Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus (PS Vita) Review

By Az Elias 29.10.2014

Review for Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus on PS Vita

There isn't a lot better to open with here that hasn't already been said in the first lines of Cubed3's review of Senran Kagura Burst. A title that kicked up debates amongst players (and even non-players) of video games everywhere, it's quite clear what the appeal (or non-appeal!) of this beat 'em up series is. After the Nintendo 3DS outing, though, why shouldn't PS Vita owners get in on some boobilicious shinobi girl action, too? Cue Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus debuting the franchise on the Sony portable.

The average eyes looking in would be forgiven for thinking there isn't much to this game other than butts and breasts. Whilst that isn't entirely true, it has to be said that Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus doesn't strive to go too far beyond copious amounts of exposed skin, excessive jiggle physics, a storyline riddled with typical anime clichés, a distinct lack of variety in level design and gameplay, and cases of frustration with load times and dodgy camera angles.

Three different shinobi schools, five different characters in each one and five chapters to work through in linear fashion. Each school's storyline can be chosen and played in any order, and can even be paused to switch to another academy at any point. Good shinobi, evil shinobi, shinobi that are supposedly evil but are quite clearly good at heart - the battle of the schools means they all cross paths, as each girl tries to find what she is fighting for. There are some funny moments and some cringe-worthy moments, but unfortunately, one too many rather typical predictabilities in terms of character personalities and where the story goes.

When the core appeal of the game is oversized bouncing tatas, then it's wise not to expect too high a calibre of a central plot, but Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus' main campaign really could have been much more interesting if only it stepped outside of its limiting confinements. As a result, not only does the story become a rather drab affair, but the gameplay does, too, because there isn't always much to look forward to reading at the end of a fight.

Screenshot for Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus on PS Vita

Essentially, Shinovi Versus plays out as one fight after another, in between the visual novel-like texts and character-model-in-front-of-static-background formula. There is brief downtime in each school's classroom after certain scenarios to chat to the other shinobi girls and access various menu functions, but it is quite limited in what can be done outside of battles, with the sole purpose really to purchase new clothing and accessories.

Every scenario and battle is a one-on-one showdown with a rival shinobi girl, or sometimes with a fellow schoolmate for training purposes, in enclosed arenas of various designs. Arenas generally are large enough to run around in, but consist of not much else apart from generic enemies that seemingly have no place in the storyline, oddly appearing before the boss fight or alongside the opponent herself, plus some breakable crates that hide health and special move boosts.

Some arenas, such as a school building, lock down certain rooms with invisible walls, requiring all enemies in the room to be defeated before running along to eventually meet the shinobi boss. Sadly, in so many of these enclosed rooms, camera angle issues are aplenty, rendering many a frustrating moment in battle. A lock-on function is helpful, but it is assigned to the up button on the D-pad or requires tapping the relevant enemy on the touch screen. This can prove slightly unintuitive due to the fact the left thumb must be lifted off the control stick if opting to press the D-pad or an awkward stretch of the right hand is needed to attempt to tap on the desired enemy (which can be even more of an issue when multiple opponents are around). It would have made more sense to put the lock-on ability to the L shoulder button - a tried and tested perfect method that is most obviously prevalent in 3D The Legend of Zelda games. As it is, the shinobi transformation is on the L button, causing the odd mistake when one is so used to using it to lock-on in many other titles.

Screenshot for Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus on PS Vita

Despite levels lacking variety, core combat is otherwise pretty decent, with every character (of which there are over 20) having unique movesets and various weapons and styles of fighting. Long combos and air battles, chaining into air combos that can be continued further with levelled-up characters, comprise the majority of fights. This is all pretty fluid and competent brawling action, where precise dodges, blocks and carefully-timed knockbacks and counters can turn the tide of battle. What becomes abundantly clear, though, is that it all starts to turn into a very samey experience, no matter which character is controlled, who is being fought, and where the battle is taking place. It is a solid beat 'em up system, but it just doesn't expand into anything remarkably addictive, and results in the drawn-out storyline and consistent battling becoming rather repetitive.

Aside from the standard moveset each girl begins a fight with, she has the option to switch to two other styles during battle, but cannot revert back once transformed. Each transformation refills her health bar, and grants new strengths, but can come with downsides, such as lower defence. As expected, the powerful Frantic mode strips a girl down to her underwear, but does indeed leave her more vulnerable to heavy damage.

Bosses can perform the same special abilities, which also allow special moves to be activated. These all feature wacky and over the top mini scenes, and deal damage and attacks in specific ways, such as annihilating all close-range enemies, or unleashing hell on an opponent not in near proximity.

Consistent pummelling of the boss shinobi girl will gradually wear down her costume, ripping it to shreds and revealing whatever lingerie she so happens to be wearing. After putting the girl in the embarrassing state of near-nakedness, finishing her with a special move will tear either her top or bottom half right off, with nothing but some careful censoring hiding the important bits. The opponent is able to do the very same to the controlled character, but should victory be achieved, the poor rival girl will appear in the subsequent narrative scene in the state she was left in at the end of the battle, chatting away almost none the wiser to her lack of clothes.

Screenshot for Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus on PS Vita

Part of the problem with these mini scenes occurring when activating special moves and girls' clothes are being destroyed, is that it breaks the flow of the game. They can be skipped with a press of the X button, but the fact still remains that a second or two of pausing occurs every time, and the lack of no option to stop the scenes does become cause for annoyance after a while.

It's clear where the focus was in development of Shinovi Versus, and obviously this is indeed a fan service game. Those who know exactly what to expect and what they want from Senran Kagura titles will find it here - a half-decent brawler, and enough nearly-fully-exposed T&A to satisfy many a person's erotic virtual women desires - but there's no doubt that this had the potential to be a much more interesting and better game, and could have been if only less time was spent on the obvious parts.

Far more engaging sets of stages would have gone a long way to improving the fun factor, with the relatively short opportunities to run around only serving to tease what could have been. Frequently long load times and a cheeky bit of subtitle censoring in the dressing room in the European version of the game (no warning was given to fans prior to its release about this) only serve to put additional downers on it. The lengthy campaign, online modes and extras to purchase does ensure Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus has long-term appeal for those that are well up for some bouncy brawling, though.

Screenshot for Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

A dimensional switch to 3D, but Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus hasn't evolved into what potential it has after following on from the 2D exploits of the Nintendo 3DS predecessor. At the right price, its rather repetitive formula, variety-starved stages, frequent loading and basic plot can be tolerated because what lies beneath is a solid beat 'em up with some amusing moments outside of the obvious fan service. For a heavy dosage of butts, boobs and brawling, this is the go-to game on PS Vita, but don't expect much more than that.

Developer

Marvelous

Publisher

Marvelous

Genre

Brawler

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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