Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit is a game that’s all about the fan-service. Even in comparison to other Senran Kagura games I found the fan-service here to be off the charts but it’s true to the series’ roots.
Senran Kagura isn’t for everybody, what with its exaggerated jiggling breasts, crude humour and clothes vanishing and even though Bon Appetit is a rhythm game, all of these things remain intact and, dare I say it, bouncier than ever. Honestly, I love the pure, unadulterated fun that the series offers that serves as a reminder that games are an amazing form of entertainment and don’t need to tell a complex story to be so.
Featuring all of the ninja girls from Shinovi Versus, all 22 girls (including Daidouji and Rin), enter a cooking competition hosted by legendary ninja master Hanzo for their own reasons. Hanzo is offering a ninja art scroll which grants the winner any one wish, and so some girls such as Yomi enter so she can have loads of beansprouts, her favourite food, whilst the likes of Asuka and Daidouji enter for the thrill of the rivarly and to come out on top. The game tells you straight up that the story is all in good jest, so don’t expect a tale woven from the finest threads of love, betrayal and loyalty; just expect clothes flying everywhere and physics-defying breasts.
Before I really get into the gameplay, I want to clear up how the game is being released in the UK and the US, and how it was originally released in Japan. In Japan, it was released in two packs – pack one focuses on the Hanzo and Homura Crimson Squad, and pack two focuses on Gessen and Hebijo. Both packs feature ten songs and ten characters each (each will have one more if you have the Daidouji and Rin DLC), but they’re released at budget prices and create a full retail price when purchased together. All DLC from Shinovi Versus is transferable as both games use the same graphics engine.
Anyway, into the thick of it! I was only given access to pack one, so only had access to 10 songs and 10 characters, although I do own the Rin DLC from Shinovi Versus but not everybody will. In a rhythm game, only having 10 songs can make it or break it and sadly, the tunes aren’t very memorable. They’re quite lengthy and are broken into three parts each so you’ll end up picking favourites, but none truly stuck with me after the game. The three parts equates to three meals per song, and whoever has the worst judged meal will have articles of their clothing torn off in true Senran Kagura style.
The gameplay itself is solid and responsive, with absolutely no input lag on the Vita; playing a rhythm game on PS3, you sometimes need to take into account that the game might move faster than your TV although I’ve never had a problem with this personally. You’ll use the four face buttons and the d-pad as you hit the buttons when prompted, sometimes requiring you to mash or hit two buttons at once. The input commands are spread across two lines so things can get rather hectic, and more than once the change in speed would throw me off so I’d hit something way too early or too late; I’ve always loved how rhythm games can trick me like this.
Once you’ve managed to successfully hit enough commands, you can use the shoulder button to go into burst mode allowing you to rack up extra point combos the longer you don’t miss any commands. You want to aim for good or perfect, although fine is also acceptable; it’s pretty lenient as long as you don’t flat out miss one of the buttons. Each character’s story is around 5 songs and roughly 30 minutes in length, so you’ll have plenty to do alongside the 3 difficulty levels – hard is hard, you guys, but Bon Appetit is much more simple than the likes of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F and so offers less of a challenge as a result.
It isn’t Senran Kagura without an extensive customisation system and once again you can unlock many outfits, lingerie and accessories to dress the characters up with; more so if you’ve purchased DLC for Shinovi Versus. Watch your chosen character battle as a maid, schoolgirl, athlete and more as you unlock more possibilities.
I absolutely adore the art style in the Senran Kagura series, it’s so colourful and never fails to put a smile on my face; it manages to capture the essence of Japan well too when it comes to clothing, anime-styled characters and the environment. If you’re looking for something realistic, then you’d definitely come to the wrong game, but if you want some outstanding eye candy then you might not ever find a better game.
The visuals in battle are humourous, with the winning character preparing their food at lightning speed and the one lagging behind will be moving at a sluggishly slow pace with tears in their eyes – don’t worry, nobody is really sad! The food looks delicious and the cutscene of Hanzo tasting the final meal of the song is as over the top as you’d expect; Hanzo can be seen eating bean sprout tornadoes, falling into a black abyss of taste and sailing a massive boat in the form of the presented food whilst proclaiming how tasty the food is.
Of course, being a game revolving around busty ninjas and aesthetically pleasing food, you’d expect to see the age old tradition (no, really!) of girls covered in food and Bon Appetit does not disappoint. If you manage to win all three rounds of the battle, then you’ll see the loser served up on a platter of their favourite food. You’re able to play around with the camera for a better view.
As stated earlier, the music isn’t very memorable which is a shame as the previous games have had fantastic soundtracks. Most of the songs included in Bon Appetit seem to keep humour in mind which is fine, but some of the characters could’ve benefited from having tunes relating to their character – I found this to be most noticeable with Ikagura.
There’s only Japanese voice-over available which is as good as it’s always been, and fortunately the subtitles are clear and easy to read. Considering the anime is getting an English voice-over, it’s possible that any future games may do at some point, too, but if not then at least we’re left with some very cheerful actresses and two perverted male teachers; you can almost feel the fun that they’re having recording their lines, especially with Asuka and how innuendo-filled her story is regarding large and thick futomaki rolls.
The lasting appeal isn’t as grand as it is in Shinovi Versus as there’s much less to do and no multiplayer mode. During the course of each characters stories, you’ll end up playing through the same variety of songs multiple times on whatever difficulty you choose, and you’ll most likely not want to rush into a new playthrough anytime soon. There’s an arcade mode, which is a string of battles, and a free mode where you can pick whichever song you like but again the lack of songs doesn’t encourage as much engagement as it could do.
The game is good fun and fundamentally solid, but the lack of content is sadly the biggest issue here and the one that’ll prevent you from spending as much time with you as you’d expect. Hopefully, if another rhythm game is created in the series, they’ll add a bigger variety of songs and release it as one full game rather than two halves of one game. However, if you’re a die hard fan like I’ve become, then you’ll find plenty to love here as it instills true Senran Kagura spirit.