I have a really weird relationship with the Senran Kagura franchise. I consider myself a fan of the series, but I am very critical about how it chooses to portray its female lead characters. Critizising the first game on the 3DS was actually a bit easier, since the game was mediocre at best, so it wasn’t a great game on many fronts. But with Shinovi Versus, it’s definitely harder, because the game itself is quite fun. Hit the jump for more.
Senran Kagura is a franchise that revolves around all female ninja schools going to war with each other. In the first game, there were only two schools, now there are four factions and each one of them gets a whole campaign in this game, complete with side story missions. That sure is a lot of content and you’ll need more than 20 hours in order to get through everything. That’s pretty much the same amount of time I spent on the first game for the 3DS.
How much you’ll enjoy the story really depends on if you like Visual Novels and if you can deal with about 50% of the plot revolving around breasts and/or the diverse fetishes some of the characters have. The funny thing is, that like in the first game, the story is really pushed here and while some bits are enjoyable and give the characters some much needed depth, a lot of it is about breasts and your standard fare of Anime-tropes, that try to be cute and funny, but end up just being sexist. Even if a dialogue scene is super intense and dramatic, it is being undercut by the fact that the characters clothes are completely gone, since they were torn apart in the fight beforehand. The portrayal doesn’t really help in the actual gameplay itself either: The characters’ clothes are routinely destroyed in battle, leading to some flashy animations that show off the exposed body parts. Especially with the „Loli“-characters, this is quite creepy. It’s also annoying and disturbs the gameplay flow. Luckily, they can be skipped, but why can’t they just be turned off?
The loading times are abysmal. It’s not, that they are overly long, but the fact that they happen so often, that really got on my nerves after some hours. You get a loading screen when you choose your mission from the main menue, then you get one after the intro sequence is done, then you get one after finishing the mission and another one, that brings you back to the main menue. Why doesn’t it just ask if I want to go straight to the next mission? Later in the campaigns, the game decides to switch it up and just doesn’t bother bringing you back to the main menue screen. That certainly suited me, but I can imagine that a lot of people would prefer to go back to the menue screen. Why not just ask if we want to go back to it? Also, you can’t just tell the game to immediately skip all the cutscenes of a mission, like the 3DS game did, so if you replay missions, you have to watch them or skip them once again.
It’s small things like that, which bring the game down for me. The fighting, the graphics and the music are great and fit the platform really well. You have a bigger enemy variety than in the first game, the environments are pretty, if a bit lifeless, and the animations are great. I particularly enjoyed the Dynasty Warriors-style of gameplay when it comes to beating down the henchman, since it always feels satisfying and it shows off how differently the characters play.
So, if you can deal with the sexism and the loading times, this is a pretty fun game. If not: Stay away from it at all costs!