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  1. Developer: Tamsoft Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment Platform: PS4 Release Date: March 15, 2016 ESRB: M for Mature I go back and forth in regards to what I actually like about the Senran Kagura series. My original justification for getting into Senran Kagura Burst and Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus was actually their surprisingly decent character-driven storytelling (and their sweet music) in spite of their somewhat messy gameplay and excessive fanservice moments. But, it has become abundantly clear to me that storytelling is no longer a priority as revealed by the series moving forward. To illuminate this theory much more was Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson on 3DS, a game in which I had a lot of problems with both its gameplay and its near-nonexistent storytelling compared to previous titles. The newest game, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, continues the trend of exuberant fanservice and also drifts away from any attempts at meaningful storytelling. Still, to my surprise, it makes me enjoy it primarily because of the gameplay, almost in sharp contrast to its predecessors. I'll not beat around the bush. The setup in Estival Versus is basically like an anime beach episode of Senran Kagura... for an entire game. For the most part, it teleports the cast of characters (up until Shinovi Versus) to a bizarre island to participate in the Kagura Millennium Festival. Though there is a competition to destroy pillars that belong to other teams (while protecting their own to officially become a Kagura, which is like a badass when it comes to slaying yoma, or monsters), the characters find little drive to do much than mess around and soak in the sights while there. With the exception of the last two or so chapters of the story mode, you would be hard-pressed to find anything more serious than a multitude of perverted gags... like panty-eating, seriously. Which honestly makes most of the story mode not only fairly boring, but also pretty disappointing for series fans since it degrades characters that actually have solid backstories into perverted caricatures of themselves in Estival Versus and little else. I'm sure I'm not going to sell most people on the storytelling in Senran Kagura, even if I promise it was much better in earlier games. Of its predecessors, it is very clear that Estival Versus's gameplay is basically an improved version of the former Vita exclusive Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus. There are more characters, more stages (though, a few are seemingly recycled), some added mechanics, and a few other additions. As such, the gameplay has a very musou type of feel to combat as you mindlessly juggle enemies from the ground to the air with many flashy attacks. And honestly, it's pretty fun for the most part... if one can accept the copious amount of "fanservice" the title has in addition to the repetitive level design. Disintegrating clothing and lewdly depicted magical girl-ish transformations are very much a staple of the series at this point -- and you'll be seeing at lot of both in Estival Versus. Intentionally or not. Estival Versus goes even further with its perversion like the multitude unlockable lingerie clothing options, many fanservicey optional "girl's heart" missions (in addition to the main story), to the new "creative finishes" if you defeat a character close to a certain part of the environment to, uh, somehow make losing all of one's clothing mid-battle even more embarrassing. If there was any moment that one pondered if Senran Kagura didn't embrace its' hyperbolic fanservice, Estival Versus leaves zero room for interpretation For those who can overlook it, Estival Versus can be enjoyable in a mindless button-mashy way. The cast of playable characters is decently large (though, not close to the extent of something like Samurai Warriors 4: Empires) and with the transition to PS4 they look the best that they have ever been. Even if it was designed originally for Vita it holds up very well on PS4. It is weird how much quicker load times, a rock solid framerate in combat, and cleaned up character models go a long way in improving the whole experience. Still, because Estival Versus is a pretty direct successor to Shinovi Versus, it does also share some of its problems as well. For example, the camera still feels a bit too zoomed for an action game. While it is less of a problem compared to the previous handheld installments, if only because of much more screen real estate, the camera can lead to several clunky battle moments. The combat mechanics are also not particularly deep. Estival Versus may do a solid job at making the varied cast feel fresh with their very distinct character designs that usually have at least one unique gameplay gimmick, their actual moveset is rarely deeper than a few bread and butter combos (especially at lower levels.). It also does not help out that universal mechanics like parrying, usable items, and the newly added wall-running mechanic are not too practical in most fights, even less so in multiplayer. Speaking of that, multiplayer also returns. Most modes are inconsequential beyond their initial novelty, beyond being horribly unbalanced because of discrepancy caused by level-ups, but it is neat how modes like survival can allow you to work towards new outfits and level-ups too with fellow players. What is much more consistent is the soundtrack, as many character theme songs are back to being a real treat to listen to like they were in earlier games. Just like the eclectic cast of character designs the music plays with a ton of different musical styles. For the most part, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus attempts to embellish itself in shameless "fanservice", seemingly to the nth degree. Though it tries to be cheeky about it, it unfortunately goes as far as to bog down pretty much any and all attempts at storytelling for a series that at one point did earnestly attempt to prove otherwise . Where Estival Versus does succeed is providing a fun, mindless action romp that is stylish all the while. And, if that's all that you want, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus has more than got you covered... well, when it tries to do so. Pros: + Tons of playable characters, most of which are fun to play + Runs very smooth both in and out of combat with the stable framerate to quick load times (a sharp contrast from almost every previous handheld game) + Character models look great and show off some very cool looking attacks + Many character theme songs are a treat to listen to Cons: - Copious amounts of "fanservice" would be an understatement. - Storytelling is easily the weakest in main series and is obsessed with boring perverted gags throughout most of it - Combat is not particularly deep and does recycle some stages from Shinovi Versus - Repetitive mission design and occasional camera issues Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Though it may have basically tossed any attempts at being cerebral for the Senran Kagura series, from storytelling to characters, but for those who just want dumb fun and happen to not mind copious amounts of unapologetic "fanservice" with a killer soundtrack in the background then Estival Versus does certainly succeed on that front. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  2. Developer: Tamsoft Publisher: XSEED Games Platform: 3DS Release Date: September 15, 2015 ESRB: M for Mature At one point, I would have used the term "plot" to both ironically and unironically to describe previous Senran Kagura games. Now, Senran Kagura Burst on 3DS was most certainly a flawed game, but the sincerity of its plot, despite its "plot" (aka shameless "fanservice"), caused me to like it perhaps more than I should have. Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus on Vita was less to my liking, however. It was ultimately a better game than Burst, but the title embraced far more "plot", rather than real plot, and played more like a Musou game rather than a beat 'em up. The latest localized 3DS title, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, has basically made me forget what promise I saw in both of those games. It is a bigger, flashier title than the original Senran Kagura Burst, and returns to a beat 'em up formula, yet it feels lacking in so many ways. On paper, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson adds a fair bit to the series, especially in regards to variety (which was severely lacking in previous games). Everything from more unique enemy types to the more technical combat (... in theory) for the various characters, Deep Crimson clearly tries stand out with its second 3DS showing. The primary combat of the game is noticeably different from both Shinovi Versus and Burst, and sort of feels like a weird medium between the two. Though it is in complete 3D, like Shinovi Versus, Deep Crimson's combat itself plays more like a character-action game. Attacks feel like they are more designed to take out singular targets, rather than juggling entire groups at once like various Musou games. It also plays with visual perspective more. Whether this comes from quickly teleporting from the ground to beat up enemies floating mid-air or deliberately turning entire camera an entire level to give a side-scrolling feel, it feels less one-note than previous entries in general design. The most obvious new gameplay feature outright is that you can use two Shinobi at once in many battles. This goes as far as to have unique tag-team special moves for different characters pairs in addition to being able to swap between either of them on the fly (assuming they aren't incapacitated). To complement this addition more is the inclusion online multiplayer to play through various stages, from the lengthy main story or the huge level/costume unlock grind that is the Yoma's Den (there are A TON of costumes)... if you happen to find someone else willing to play this title proudly. I think where Deep Crimson broke for me the most is just how poorly balanced the actual combat is. It has what I would define as a Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge complex. It often feels like the title deliberately punishes you for trying to play it properly. For example, basic gameplay things like attack hitboxes outright whiffing, enemies randomly countering you mid-combo, or some enemy skills being pretty much unavoidable (without the invincibility of using super attacks, at least) makes standard combat frustrating. I could go on a separate rant about the suicidal ally AI or the awful camera (for side-scrolling stages in particular) too, but just take my word that both are rather poor. There were many fights where I simply fought exploiting the enemy's aggressive AI patterns, rather than trying to play the game properly with finesse or even fun, simply to progress the main story (since victories often felt random otherwise). As implied before, I do actually secretly try to play Senran Kagura games for their stories, or... rather I did at one point. Not because the stories themselves were particularly amazing in previous games but because their focus on character-development was handled better than you would expect. Deep Crimson's story, however, is essentially a rather pointless interlude between Burst and Shinovi Versus. It is a drawn out story arc around the newcomers Kagura and Naru, neither of the two being particularly interesting or do very much throughout. It also has far less exposition between fights, making most of them feel entirely unnecessary and unnecessarily frequent. If you want an idea of how pointless the narrative is for this title, roughly 1/5 of the main story takes place in a hot spring. To continue my disappoint with the title, the soundtrack isn't nearly as good as the previous two games (let's pretend Bon Appetit doe not exist when I say that.). It is not bad per say, but nowhere near as rhythmically interesting, or varied overall. A lot of the musical themes feel like half-step remixes of previous releases than anything else. Of course, it would be disingenuous to not talk about the visuals too, which actually have seen a huge step up from its previous 3DS showing. Exaggerated bouncing physics and exploding costumes aside, there is a striking fluidity to the presentation in general. The surprisingly flashy cutscene cinematics makes this most apparent whereas previous games were generally carried by visual novel-esque scenes and little else. The 3DS's 3D toggle may be next to useless during actual gameplay (since it throws off depth perception) but otherwise in-motion Deep Crimson may very well be one of the better looking titles on the small handheld screen. Though Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson boasts the first true sequel moniker to the series, it unfortunately feels like an unnecessary interlude as a whole. It sacrifices pretty much every aspect that caused the series to subvert expectations, which primarily was the better-than-you'd-expect character-driven story mode, in conjunction to adding newfound frustrations with its many balance issues for basic combat. For just about everything except for the improved visuals, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson has little in its own defense for being as shallow as it may appear. Pros: + Fairly smooth cutscene and combat animations + Absurd amount of outfit and accessory options + More combat variety from tag-team mechanics to actual enemies Cons: -Terrible camera - Very poorly balanced combat - Actual narrative is significantly less interesting than previous games - Awful ally AI Overall Score: 5 (out of 10) Average Though it is a better-looking title than its predecessors Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson embraces none of which caused the series to subvert expectations, leading to an unfortunate mess of a sequel Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable 3DS code provided by the publisher.
  3. Jason Clement

    XSEED Bringing Three Titles to Steam in 2016

    It's looking more and more as if Steam is a viable source of income for XSEED as the publisher revealed today that at least three titles are on the way to the platform next year. The first is Little King's Story, a port of the original Wii title from 2009 that put players into the role of a young boy who finds a crown that allows him to charm people and order them around. Yasuhiro Wada, creator of the Bokujō Monogatari series (now known as Story of Seasons in the West) served as the game's producer. Senran Kagura Estival Versus is the next title to get the PC treatment. It was previously released on the PS Vita last year and we reviewed it here. Finally, there's Xanadu NEXT, an action RPG game from Nihon Falcom that originally released on the N-Gage in 2005, and then later that year for Windows PC in Japan. Source: Anime News Network Are you looking forward to any of these upcoming games from XSEED?
  4. Developer: Meteorise Publisher: XSEED Games Platform(s): PS Vita Release Date: November 11, 2014 ESRB: M for Mature A rhythm game that focuses on cooking, food, and the girls of the Senran Kagura series? Sign me up. All these things make me as giddy as a schoolgirl, so a combination of all of them should be simply spectacular. Right? Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! is a very barebones rhythm game; the actual gameplay isn“t anything special and leaves a lot to be desired. The way that it is setup is initially somewhat confusing, but that“s simply due to a poorly designed layout. In any case, you“ll get used to it quickly enough. It“s just unfortunate how boring the gameplay is versus other rhythm games such as the Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA titles. Most of the music in Bon Appétit! is forgettable as well. This is extremely disappointing considering that this is a rhythm game and that the main Senran Kagura games have some excellent tracks. The tracklist itself is also very small. Honestly, there“s not much to say about the soundtrack at all. The more exciting parts come in-between the gameplay portions. Throughout each stage, there are three separate portions where your meal course is judged by HanzÅ. How well you perform when pressing buttons to the beat determines your score. The better you do, the better HanzÅ“s reaction. Besting your rival in that round will also strip them of some of their clothing. Be careful, though! It“s easy to become distracted by their sensual body wiggling (it“s happened to me a few times)… If you achieve a super dish at the very end, your opponent will be served to you as a delicious dessert wearing absolutely nothing. Bon Appétit!“s main selling point is obviously its nearly naked women and sexiness, as is the case with the rest of the Senran Kagura series. With food being the theme of Bon Appétit!, it assuredly takes advantage of that and combines it with said risquésituations. So, you“ll be seeing lots of images of bare-bottomed women covered with whipped cream and so forth. Like the rest of the series, this is done mostly in a satirical manner rather than in an effort to demean women. Considering the theme of Bon Appétit! and the fact that it“s a spin-off, this is driven even further to the point of absolute silliness. All of this is made even more fun with the all-important dressing room. By unlocking clothing and other items through the main game and DLC, you“ll be able to dress all the Senran Kagura girls to your heart“s desire. Absolutely adorable or daringly sexy – it“s your choice! While the Senran Kagura series is also known for its surprisingly deep and serious plot, you won“t find any of that here. It“s a rhythm game, after all! As such, the “story†of Bon Appétit! is very simple: a cooking competition is held and the grand prize is a secret ninja art scroll that can grant any wish. Our shinobi girls either want their own wishes granted or want to stop others from causing chaos with such a powerful scroll, so battles in the form of cooking ensue between them. While it is a basic premise, the writing still allows for some amusing and emotional bits, such as Katsuragi wanting to become the queen of the hooters harem. For those that can“t seem to get enough of what Bon Appétit! has to offer, there is a DLC pack available that unlocks Gessen and Hebijo characters (basically, half the roster). If you“ve purchased the Rin and DaidÅji DLC for Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, then they will also carry over to Bon Appétit! I hoped for a lot more from Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! Unfortunately, it gets stale very quickly in terms of gameplay. Still, thanks to life and hometown, it“s a nice little distraction for Senran Kagura fans waiting for the next big game in the series. Pros: + Dialogue/writing is still funny, emotional, and fantastic + Lots of clothing items to play dress-up with + Chock-full of sexy moments Cons: - Rhythm gameplay is boring and basic - Tracklist is small and unmemorable Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent Don't expect any sort of greatness from Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! It falls flat as a rhythm game, so only hardcore Senran Kagura fans need apply. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.