from.) that the girl you choose eventually ends up developing feelings for you.
Though it was a rather niche game in a decidedly niche series, XSEED has ported Senran Kagura Reflexions to Steam on PC. Though the game does benefit from higher fidelity visuals and PC based options, I have to admit that this port is missing a little something that makes it special. Unfortunately, it’s not REALLY a little something. The PC Port of Senran Kagura Reflexions lacks any rumble support (and of course gyro controls) – the core feature the Switch title was originally built around. It may be a little hard to see just how important the feature to making the game what it is actually is unless you sit down and play it, but I’ll do my best to describe it.
Some of the fantasy scenarios in Senran Kagura Reflexions are…pretty interesting to say the least.
As mentioned earlier, you meet with the girl of your choice in a classroom after school. After agreeing to help her relax, she reaches her hands out and has you rub them. Using your on-screen hand cursor, you can hold various point on both her hands and feel for her “pulse”. This is where the first gimmick built around rumble would show itself, but it’s absent in the port. Depending on where you hold her hand, it spawns a varying set of scenarios that follow, some more fantastic (or lewd, rather) than the others. Though I couldn’t quite figure out what would make one scene get selected over the other, I instantly felt the lack of rumble make a decidedly noticeable gap in the overall game experience.
After selecting a scenario, there is a small moment you and the girl you choose share dubbed “Imagination Scenarios”. In some cases, you’re still students but in a different area such as after gym putting equipment away. In others, you might be capturing her as a spy, getting lessons from an after-school tutor, or even a succubus paying you a…special visit at night. Either way, the discussion eventually ends up becoming oriented toward giving her a rub in some certain way. This is the point where not only does the game get fairly naughty, it also closely mimics the “Intimacy Mode” that other games had in their Dressing Room menus (also, it should sound familiar as that was the feature that was cut from the PS4 version of Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal). In this mode the goal is to get the girl you’ve chosen in the “mood” to get a full-on massage. Using your hands, you need to find her sweet spot and keep at it until things are right. Spots you can choose include the arms, legs, and – yes, her butt and boobs. Each spot gives off a different colored aura that tells you whether you’re hitting the right or the wrong spot, so figuring things out isn’t too terribly hard.
Brushie Brushie Brushie
You think this is silly? You haven’t seen anything yet.
Once you get to the actual massage portion of the game, it plays out exactly like a mini-game. The goal is to keep things in the “green” with your technique and massage her to the point that she really, REALLY likes it. You’ll know when that happens, trust me. You progressively unlock more options for helping the girl you’ve chosen to relax. First starting out with the thigh massage, then unlocking a roller, a soft brush, and eventually a “back massager” that you use on her stomach. There are even more silly options, but they’re locked behind DLC – as are four of the other five girls in the game. Asuka is the default, with Yumi, Yomi, Ryona, and Murasaki being the DLC characters.
Much like the scenario select segment, the missing rumble/gyro controls from these little mini-games really takes away what they were built around in the first place. Without those features, they just play off as silly cheesecake-tier mini-games without much substance to them. After completing each mini-game, a heart container slowly fills up and when it’s full, the girl falls for you. All told, you can complete a girl’s scenario in approximately thirty minutes. Depending on the scenario you get you might also unlock a game CG, some more decidedly naughty than the others. You can view these in the gallery, and there are a few for each girl to unlock.
Being a Senran Kagura game, I really, REALLY wanted to like this game more than I did. The utter ridiculousness surrounding almost the entirety of the game had me laughing and questioning whether or not I should leave the curtains open while playing. Unfortunately, the lack of the game’s core gimmicks in the port really makes it feel like it’s lacking a lot. Graphics-wise the game isn’t too resource-heavy as it ran pretty well on both my desktop and laptop, both of which are fairly outdated at this time. Unfortunately, even with settings maxed and anti-aliasing on there are still some minor jaggies on the character models. Controller support is seamless as well and makes playing the game easier, but the lack of rumble support still remains the primary issue with the game. The extra content such as the dress up and diorama modes add a tiny bit of playability too, but they’re not really all that different than what you’d find in a core Senran Kagura game to begin with. If you’ve played a Senran Kagura game before you’re not missing much there.
*Inner NCO Intensifies*
Look at that uniform and hair. Asuka is clearly out of regs here.
If you’re a truly devoted Senran Kagura fan, this might still land under your radar – but I would still recommend getting the Switch version (if you have one, that is) as that is perhaps the most “authentic” way to enjoy it. The upgraded visuals are nice, and everything being available in one complete package (albeit at $59.99) for the PC port is pretty convenient, but lacking what makes Senran Kagura Reflexions what it was in the first place really takes away from the overall experience. I got my laughs and questioned my life choices as I usually do with Senran Kagura games, but this time I was missing the features that tend to make me think “huh, that’s pretty cool”, and that’s very unfortunate.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Nintendo Switch; Publisher: Marvelous (XSEED); Developer: Marvelous; Players: 1; Released: June 24th, 2019 (PC), September 13th 2018 (Switch) ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $9.99 (Base Game) $59.99 (Heart’s Desire Bundle)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Senran Kagura Reflexions given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.