More than just fanservice for giggling teenage boys.
MarvelousAQL’s Senran Kagura Burst on 3DS is a game that may well be dismissed on first sight due to certain oversized factors. But don’t judge a book by its jiggling cover.
I am going to hold off talking about boobs, the most obvious feature of Senran Kagura Burst, until later on. I want to get the actual gameplay and story (presumably the most important features of a game) out of the way first.
Senran Kagura Burst is a side-scrolling beat-’em-up, with perhaps Streets of Rage being the most well known comparison. Available now on the 3DS, players will take on the role of a variety of young girls who just happen to be members of rival Ninja schools. This obviously leads to a certain amount of conflict and, perhaps surprisingly, a reasonably involving storyline.
The story is actually quite good. Once the player gets past the blatant innuendo which runs throughout the game, the different characters are quite deep and well fleshed out, and the fact that the player gets to experience students from both schools, one of which is classed as good, the other as evil, gives an interesting balance to the story. The characters all fit in with anime stereotypes that anyone who indulges in games from Japan will recognise, but the light-hearted overall feel of the game means that these stereotypes almost represent an in-joke rather than any laziness on the side of the developers.
This is all played out in between levels with static scenes and on-screen text. While this offers a nice contrast to the frantic action of the levels, it does mean that the story tends to move along very slowly. And not every player will bother with all of the reading, preferring to skip straight to the action.
Let’s face it, the story does kind of come low down the list of desirable features in a game that features massive combos and bouncing boobs. The majority of players will be here for the action (with the exception of the giggling teenage boys), and the action is quite good.
There is nothing particularly complicated, or even difficult, about the gameplay in Senran Kagura Burst. Two attacks, jump and a dodge/slide button are all that is really needed. These simple buttons will allow the player to work their way through levels filled with a huge number of enemies, and see the player wracking up massive combos that would make any gamer feel like a gaming superstar. It is incredibly satisfying to link these moves together as you work through a level.
Of course, there is a bit more to the game than that. There is a Ninja Art gauge that fills up and can unleash a stupidly powerful attack, and the characters themselves perform differently enough to add variety to the game. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the gameplay comes from the choice of when to change from the characters schoolgirl outfit to their Ninja outfit.
The player will begin in the schoolgirl outfit and, through the course of each battle, that outfit will gradually be ripped to shreds and destroyed, leaving the players’ character to fight in their underwear. At any point, the player can hit one of the shoulder buttons to change into their Ninja outfit, which graciously refills the health bar, giving them not only a more appropriate fighting costume, but also a reprieve from defeat. Players can even enter Frantic mode at the start of a level, which will see them starting in nothing but their underwear from the get go.
The levels are perhaps one of the low points in the game. While the art work is moderately interesting for the backdrops, the variety is uninspired. Levels will consist of doing pretty much the same thing over and over, with the occasional break for the boss battles.
Adding a bit more variety, and a reason to keep playing, are the collectibles in the game. These come in the form mostly of new outfits for the characters, with everything from new underwear to big fluffy costumes available to give them a new look as they deal death to their enemies.
And then we have boobs. Senran Kagura Burst will offer plenty of bouncing bosoms in glorious 3D for players to stare at. The advertising campaign has focused on this. In fact, even the developer claimed that the idea of 3D boobs was a driving force behind this game. But it doesn’t stop there, you get young girls running around in their underwear, highly questionable camera angles and innuendo around every corner. While this may seem tasteless at first glance, the fact that the game doesn’t take itself seriously and does all of this with its tongue firmly in cheek suggests that offense shouldn’t be taken. There may be disapproving looks from anyone who happens to be watching, but they aren’t in on the joke, so pay them no mind.
Once you get beyond the boobs and underwear, Senran Kagura Burst is a solid side-scrolling beat-’em-up. There is a certain amount of repetition to the game, which I think is unavoidable given the genre, but that doesn’t prevent it from being both satisfying and damn good fun. Not necessarily a game for playing on a packed train, but play it anyway.