Last month, we got a chance to get hands on with the English version of Senran Kagura Bon Appetit, the strange cooking/rhythm game hybrid spawned from the titillating Senran Kagura beat-em up series. Coming later this year to EU territories, courtesy of Marvelous Europe, Senran Kagura Bon Appetit features the girls of Senran Kagura Burst and the upcoming Shinovi Versus as they battle in a cooking contest, with Hanzō, the founder of Hanzō Academy, as the judge. If you’ve played, watched, seen or heard of the Senran Kagura series before, you probably know what to expect from the character designs and art, and Bon Appetit will continue the ‘Life & Hometown‘ focused legacy of its predecessors, while throwing the characters into this curious cooking/rhythm mash up for the PS Vita.
While these battles between the ninja are based around creating tasty dishes, the actual game play takes the form of a rhythm game, with you hitting the note markers along with the song playing for each stage. Each level pits you against one of the series’ shinobi in a 1 v 1 contest of cooking prowess, all in aid of winning a prize which will grant the winner a single wish.
To describe Bon Appetit in terms of other rhythm games, its kind of like a mix Taiko no Tatsujin and Hatsune Miku Project Diva. You have button prompts sliding along the screen from left to right and you’ll be using both the main 4 face buttons (x, circle, triangle and square) as well as the d-pad directions to hit the notes in time with the music. Bon appetit also sets these on two parallel lanes with markers appearing on both paths, sometimes simultaneously. This particular feature can make the game quite challenging since you have to keep track of both lanes to see what’s coming next. All of this button tapping in rhythm with the notes and music also affects how well you preform in the cooking aspect of the game, which takes place in the background (although when you’re playing it may be hard to see that when you’re focusing on the markers flowing across the bottom of the screen). Hitting many notes in succession and in time with the beat, your shiobi will continue cooking with no problems, but if you mess up, the quality of your cooking will suffer, leaving room for your opponent to overtake you.
At three points during the stage, with the 3rd being right at the end, Hanzō rates your cooking and decides which of the two opponents is currently in the lead, with the failing ninja loosing more of their clothing, as is the norm for this series, if you’ve played the other titles. Finally, at the end of the song, you see the fruits of your labours presented before Hanzō for the final judgement. The shinobi that prepares the better dish will be crowned winner and other will loose all but their underwear, and probably a portion of their dignity in the process.
During the couple levels I played with Bon Appetit, I found it to be quite an enjoyable game, as someone who has played a few rhythm games and Senran Kagura Burst on the 3DS. The controls seemed to be quite responsive but the fact that you have two separate lanes to monitor for notes makes it quite challenging, even on normal difficulty. After doing an adequate job on normal, I decided to try Hard mode, which, as expected, was considerably harder than normal since now it was using all 4 directions and all 4 face buttons, whereas normal mode would only use half of that for the button prompts that would appear during the level. Even early on in the level, I could tell that I was probably in over my head, and soon found myself failing all of the test tests/judgement sections spectacularly. I would like to think that after a bit of practise with the game and getting the hand of the 2 lane configuration, I might be able to handle Hard mode comfortably.
Just like in Senran Kagura Burst, there are also quite a few costumes and accessories you can get to dress up your shinobi for when you’re playing in game. Some might be alternate uniforms and others may be weird and wonderful decorations to punctuate your character’s outfit.
If you have played the other games or watched the anime series, there will be many different shinobi for you to choose from, so you’ll be likely to find your favourite shinobi girl to take into (cooking) battle.
Senran Kagura Bon Appetit is looking like it could be an interesting and challenging game to check out for PS Vita when it launches in the UK/EU later this year. Hopefully there will be a few more chances for us to check out the game closer to launch to get some more practice in on the harder stages!