Thursday, September 3, 2015

Senran Kagura Burst (3DS) Review

Senran Kagura Burst
Platform: 3DS
Developer: Tamsoft
USA Publisher: XSeed Games

The Ninja Cast of Senran Kagura Burst
In Japan, the Ninja is a powerful historical symbol. Through the shadows, they engaged in espionage to give their lord a tactical advantage. In the daytime, they masqueraded as farmers, peasants, prostitutes, and at night, they protected castles and infiltrated rival ones. They were MI6 or the CIA of ancient Japan. Senran Kagura Burst throws that away and turns the ninja into a walking piece of fanservice, training in secret departments of prestigious Japanese high schools. A new entry in a genre popularized by Final Fight and Streets of Rage in the early 90’s, it has fallen by the wayside in modern times with rare entries like Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown and of course Senran Kagura. While Senran Kagura Burst gets justifiable dissension for being a fanservice-heavy game, underneath the hood, it is a surprisingly good game.

Senran Kagura Burst’s premise is that in the modern world of Japan, there are two schools of ninja, good ninjas and evil ninjas. The good ninja are Japanese government employees who work on behalf of the state. Evil ninja work on behalf of individuals or corporations and do the work that good ninja cannot do, which is assassination, corporate infiltration, and other things frowned by society. In the world of Senran Kagura, ninjas gain training from a dojo at an early age. Then when they reach high school, they go to a high school with a ninja department where they learn to be a good ninja or an evil ninja. Senran Kagura focuses on two schools: Hanzo National Academy, a Japanese Government school that trains good ninjas, and Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy, a rival school of Hanzo that teaches evil ninjas.

There is tension between the Hanzo
ninjas and the Hebijo ninjas
The game focuses on five females from Hanzo National Academy and five females from Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy, and the cast is as varied and unique as the powers they have. Hanzo National Academy’s story focuses on Asuka, Ikaruga, Katsuragi, Yagyu, and Hibari. Asuka is the main character of the game, a genki girl whose grandfather is one of the greatest ninja. Ikaruga is the mature and cool-headed class representative (voiced by the amazing Asami Imai). Katsuragi is the perverted member of the group who likes groping everyone else; she is fighting to restore the lost honor of her family when her parents ran away after failing a mission. Yagyu is a ninja prodigy that is very attached to Hibari, who is clumsy and likes cute stuff. On the other side is Hebijo Clandestine Girl’s Academy with Homura, Yomi, Higake, Mirai, and Haruka. Homura is a tomboy, whose genius with the blade led her to become the elite leader. Yomi is the poor girl who came from the slums and whose daily diet consists of bean sprouts. Hikage is a mysterious snake-eyed girl who has no emotions. Mirai is a young girl in Lolita wear, and she wanted to be a ninja to fight bullying. Haruka is a scientist who experiments with her subjects, and she has a dominatrix-like personality.

Senran Kagura Burst is actually a combination of two 3DS games, Senran Kagura: Skirting Shadows and Senran Kagura: Crimson Girls. Where Senran Kagura: Skirting Shadows tells the story of the Hanzo ninjas, and Senran Kagura: Crimson Girls tells the story of the Hebijo ninjas. The gameplay is simple; there is the story mode where you are forced to play as one of the five ninjas of each school. When you beat the mission, you can replay it as the other four ninjas. When you complete a main mission, you can also unlock side missions to level up your characters. The game gives a letter grade that is determined by how fast you beat the mission and the amount of health you lost to complete the mission. The mission structure is easy, you are given an objective and a the parameters to beat the objective. When you beat a mission, you are rewarded with experience to level up the character, which in turn increases their attack, stamina, and health bar.

The characters you play as has several forms. The first is when a character fights with their school uniform, the stats are average, and everything is average. The second form is when you do a shinobi transformation, it increases their attack stats and they can perform flashy powerful attacks. The last form is burst mode, where they fight in a bikini. The characters have very high attack power and high speed, but they also take heavy damage. Depending on how you want to tackle the mission, each form can provide some huge advantages or huge disadvantages.

Cam you feel the Genki?
As expected with a game with a cast full of big boobs, Senran Kagura Burst has plenty of fanservice. When a character takes enough damage, they start losing articles of clothing all the way until they fight in their underwear. If that was not enough, you can go to a changing room and ogle at them, and change them into different outfits. In Senran Kagura Burst, Katsuragi provides the lion’s share of dirty comments and obsevations; while on the Hebijo side, Haruka provides similar perverted observations. The game has scenes of them in the bath, but steam covers the private areas. While the game does get dirty, it does not go over the edge and with full on nudity.

Interestingly, Senran Kagura Burst deep down inside is a surprisingly good game. The game mechanics are interesting enough (and it was polished to perfection in Sentran Kagura Shnovi Versus) that it keeps the player playing. The soundtrack is excellent and is varied enough that it does not get boring. A big point of surprise is the storyline; it is very good. For a game that uses fanservice as its big selling point, it has a very serious and dark storyline. The inner monologues of the Hanzo and Hebijo ninjas are melancholy and depressing, and they are in circumstances that make you like them even more. It also provides a huge contrast with the upbeat personalities, and the traumatic pasts many of the cast members have.

Senran Kagura Burst is not perfect; it has some negatives that hold it back. The first one is that the mission structure, which can feel repetitive and boring. This stems from the fact that you are playing two complete games, and you can tell that they were trying to extend the game time in the Hanzo and Hebijo storylines. The second one is a limitation of the 3DS hardware, which is the framerate. The game is gorgeous; the 3D models of each of the Ninjas are some of the best-looking character models on the 3DS. The problem is that the great character models comes at the price of low framerate, where Senran Kagura Burst can chug down to 15-20 frames a second if there are lots of enemies on screen.

While this review was done two years after it was released, and it comes when the game finally hit its stride with the amazing Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus and the wonderful sequel to this game Senran Kagura 2 is coming out in several weeks in North America. I think that this game is still a very good game. It is important for many just because it is the narrative origin of the storyline in which the rest of the series is based off. The game has some flaws that was purely because of hardware and because it was a combination of two complete games in one package. With that said, the game is a surprisingly good game, especially with its great storytelling and wonderful soundtrack. If you can get past the 3DS hardware limitations and the blatant fanservice, you have a great beat em up game.

No comments: