• Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus Review Sony PlayStation Vita

    Every so often, a game appears on a region-locked system that garners a lot of attention from those unfortunate enough not to have access to said, usually Japanese, hardware. Recent examples of this would be Gal Gun and Idolmaster on 360 (before it came to PS3) and more relevant, the Senran Kagura games that appeared on the 3DS. With the release of Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus on Vita, however, import fans as well as those with a love of the more bizarre, risque side of import gaming have the chance to experience it no matter where they are based thanks to the handhelds lack of region lock. Is it an experience worth having though, or was the series better off staying limited to Japan?

    The first, most obvious, thing that comes up to anyone playing is that whereas Senran Kagura and its sequel, Burst, on 3DS were 2D side-scrolling affairs, Shinovi Versus has more in common with the Musou (think Dynasty Warriors) series in that it takes the action to a more open 3D field and ups the amount of enemies that are required to be hack and slashed through. Despite the addition of a new dimension though, those who played the 3DS entries in the series will soon get to grips with what is going on. It's not the best looking game on the system, but provides a nice, clean upgrade from the original and Burst.

    Similarly to the those, each character has a weak and strong attack, jump, block and dash capabilities and access to various specials. It doesn't have the depth of your average parry or combo heavy 2D fighter, but there's enough here for the simple act of mowing through scores of enemies to feel fairly entertaining. Launching an enemy into the air after a few attacks allows combos to be continued, albeit not indefinitely. This emphasises the fast pace of the combat and those who like to keep an eye on combo records will be pleased. Pressing down on the d-pad performs a limit break, which comes in very handy when one of the many bosses starts to dish out some of these combos on the player.

    Further depth is added to the gameplay by way of a transformation sequence (where, unsurprisingly, the character switches from school uniform to something a little more revealing through a flashy, magical-girl anime style sequence) which powers the girl up to another form, where more damage can be dealt. A new set of special attacks can be accessed in this form, each featuring yet more screen-filling sequences. Having these two forms keeps over-familiarity at bay as far as the combat is concerned. The fact that each stage is relatively short helps to stop the repetitiveness becoming too apparent as well. Defeating a certain amount of enemies is generally the order of the day, at which point a boss battle will take place. Mainly one-on-one encounters in an enclosed arena, these sections provide most of the challenge in the game, especially towards the latter stages. Grunt-style enemies are varied enough, although as progress is made through the story mode, it's easy to spot re-skinned versions of foes fought during initial missions and bosses aside, not a lot of tactics or brain power is required to get through them.

    With the gameplay and basic gameplay structure dissected, we can move on to the main gimmick of the game anime girls in various states of undress, after their clothes have been ripped and torn off during battle of course. That's a sentence that will get most people to come down on one side of the "do I feel comfortable playing this?" fence, but although it definitely helps the game stand out from the almost infinite number of Dynasty Warriors (and its ilk) games and, for a certain portion of players, provides some welcome titilation. To completely judge it one way or another on this element would be unfair, although admittedly it is the main selling point of the game and a skin (pardon the pun) that can make it seem like more than a Musou game with scantily clad anime girls.

    Anyone with a desire to explore this side of the game in more detail will be happy to learn that costume and accessories are periodically unlocked as the story is played through, allowing all manner of items and clothes to be bought. Impatient players may want to take a look at the DLC, which allows items to be purchased for money, rather than waiting for them to unlock. Additionally, the wonderfully named panty lottery allows random items to be gained in a similar way to how the Smash Brothers games award statues and trophies.

    In terms of the meat of the game, there is a lot of content on offer, more that most will probably expect. There are three schools on offer (with an additional one unlocked after beating all of these), each containing five characters and twenty five missions per school, broken down into chapters. Every fetish and fantasy is on offer throughout the roster and, once one has been selected, it's into a mission. These will usually start with animated character models talking and providing a bit of context to all the fighting and do tend to go on for quite a while, although they can be skipped for those who don't need an excuse to get down and dirty with the combat. Visual novel style section crop up occassionally too and add yet more depth for those who are interested. In a way, it feels like the game (and series) takes everything that the Otaku craves every anime trope is on offer with voice acting on show, sprinkled intermittently with visual novel type sections and presents it via the quite (for Japan) popular and mainstream Musou genre, appealing to as wide an audience as possible.

    The game can also be taken online, where up to four players can battle it out against each other in various game types, the most unique of which sees them compete to grab as many pairs of underwear as possible in an alloted time.

    In the end, Senran Kagura Shonovi Versus is a solid, fun and long lasting hack and slash, with more depth and content than might be expected. The rather 'in your face' presentation, characters and content will turn some off straight away, but don't let the hyperbole of internet forums get out of hand while this is risque with a capital R, there is no nudity or sex. The God of War series has more of that. Those that played the 3DS titles and enjoyed them will find plenty to like here, the shift in dimension, graphical upgrade and new characters providing plenty of incentive to strip off and rejoin the cast. It won't set the world alight with innovation, but there is definitely a lot of fun to be had here for those that dip their toes in.


    - Fun, fast paced combat.
    - Lots of missions.
    - Missions structured well and lend themselves to portable play.


    - Presentation isn't for everyone.
    - Multiplayer requires an online pass and Japanese PSN account.

    Developer: Marvelous AQL
    Publisher: Marvelous AQL
    Other Versions: N/A
    Version Reviewed: Asian

    Buy this at PLAY-ASIA.

    Score: 8/10