bitparade: Senran Kagura: Estival Verus (PlayStation 4)

This is the second time I’ve covered a Senran Kagura game, having reviewed 2014’s Nintendo DS title Senran Kagura Burst. Back then I made a note that there was an element of fun to the side scrolling beat-em up, even if it was incredibly repetitive and rather embarrassing to play. Those values still apply 2 years on and its now harder to escape that feeling of embarrassment with a full blown console release. But its that just judging a book by its cover?

Well, sort of. You see a huge part of what makes Senran Kagura Estival Versus is the level of titilation that is thrust upon the player, at every turn the game seeks to take advantage of its all female cast, with clothes being torn during battle, video sequence depicting their clothes disappearing as they transform to their Shinobi forms, dialogue that plays upon harem anime tropes (theres on character in particular that is pretty obsessed with the other girls’ breasts), ridiculous physics that invoke memories of Dead or Alive and a rather revealing and/or fantasised wardrobe collection. In this post-Feminist Frequency world it all feels rather crude and a little unnecessary. I mean I like boobs as much as most men, but Senran Kagura Estival Versus is basically one of those mouse mats with an anime girl print and �wrist support�.

And yet, its kind of fun. Once you get past all the dialogue sequence (which can be skipped and aren’t essential for actually playing the game) you’re presented with a 3D brawler. OK, its more Koei-influenced than Platinum, which isn’t particularly a bad thing. Theres normally a large amount of enemies on screen at any one time and you soon rack up a large number of comboes, and the actually battle system is fairly varied and has an approachable level of complexity, allowing you to mix up the normal standard + hard attack comboes with wall runs, specials, aerial dashes and projectiles, amongst other things. Each girl wields a different weapon and thus has a different fighting style with some being much faster than others, for example. Unfortunately, whilst all this is pretty good stuff, its all attached to a bunch of enemies who seem to want to wait for you to attack them. This could be put down to the number of foes involved, but even boss fights (which usually pitch one girl from a group against another) see your sole enemy backing off and waiting for you to attack rather than taking any initiative and challenging you, which means the only aspect of the combat mechanisms you really need to master is the timing on the parry, get that nailed down and nothing stands in your way, particularly as it stuns surrounding foes leaving you open to beat the crap out of everything without answer.

Personally speaking, and I refer back to Dead or Alive with this, in particularly the Xtreme offshoots, one of the things I think is really lacking is a point to the exploitation nature of the game. There’s absolutely nothing stopping you kitting out all of the girls in the skimpiest of outfits, right from the start you can have them running around in their underwear if you so wish, at least Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball encouraged you to try and develop a relationship with the other characters to get to that point, it’d also add some involvement for the player during some of the lengthier dialogue sequences if there was some sort of relationship aspect to the game, providing a bit more depth to the entire experience. As it stands, Senran Kagura Estival Versus is little more than a weaaboo version of a Tecmo-Koei game, there is an enjoyable brawler within the (un)dressing of titration, but its a pretty difficult obstacle to climb unfortunately.

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