Oh, what a long way we’ve come since the days when video games consisted of two rectangles playing “ping pong” with a “ball”. From Mario to Zelda, from Uncharted to Halo, the video game experience of the XXI century is one of storytelling and wonder, of huge worlds and endless exploring.
But that’s not all. There are experiences in between: those that hanker back to a simpler time, focusing purely on game play; those that let you become something that may not even exist in the known universe. And then, there are games that are created for a niche audience. Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is one such game.
The third game in the series, and the first to make it out of Japan, Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus is an action RPG notorious for… let’s face it: buxom women and fan service. However, after spending upwards of 20 hours with it, I am happy to report that the game offers much more than that: at the core of Shinovi Versus, there’s a heart of pure game play gold and a surprisingly deep story, hindered only by personal preference and the odd graphical infidelity.
Game play-wise, Shinovi Versus is very straight forward for the most part. If you’ve played games like Destiny Warriors (or its endless iterations) you’ll find yourself in familiar territory. However, game play is also where the elephant in the room hides, so let’s tackle it.
You play as a student of one of three Shinobi schools, and as you lower your enemy’s (another girl) health, you break their clothes and undress them. Some people might take offense at that. I’m not one of those people. I enjoy fan service. But honestly, after a couple of hours, you skip right through the cutscenes that show you the undressing, to get back into the frantic game play. So let’s do the same here, and move on.
As I mentioned above, there are 3 Shinovi schools, each with 5 students to play as. Each school has a 5-chapter story mode (with 5 episodes in each chapter), and each student has her own story arc, with 5 episodes. So if you were to play both School story modes and each of the girl arcs (as I did), you’re looking at 150 missions, which clock at around 20 hours (depending on how you play). As with most ARPGs, you level up your character, unlocking new attacks, and getting points which you can spend in the store buying extra clothes for the girls (which have no bearing on your stats).
While Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus does not reinvent the genre, it does a fantastic job at competently delivering an action experience that, while repetitive after 10+ hours or so, keeps you coming back for more due to the tremendous fun factor it packs.
Level design is nothing out of this world, with both indoor and outdoor locations being well designed but not adding much to the game experience aside from aesthetics.
Sound design and (the decidedly Japanese) voice acting, however, are stellar. The music is non-intrusive, but the girls are acted out in such a way that even the tone, pitch and mannerism of their voices represent the characters well.
All of that, however, is somewhat expected from a quirky Japanese ARPG. The hidden gem in Senran Kagura is the story. Each girl has her own story, some being innocent and silly, while others are grave and downright sad. I did not expect to come out of the game knowing these girls, liking them, feeling for them. And yet, I did. Tales of loss, of being an orphaned child… I will stop, lest I spoil it for you. But believe me, you will care for these girls.
The only downside to Shinovi Versus, funnily enough, comes from the graphics department. Some menus look like they were taken from a PSP game, and considering how important the clothes are to the game, some of the undergarments look much too pixelated for my taste.
These are minor gripes, however. All in all, I enjoyed Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus much more than I thought I would, and for reasons that I did not expect.
If you’re looking for a fun game with fan service, by all means buy it. If you’re not, however, don’t be so quick to dismiss it. Maybe all this undressing is just another way to reach that wonderful soul that hides in the stories the game has to tell.
At A Glance
- Title: Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus
- Publisher: Marvelous AQL / XSEED Game / Marvelous AQL Europe
- Developer: Tamsoft
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PS Vita Card / Digital Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Local Multiplayer: Yes
- Online Multiplayer: Yes
- Memory Card Space Needed: 1.9GB