Thank goodness for the release of Senran Kagura Estival Versus. Just when I was starting to think that all developers had lost their integrity, with all the needless censorship being done to appease feminists, we finally get a game that bucks the trend of political correctness. For those of you unfamiliar with the franchise, Senran Kagura is the brainchild of creator Kenichiro Takaki – a genius who saw the potential of using the 3D display of Nintendo’s handheld to make the “assets” of his busty characters really pop out. I can’t wait to see what he has planned for the upcoming virtual reality headsets! Numerous sequels later (and with one million worldwide sales under its belt) the series finally makes its PS4 debut. Brace yourself for heaps of fan service, female ninja brawling and destructible clothing… because attire getting torn in combat is realistic, and not at all motivated by the desire to see teenagers in their underwear.
Estival Versus begins with everyone’s favourite cast of Shinobi students getting spirited away to a seaside resort. The sunny location, situated in an alternate dimension populated with ghosts, is playing host to the Shinobi Bon Dance – a martial arts contest where competitors vie for the Kagura title. Eager to sharpen their skills, in anticipation of an impending bout versus a monstrous Yoma, the heroines agree to participate in the tournament and use the downtime between duels to bond with the spirits of their departed relatives. Watching Ryobi and Ryona interact with their deceased sis was rather poignant, but if you detest tearjerkers fear not because levity is in plentiful supply. It’s hard not to grin at the onscreen nudity or the quirky subplots, which include the brewing of potions that turn consumers into masochists and the tale of an elder who partakes in some harmless groping after he takes possession of his granddaughter’s body.
Senran Kagura wouldn’t have attracted a following if bikinis and copious amounts of jiggling were all it had to offer. The reason why the series has prospered is due to the fun button-bashing gameplay. Combat is reminiscent to Dynasty Warriors, with players using combos to decimate hordes of enemies. Estival Versus may lack the strategic base capturing found in Dynasty Warriors, but on the plus side it is less linear than its predecessors. Exploration of levels is encouraged, because attaining the game’s entire collection of bonus content will require that players find a total of eighty elusive towers. Making a return in this sequel is the ability to transform. Unlocking special moves require that you swap a girl’s default school uniform for a kinky outfit. Alternatively you can activate Frantic Mode by stripping down to your undergarments. Shinobi unburdened by the weight of apparel will receive a boost to their speed and damage.
My rating for Senran Kagura Estival Versus is four and a half stars. It gets a better score than Shinovi Versus due to the refined battle system. At its core both titles are virtually identical, but Estival Versus edges things out thanks to the addition of AI companions and the ability to dash on walls. Another improvement I can cite is the superior range of power-ups that can be claimed from slain enemies. Aside from health restorative rice balls and mystical scrolls it is now possible to acquire bombs, which inflict status ailments on anyone standing within the explosive’s blast radius. Outside of combat Estival Versus boasts an extensive wardrobe of clothing and hairstyles. If you enjoy playing dress up it’s possible to remodel the girls to your liking and have them pose in dioramas. Your fashion works can be entered into online pageants or shared amongst your friends list (probably a bad idea, as it will expose to chums what a pervert you are.)
I am sure some critics will look at my score and scoff that it is too generous. Well, I care not one iota. If Street Fighter V can get glowing praise from some press outlets why not Senran Kagura? Unlike Capcom’s bare bones release, Senran Kagura has a huge roster of playable characters (it’s almost as huge as the featured cup sizes.) Senran Kagura also trumps Ryu and pals by having a fully fleshed out story mode. The main campaign stretches over eight days and every character gets a moment in the spotlight, courtesy of side missions that span across five levels. The exploitative graphics and simplistic controls may prevent Senran Kagura from ever achieving mainstream recognition, but if you have enjoyed the previous instalments buying this latest offering is a no brainer. Estival Versus is the finest Tamsoft developed game I have ever played and thanks to the HD graphics it can claim to be the “breast” looking SK title to date.