The Senran Kagura franchise is relatively new in comparison to many others, but it has put out four different games across both the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita in just a few years, with them releasing in the US all within two years of one another. While the games were all a lot of fun, they often felt held back due to being restricted to handhelds, but that has now changed as the series shifts to consoles with the biggest adventure yet in the visually gorgeous Senran Kagura: Estival Versus.
The story found in the game takes an interesting turn from previous entries by having each of the shinobi schools brought to a beach setting for what is known as the Kagura Millennium Festival, where the shinobi who died with unfinished business or regret are brought back and then able to be laid to rest. While the story is pretty simple overall, it fits right in with this series, complete with its signature perverted humor.
The Senran Kagura franchise has always relied on its incredible levels of fan service and that is no different in the latest entry, with the beach locale setting up for even more busty hijinks than ever. Some of the reoccurring humor can be a little stale at this point, such as Katsuragi’s certain obsession, but the game still delivers plenty of laugh out loud moments throughout, namely with the interactions between characters like Asuka and Homura.
The formula found in the two mainline games, Burst and Deep Crimson, as well as the spin-off Shinovi Versus has been pretty similar, where players control one of the many shinobi girls available in the game as they mow down crowds upon crowds of enemies. However, what Shinovi Versus introduced were more expansive 3D environments that Senran Kagura: Estival Versus has taken to new heights.
A majority of the areas found in the game are on the beach, which look absolutely gorgeous in action, including the fully animated cutscenes that show up occasionally. The sand and water are bright and colorful, and the anime style character models look beautiful on top of them. This definitely shows the improvements made by moving to consoles, as the handheld versions never looked anywhere near this good, or performed this well with the large crowds of enemies. There are other locales found in the game as well that also look fantastic, though you can definitely tell the beach settings got the majority of the attention. The only disappointment here is that there is a lot of repetition in the stages used, where it would have been nice to see at least some different areas of the beach, rather than mostly the same areas.
The hack ‘n’ slash gameplay found in most of the Senran Kagura games has always had the stigma of the genre in that it can be quite repetitive, but it has always been a lot of fun to play regardless. The fighting is as one would expect once again in Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, but there are a few new wrinkles and refinements that have improved it even further. The combo system found in the series has never been the most complicated, but chaining combos feels as fluid and natural as ever in battle here.
One of the best new additions is that of the elemental based bombshells, which can now be picked up on the battlefield and then used on enemies. Upon hitting an enemy, these will inflict a variety of different status effects, such as ice and fire. The creative finishers are also a nice touch, by adding some hilarious finishing moves that probably push the envelope as far as it goes in this game.
The Senran Kagura series has done a good job in the past of making many of the characters feel distinct from one another, but Senran Kagura: Estival Versus has them feeling a lot more unique in how their weapons are used in battle. With alterations to some of the girls, like sacrificing speed for more power in their weapon, this actually makes you want to try out the full roster of characters, which is pretty vast.
While the majority of the game has you fighting solo, there are also a number of missions that include teammates to help you defeat enemies. However, the AI for them is rather lackluster, as it seems like most of the time they are being beat up without dealing much damage to the enemies. The worse case of the friendly AI had two of them running directly into a wall for most of a stage, where the enemies were located on the other side of it. Even in the levels where there was AI help, it honestly felt like it was one person versus an army of enemies.
Between the three mission modes, there is plenty of content to keep players busy
The meat of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is definitely found in the Missions mode, which offers three different individual paths to take part in. The first is the Kagura Millennium Festival that is the game’s main story, which is split across eight days with missions that will have you switching between the large cast of characters available. Shinobi Girl’s Heart are character specific story missions that flesh out each girl’s story a little more, but these are only unlocked by completing tasks like finishing certain missions elsewhere or destroying festival platforms in those missions. The final option is the Special Missions, which are pretty simplistic fights against many of the other shinobi girls, but these fights are much more of a grind with very little damage being dished out by each attack.
Between the three mission modes, there is plenty of content to keep players busy, with the adjustable difficulty options adding even more longevity. The game also offers players plenty of unlockables to get, which are made available through the regular playing of the game and then are able to be purchased from within the in-game store.
The store found within Senran Kagura: Estival Versus has a lot for you to purchase with the in-game currency, ranging from outfits and hair styles to videos and music tracks. While there is plenty to choose from, the inability to preview any purchases from within the store is a big problem. When you have limited money to spend in the game, you will want to make sure what you are purchasing is worth the money. However, all you have to go off of in the store is a name, forcing you to blind buy items in the hopes it is something you wanted, whether it is an outfit, hair style, or accessory.
After buying whatever cosmetic items you want to in the shop, you can then take any of the characters to the Dressing Room. This area is really no different than what one would expect from Senran Kagura, with the ability to choose exactly what the girls wear between their different forms and levels of dress in battle. After doing this, you can go into the Diorama area and take pictures of a group of up to five of the girls in your chosen outfits, which works very well in tandem with the PS4 Share feature.
It was quite a disappointment to see the Senran Kagura series backtrack to 2.5D environments in last year’s Deep Crimson, but thankfully Senran Kagura: Estival Versus takes full advantage of being on PS4 with stunningly beautiful 3D locales. The over the top humor is present as always, with the characters playing off one another very well throughout the fun story. While the gameplay can grow repetitive after awhile, new features like the bombshells and creative finishers help to shake it up just enough to make Senran Kagura: Estival Versus feel like a natural progression and what the series should strive to be moving forward.
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus
- Available On: PS4, PS Vita
- Published By: XSEED Games
- Developed By: Tamsoft
- Genre: Action
- US Release Date: March 15th, 2016
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "While the gameplay in Senran Kagura: Estival Versus can grow repetitive after awhile, the series' signature humor is present while new features like the bombshells and creative finishers help to shake it up just enough to make the game feel like a natural progression and what the series should strive to be moving forward."
- Return of full 3D environments
- Beautifully designed colorful locales
- Over the top Senran Kagura humor
- New gameplay features
- Friendly AI is pretty useless
- No preview option in shop