If near to nude ninjas and Dynasty Warriors-esque gameplay is your thing, look no further. With hilarious and ‘inventive’ mechanics, an overload of fan service and insane jiggle mechanics, this game surprisingly offers a lot in the hack ‘n’ slash department. Oh, and Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is tied together with visual novel sections, so if 24/7 combat isn’t your thing, then you’re in luck.
Xseed promise a story “that’s equal parts sexy and shocking, serious and scandalous, busty and bouncy.” It’s not just the chests that are big, there is a whopping 34 available female characters to choose from. Not just that, but also a tonne of missions.
The game provides you with the ‘Kagura Millennium Festival’ story mode, Alongside this, there are also the Shinobi Girl’s Heart side stories and new missions with AI-controlled allies, all these new to the series. If you’re unfamiliar with series, there is zero explanation of who any of the characters are, and they constantly reference events from prior games, so either do your homework or be left in confusion. The different rival shinobi schools that are all very good friends are transported outside of reality to fight in the ‘Kagura Millennium Festival’. There actually is some character growth the story includes and with some heavily emotional themes like death and grief, which only grows more intense the longer the main storyline goes on. Although mixing this with crude humour at times feels awkward and a bit stale.
The story begins with twins Ryōbi and Ryōna. Following their surprisingly alive sister and stumbling upon a beach location filled with ‘shinobi grunts’. The ‘Millennium Festival’ is the main factor of the plot, however the game doesn’t seem all that interested in getting you, or its characters, excited about it. 70% of the game is spent soaking up the sun, in bikinis.
Alongside the ‘Kagura Festival’ story mode, there’s also the Shinobi Dojo where online battle play is available, with adjustable conditions and game modes including ‘capture the bra’ and ‘Shinobi Deathmatch’. These battles hosting up to 10 players. The game also provides a ‘dressing room’ mode where you can choose from the array of characters, dress them up or down in your chosen attire and take photographs. How lovely!
So, let’s talk gameplay. To complain about a bit of mindless button mashing fun, I believe is unfair, considering the amount of games that have made this experience a positive one (*Cough* Arslan: the warriors of legend *cough*). Outside of the visual novel segments and cut scenes, you’ll find a familiar combat system based around a two-button attack set-up that allows for combos and button bashing experimentation, with opportunities for dashes, parries and aerial attacks with and without an AI partner.
Shinobi and frantic transformations are back, each with their own undressing of the character, as well as wall running attacks. Don’t expect your partner to be of that much help, they seem to have the intelligence of a packet of crisps. As you strip down an enemy’s health (or your own), their clothing will destruct to reveal a raunchier, lingerie attire. In short, the game is as sexualised as you want to make it. Clothing destruction is something you can turn off, and there are options to buy more or less revealing clothing in-game. The choice is completely yours! (No judging here!)
It’s a lovely looking, fun game and it knows its audience. There’s no appeal to the masses but fans of past instalments will appreciate the step up that this game has given the series. It takes hack and slash gameplay styles, combines it with a unique visual novel element, and even more unique art style. Complaining about the sometimes-flawed A.I and lack of fluidity in combat rings hollow as this is a game about boobs and bikinis, after all.
Robyn Goodall | @lilrobyngoodall