Normally I’m all about the justice that is flat chests, but I’m willing to make an exception for Senran Kagura, the series that is all about shinobi students and their bouncing 爆乳 (that’s bigger than 巨乳, fyi).
The series debuted on the 3DS, created with the intent of having 3D boob jiggle physics. The 3DS entries were rather basic side-scrolling brawlers (“2D”, but you could move in the z axis as well) that had common framerate drops and repetitive level design, where even bosses have no variety and require no change in strategy. Still, it had a certain addictiveness to it that made the game fun in short bursts, and the game enjoyed success thanks to its charming girls, accessibility, and surprisingly decent backstories.
Shinovi Versus is a spin-off for the PS Vita, designed as a brawler/hack n’ slash with full 3D movement rather than a side-scroller because asses need some focus too. What better way to show off those nice round polygons than to make a game where you always see your character from behind? This time you can strip your opponents to beyond just the underwear, too. Controls are similar to its predecessor, with Square as the weak attack and Triangle the strong. Circle is dash, X is jump. The R shoulder button is used to guard, and L is to make you character transform by consuming a ninja scroll, as well as to be used in combination with either Square or Triangle to activate the Hiden Ninpo, this game’s equivalent of powerful limit-breaking skills. Arial game is still highly important, and stringing a certain combo in accordance with the character’s tech tree paths will hit the enemy into the air and allow the player to chase and perform follow-up attacks in the air.
The only invisible status on the screen is clothing endurance, which will cause the wearer’s clothes to tear when reduced. There are 3 stages of clothing damage split into top and bottom categories, from ripped clothes, underwear, to fully naked. It works the same way as SK Burst, except for the naked stage, which can be reached only by finishing off an underwear-stage opponent with a Hiden Ninpo. Unlike Burst, you only lose the stage when your HP drops to 0. They got rid of that bullshit where you can receive clothing damage 4 times and instantly fail the mission, even if you still have HP left. The lewd fanservice is more extreme in SV than Burst, hence the CERO D rating, but it also plays better as a game, and is actually fun as a light hack n’ slash.
The old characters from SK Burst return, as well as two new set of girls, making up a story from 4 different points of views and 20 playable characters. The differences between each character in gameplay are more pronounced, and the game is generally a lot more fluid. Bosses actually try to attack you and break out of your combos, and even lock you in an intense chain of combos, unlike the overwhelming majority of Burst’s bosses. You can still win by spamming you Hiden Ninpo, which also became much more spammable as the level one version consumes one ninja scroll, and you start out with the capacity for 3 (which eventually increases to something like 8, I couldn’t be bothered to count).
The default difficulty fluctuates somewhere between a walk in the park to a run in the park, depending on the mission. It’s a simple game that doesn’t require too much dedication to beat. For those who want more pain, there are harder versions of the story missions unlocked from the get-go. Completing all of the story also unlocks a bonus final battle, which is locked at the maximum difficulty with cheap and powerful enemy AI and generally serves as a massive awakening for anyone who played through on the default difficulty. The arial play that held such an importance before? The opponent here will break out of your air combos flawlessly and proceed to smash you into the ground. Ending the game with two fights that are twice as hard as anything else in the game before is highly satisfying, coupled with the scenario that reinforces the strong rivalry between Asuka and Homura.
As for the story, Hanzo, Gessen, and the new Hebijo sides are available from the start. Clearing the 3 will unlock Homura Crimson Team for play, which leads into the true finale (that is also very satisfying). You can unlock it from the get-go by inputting a cheat code, but for story purposes, I recommend against doing so. When things are locked, they are locked for a reason. I recommend playing from left to right (Hanzo–>Gessen–>Hebijo–>Crimson), as they move focuses in that fashion: from the Gakuensai–pronounced the same as the school festivals that high school anime often feature (学園祭), but is actually a battle between schools that ends with the loser’s school getting burnt (学炎祭)–to the underlying purpose of the shinobi.
I found the storytelling to be stronger in Burst, but Shinovi Versus has its really good moments as well, particularly in the final segments, which are definitely worth seeing for anyone who enjoyed Burst. The dialogue scenes range from hilarious to cringe-worthily cheesy, but the novel parts are quite good. It’s no masterpiece, but the series has better writing and characters than whatever the heck I expected when I first walked in after seeing some exploding clothes and tits. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty much B-grade shounen plot combined with lots of tits, but the comedic scenarios are really fun and the serious parts succeed in making me care.
The best characters are still the Hanzo girls and Homura’s team, partly due to the fact that they had a game of development all to themselves and there were still things to reveal about them in this game. The new Hebjio side is also very interesting, and does things slightly differently from the others, while further introducing an important element in the setting. The Hanzo side is pretty much the default good guys, but it’s very nice to see some of the character-centric arcs introduced in Burst get wrapped up. Gessen’s side was the least compelling to go through, since none of the characters really stood out in their appeal, and the story was pretty much a watered-down version of the Hanzo girls’ story in the first game with the theme of discovering that the evil shinobi aren’t so different from themselves.
Often I find myself deciding on a favorite character early on when I play these character-centric games, and hardly bending over for anyone else. For Senran Kagura I just can’t decide, because the game sure is good at continuously adding scenes for each character that make me like them. Best team is Homura’s though, hands down.
As for the technical stuff, the graphics are definitely better than its predecessor’s. The Vita has indisputably higher graphical capabilities than the 3DS, so the 3D models look much crisper, and the game runs quite smoothly in exchange for long loading times before missions. Environments look better than Burst’s graphically, but are still dull and repetitive compared to games with actual effort put into background design. I’m pretty sure the creators know no one is buying this game to look at the backgrounds, and therefore feel no need to allocate more resources than necessary into building assets that nobody cares to look at.
Fun and simple game where you slash through loads of enemies, good girls, lots of tits. There’s also Mirai, the one true flat chested character who consistently tops the character polls. I can see where they’re coming from, because Mirai is really cute, without being overloaded with sugar. She’s a better flat chest than Ryoubi, with a truly moving line:
“Be proud because you are flat-chested!”