When looking at the range of games on the 3DS that have been released this year, there’s nothing quite like the unique, and sometimes divisive Senran Kagura Burst, from Marvellous AQL and PQube. Developed by Tamsoft and produced by Marvelous Entertainment, the game features two groups of young female ninjas (all with ample bosoms) from rival ninja schools, one good and one bad, fighting to uphold justice or spread chaos. For the western debut of the series, Senran Kagura Burst contains the first game, Skirting Shadows, originally released in 2011 in japan, Senran Kagura Burst is the original game plus an additional story line from the perspective of the rival ninja school you were fighting against in the first story.
The best way to describe the gameplay of Senran Kagura Burst is to think of a side scrolling action game, in the vein of games like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon, combined with a visual novel to fill out the story, along with several other gameplay elements stacked on top.
Upon starting the game, you’re given the option to select which side of the story you wish to play through. The good Ninjas of the Hanzō Academy provide the original storyline from the first game, Skirting Shadows, while the alternate story of the Hebijo Academy ninjas comprise the additional campaign that was added exclusively to the Senran Kagura Burst release. Hebijo Academy are essentially your rivals and possibly viewed as the villains.
The main gameplay takes place in missions, which you select from your ‘Ninja Room’ where the girls chill out between battles. Here, you can chose to play one of five ninjas and change characters after or before missions. Each character has varying personalities, along with different stats and fighting techniques. Asuka, the default character is basically the all-rounder, with average stats, whereas other characters may be more geared towards endurance, increased attack power or increased defense.
When you’re out on missions in the field and fighting enemies, you fight by performing light and heavy attacks to chain combos together, at which point, you can launch foes into the air to continue the combo and send them crashing down to the floor for a powerful attack, called the Aerial combo. As you’re attacking, you’re also building up your ‘Secret Art’ meter, when at least 1/2 full, gives you the ability to use your character’s secret ninja attack to strike all the enemies on screen at once. During the special attacks, a short cutscene plays, showing off your character while playing the animation in all it’s jiggling 3D glory. Hibiki for me is the weakest character but has the cutest cut scene where she rides a bunny into peoples faces.
Senran Kagura separates itself from other beat ’em ups by using your character’s clothing to represent how much damage they’ve taken. The more damage that’s inflicted to your ninja, the more their clothes are torn off, somewhat similar to the battle damage on clothing present in the latest Mortal Kombat, making this game action packed and a little saucy.
When you’re not out in the streets fighting any number of random enemies, you’ll find yourself in the visual novel-esque segments that fill out the plot between battles by showing interactions between multiple characters, accompanied by voice acting from the original Japanese cast and lots of pretty art illustrations. For some of these cutscenes, a lot of reading is involved to take in all of the text that describes the scenes.
As you progress through the game, you level up each individual character from gaining experience during battles, all while gaining new moves and abilities, as well as unlocking various things for the game, such as art work, achievements, music, costumes, and new characters. It is worth swapping characters throughout as certain missions require specific ninjas to progress the main story. Once a story mission is complete, you can replay that mission and improve your ranks or level up. If you’re feeling bold, you also have the ability to invoke ‘Frantic mode’ at the start of a mission by pressing R & L simultaneously. This mode has your ninja shed their normal clothing, removing any of the armour protection their uniform would normally provide. This mode also leaves you unable to transform into your Shinobi outfit. The added difficulty of this mode makes the missions more challenging, for which you’ll be rewarded with a star rank upon completion.
My favourite aspect of the game was the level of customisation you have for your characters. Each of the characters have the ability to transform into their shinobi outfits when they fill their special bar, giving them access to special attacks. Many alternate outfits and accessories can be unlocked in the game, which you can equip in the changing room when back in the Ninja Room. Some outfits allow you to use special attacks and come with their own additional health bar, granting extra protection from enemies.
Senran Kagura was definitely not what I expected as a game, we all prejudge on front covers and graphics and I thought it was possibly a beat em up with RPG aspects. This was not the case but I like that it’s a side scrolling game balances out all the talking which kinda imitates an RPG to an extent.
The combos are a bit limited, you literally button bash yourself out of a sticky situation, enemies literally box you in and stomp on you when you hit the ground. However when you level up and your yang increases you do get bonus attacks added on to your aerial attack and general combos. With Hibari I tried so hard to level her up now when I fight a bunny jumps out and slaps enemies.
I felt Asuka was hard to use as a first player, so I opted for Katsuragi and Ikaruga as my main players. Ikaruga has great range with her fencing sword and generally has high attack, I’ve never seen her full wrecked outfit. Kat is a bit more technical as she predominantly uses martial arts but again great attack. My favourite character has to be Kat for her personality and outfit, reminds me of kitsch Japanese school girls, when she transforms her outfit must use a lot of double sided tape to stay on and her brassiere however is illogical therefore the best character !