If I asked you to imagine a ninja, one can assume you’ll picture a tall dark male, with a neckerchief around his face, his hood up and running around in what you’d probably describe as a black dressing gown. Now sticking with that original image, replace the tall dark bloke with a short curvaceous school girl, take away the neckerchief and pull the hood down and you’ll see long flowing hair and huge bright anime eyes. Finally tear off the dressing gown and you’ll find underneath a huge set of jiggly boobs barely fitting into a school uniform leaving nothing to the imagination; now try and get this ninja out of your head!
‘Senran Kagura Shinovi Verses’ is the latest installment of Tamsoft’s hack ‘n’ slash ninja series, this time making a very well received appearance on the Playstation Vita (remember them?). For newcomers of the series, Senran Kagura follows a number of mysterious Ninjitsu schools, each harbouring a clan of powerful ninjas in training each with their own attributes and weapons of choice. The ninjas in training however are all scantily clad school girls with huge bouncing breasts that naturally get bigger the more powerful they become. As well as a main story arc that covers each school (Crimson, Hanzo, Gessen & Hebijo), every girl across each school has their own reason for being there, along with their own side story exploring it. If you’re an avid hack ‘n’ slash enthusiast and you find the missions too easy, you can up the difficulty of each outing as you see fit to keep the game as challenging as you want, and whilst most missions are strict to one specific character, some offer you the opportunity to play as somebody else, again adding to the longevity of the game. With every playable character in each school having their own 5 level side story to coincide with a major story arc again for each school, there is a good amount of content to keep you stimulated for hours on end. There is also a surprising inclusion of multiplayer, locally and online, that sees you compete in 3 match types, Deathmatch (self explanatory), Strip Battle (also self explanatory) and Understorm, which gives you the task of collecting lingerie that falls from the sky … righty oh.
Shinovi Verses follows the typical action arena layout, a small enclosed area where you face a number of enemy waves which upon completion opens up the next area, which when finished unlocks the boss battle. As expected from this genre, our playable characters each possess a weapon capable of light and heavy attacks, as well as a dodging and blocking option. Every playable girl has 3 states in which they can fight in. ‘Flash’ (contrary to what I thought that would entail) is your basic appearance, fighting waves of enemies in your school uniform with a basic level of offence and defence. The ‘Yang’ status occurs when you administer your ‘Shinobi Transformation’ which changes your character into a more battle friendly attire, with a boost of offence and defence to compliment. Finally your ‘Yin’ status gives you a huge elevation to your offence but sacrifices a loss to your defence, and to activate this truly astounding feat you have to press your thumbs against your Vita’s screen and tear off her outfit, this turns her into ‘Frantic’ mode, which is totally understandable. Once you’ve transformed to either Frantic or Shinobi mode, not only do your combos become much more impressive and diverse, you can now perform ‘Secret Ninja Arts’, which are 2 (3 once your ultimate attack has been unlocked) different devastating special moves assigned to every character. Once your health bar gets below a certain marker or if you are attacked by a secret ninja art, you lose an item of clothing following suit with a delightful animation of your ninja’s boobs and arse subsequently being exposed … noice! Your chosen character will also partake in aerial raves, which isn’t an ecstasy party in the sky but rather a powerful combo you can use once enemies have been launched into the air.
Visually the game is superb, each character whether it be playable or not, is beautifully animated and in great detail. Most of the backdrops behind your battles are simple yet vibrant, even the darker more moodier settings are elegantly presented and are a wonderful contrast to the colourful graphics coming off each of your attacks. When you activate your ‘Shinobi Transformation’, a cut-scene begins showing your chosen character presenting their Shinobi scroll (often from the cleavage) throwing it in the air and being showered by an incredibly colourful evolution process, upgrading your ninja’s clothes and cup size. The same style of presentation occurs every time you execute a ‘Secret Ninja Art’, making it exhilarating each time you pull off one of your special moves, and even more exciting selecting a character you’ve never played as before and seeing what over the top attacks they have up their sleeves. The same acclaim follows audio wise, music isn’t too over powering, the voice acting, though not English dubbed, is crisp and distinguished, and the sfx in battle is executed well.
In regards to the gameplay you’ll struggle to find a handheld action game with better handling and physics. Senran Kagura is a brilliantly slick hacker ‘n’ slasher with each battle being a chaotic bundle of joy. In most cases the screen can be filled with dozens of enemies but not once does the flow of the game suffer, so I must commend Tamsoft for developing a smooth sailing game that if anything excels at it’s most busy. Despite a lack of alternating combos and attacks making the technique list rather empty, you’ll soon find that because you’re furiously mashing both attack buttons you won’t have time to spice up your offensive regime. Unfortunately where the game lets itself down is the narrative, which to be totally honest is boring at best. The underlying arc of each school really is everyone having a reason to kill their enemies and burn their schools down. Sure there’s the typical inclusions of demons, oppressive unappreciative parents and vengeance thrown into the mix, but ultimately it follows groups of school girls talking about their boobs and calling each other a bitch. The game’s content is very sexual which honestly is funny in a cringey way to begin with, but after hours of each girl commenting on the size of their breasts and how much they’re attracted to one another, it does get kinda weird and awkward; this doesn’t get any better when you enter each character’s wardrobe. Your costume inventory is where you can customise your ninja’s school uniform, Shinobi outfit and lingerie, which again becomes awkward and creepy when you’re prompted to blow into your Vita’s microphone to look up their skirts and slide you’re fingers around the screen to make their chebs wobble. I fully understand that a game’s content shouldn’t affect how a game is reviewed, however if you’re like me and fully appreciate a game’s storyline, then the sexual content in this case appears as a distracting front to take your attention away from an almost non existent narrative, which you’ll find does become boring and will make you wince more often than laugh. Between each mission there is also A LOT of tedious, long winded text screens explaining the story, which if they were replaced by animated cut-scenes like the opening movie could have made the otherwise boring tale a little more bearable.
Straight from the off, the game is very easy to pick up without an explanation of controls, making it perfect for anyone looking for a fast paced, action packed title, especially on a platform which has little to offer. It’s a terrific game to play with it’s colourful characters and stunning presentation, and every level though relatively short and enclosed is enjoyable from start to finish. Sure, the game boasts imaginative weapons, exciting special abilities and oddly fascinating lead characters, yet any creative attempt at a narrative has been pushed aside for a boring story encouraging it’s players to have wet dreams about their virtual companions. Dont get me wrong, I enjoy a plump bossom just as much as the next guy, but when the game relies soley on this to attract its players the appeal does dwindle rather quickly. Despite this, I cannot deny that it is one of the best games out for the Vita and I urge every one of it’s patient owners to pick this up, but for me personally a better story would have made this THE best vita game I’ve played. With another handheld spin off arriving soon and promises of a PS4 instalment on the horizon, I’m looking forward to what the future brings for Sengen Kagura, even if it is more of the same.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.