I imagine that anybody who reads my reviews assume that I only play games that consist of busty girls and clothes being torn off, but this isn’t completely true, I swear! Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus continues the story of five ninja girls at Hanzō Academy as they continue to train and are challenged by rival schools.
Featuring 20 playable characters over the 10 featured in Burst, the girls of Hebijo Clandestine Girls Academy return, now known as the Homura Crimson Squad, and are joined by the newcomers from Gessen Academy and an elite graduated class also from Hebijo. All teams have their own reasons for participating in battle, and you’ll be able to play through each storyline to learn the characters individual stories; you may be surprised when you realise how deep these are, and that the game isn’t all about its jiggling physics.
Character backstories are explored during the present, allowing you to emphathise with characters plights and what they hope to achieve through fighting; you may find yourself rooting for some schoolgirls more than others. You don’t need to play Burst to understand the story, as it’s self-contained, but it’s good to do so to be caught up with the relationship between Hanzō and the Homura Crimson Squad, who were the only two schools in Burst.
The gameplay is one of the main draws of Senran Kagura though, reminiscent of beat-em-ups of old, although it’s full 3D rather than 2.5D as it was in You’ll fight dozens of enemies, including stronger enemies and boss battles in the form of rival ninjas, as you level up and learn new skills. There’s 3 different forms which allow you to use moves, which are standard, frantic and burst; standard will have you in your normal school uniform, frantic will see you in your underwear and burst will have you in your ninja equipment. These forms will fight very similarly but will give you different buffs and downfalls, but using each form allows you to learn different skills and combos.
You have basic attacks such as square for light and quick attacks, triangle for heavy attacks, circle to dodge and X to jump. L will allow you to change into your burst form, and R allows you to go frantic once you’ve used the touch-screen to tear their clothes off. Holding L and pressing either square, triangle or circle will see you perform a special move, which is stronger in that same order, but these cost scrolls which you gain via fighting or power ups, and the L+circle special move can only be performed if you’re at 20% or less health due to how powerful it is; if you finish them with a special move, their underwear with remove completely but be censored by chibi-like faces of that character.
Alongside the main campaigns, you’ll be able to participate in side-missions that focus on each girl of each team; you’ll go through 5 battles as you aim to complete your goal which ranges from wanting to create the best sushi to being the best breast grabber of them all, as Katsuragi is a dirty pervert. These are quite lengthy and with one for each of the 20 girls, you’ll find yourself with plenty to do outside of the story, just be prepared to run the risk of repetitive strain injury! The camera can be a right pain amid the action though.
Customisation is a huge draw to Senran Kagura too, and you’re able to buy many outfits and accessories in-game for each of your forms ranging from maid outfits, animal accessories, gymwear, school outfit variants and aprons. You can also change your hairstyle, but there aren’t many variations for this. I spent a lot of time playing dress up, enjoying changing and co-ordinating the girls, but I didn’t make much use of the mic and touch controls to rub them an blow up their skirts; it’s a fun novelty but I can’t say it’s something that really interests me but I’m sure some will find much fun in it!
There’s even an online multiplayer mode – fortunately it seems to be stable and mostly without lag, which has 3 modes where you as an individual or a team need to earn the most points, and these modes include Strip Battle where you tear off your opponent’s clothes for points, Understorm, where you need to collect as many pairs of ‘Skimpy Undies’ as possible as they fall from the sky or through stealing them from your opponents, and Deathmatch, where you need to defeat your enemies to secure victory. There are 4 people in a match, meaning you can have 2 people per team but there will also be AI to fight against too. There are multiple settings to play with, including which stage to fight on, time limits, score limits, etc.
The graphics are vibrant, colourful and really quite detailed. It’s like anime in motion with it’s spectacular costume changes and special attacks, as well as the mobs of strange enemies. All areas are beautifully Japanese, down to the buildings, ornaments, nature and characters that inhabit them. I particularly like the character design with most of the schoolgirls wearing traditional uniforms, and each of the burst forms being unique from eachother; the wear and tear that they suffer in battle is well done too, and even the most subtle tears are noticeable.
There are several 2D works of art that accompany the story, and whilst some of these include the obvious such as a colossal fight scene or something that’s visually funny, many of them work as gorgeous background imagery to help you better visualise where the characters are and what they could be doing in that area.
There’s no option for an English dub, although the anime is officially getting dubbed, and so it’s fortunate that the subtitles are easy on the eyes and well translated as I only understand a little Japanese, and I imagine that many won’t understand Japanese at all. The voices are great and perfectly fit the characters, although you may want to play it wearing earphones as, understandably, there’s a lot of moaning involved.
The soundtrack is adrenaline-fueled with some stellar guitar riffs roaring in during battle, and each character has a theme which identifies them. Minori, a young girl from Gessen, has a circus theme that represents her childish and playful personality, whilst the stoic Yagyu has a guitar heavy laden track to compliment her serious side. Murakumo, who wears a mask from a Japanese myth, has an almost horror-like sounding theme which fits her bloodstained blade, but there are also some techno-inspired tracks too. Many soundtracks can be hit or miss, but Senran Kagura’s truly stands out and is varied enough to have many memorable tunes.
The lasting appeal seems to be never-ending, with the multiple campaigns clocking in around 8 hours each and the side-missions offering plenty more content that you can pursue whenever you wish. Customisation is enjoyable and trying to earn and buy all the different items is a time-consuming but rewarding task; there’s even a lingerie raffle where you can place any money in 100 yen instalments, and the more you put in the more chance you have of unlocking rare underwear from meh to climactic! All characters can wear these, too.
With online multiplayer you can take the fight online via WiFi or Ad-Hoc so even once your ninja journey is complete, you’ll still have plenty to content yourself with. I loved Senran Kagura: Burst, but Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus blows it out of the water with its addictive gameplay, anime-inspired graphics, varied soundtrack and abundance of content. It’s one of the best games available on Vita, and if you love hack and slashes or previous Senran Kagura: Burst, then you owe it to yourself to give this a go.