Senran Kagura Burst
I’m going to start this review a little differently to most, and give away the ending. You can tell much of whether you will enjoy Senran Kagura Burst purely based on it’s cover and artwork. Burst hides nothing about what kind of content will be in the game, and delivers exactly what the cover artwork implies. If you’re put off by the game’s seemingly oversexualised anime looks, your opinion won’t change after playing the game. However, if you aren’t put off by the game’s blatant ecchi stylings, there is a decent enough game in here that could end up entertaining.
Senran Kagura Burst is actually a collection of two games previously only available in Japan, Skirting Shadows and Crimson Girls. Each story focuses on a female shinobi clan, and the tale of their clashes with each other and other foes. The Hanzō National Academy storyline features essentially ‘good’ characters, upholding justice and virtue, while the second story focuses on the more ‘evil’ Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy. Both storylines play fairly similarly, but it is recommended to take the ‘good’ storyline first. This is the story featured in the first Senran Kagura title and as such is better suited to new players.
The actual content of the storyline is not terribly compelling. Chiefly told through lengthy visual novel segments and animated character conversations before and after each missing, I found myself eventually skipping over these to get to the action. Multiple screens of text (I’m talking 8-plus screens in most cases) really did nothing to set up the upcoming mission, and probably could have been done without.
Once these tedious storytelling sections are over however, you can get straight to the action, which in stark contrast to my feelings towards the rest of the game, was really quite enjoyable. Each storyline has five characters to choose from (and a sixth to unlock) and the characters generally give a different feeling to the flow of combat, at least to begin with. Asuka uses her dual swords with agile slashes, Katsuragi pounds on her enemies with powerful kicks and Yagyu feels a bit more sluggish with her umbrella serving as a weapon of choice.
Combat makes up the bulk of your gameplay in Burst, and while it devolves into very simple repeated combos for the most part, it manages to remain exciting thanks to the bombastic animations that accompany your attacks. Regardless of which character you choose, most combat situations can be dealt with using a series of light attacks, waiting for a green circle to appear which allows you to launch a swathe of enemies into the air, and following them by tapping A at the right time. You can then continue this style of combo in the air a set number of times depending on the character their state. You can also finish with a heavy attack, which does a little more damage and gets you down to the ground to quickly scoop up another group of targets to continue your combo. Once you get the rhythm of the character, multiple hundred hit combos, or even 1000+ hit combos aren’t out of the question.
Each character has some signature moves available as well. They all have an escape move called a Limit Break, which sacrifices some health to perform an area-of-effect attack that can get you out of tight situations, as well as a Shinobi Transformation which gives the player a lengthy transformation scene (where the character is magically stripped down to their swimsuit, then their Shinobi outfit appears on top of it as the camera gratuitously lingers), increases attack & defense, as well as giving the character access to some exclusive Secret Ninja Arts with their corresponding animations.
You can also press L+R at the start of a match to go Frantic, which greatly boosts attack while reducing defense and clothing, encouraging an all-or-nothing approach. While most missions will inevitably devolve into endless use of the same set of combos, the variety of attack animations between characters and their special Arts keeps things fresh for a while. The cookie cutter combo strings that you will come to rely on in Burst will likely begin to grate over lengthy play sessions however, especially to players with a little experience with more complex, combo driven action games. Unlockable items such as outfits and accessories can further encourage the ‘just one more mission’ mindset for fans of the characters.
Burst’s graphical presentation runs the gamut from impressively detailed in some areas, to downright shoddy in others. While the main player character models are surprisingly smooth and detailed, other enemies and environment objects often look starkly out of place in comparison. The frame rate generally keeps up during battles, helped by the very lenient combat which allows for button mashing and doesn’t demand millisecond perfect timing. I never found that the frame rate hindered my ability to play the game. While out of a mission in the Academy however, the frame rate takes a very noticeable dive. Running around and talking to fellow shinobi, walking to the dressing room and such is an incredibly choppy experience, which I suspect is because the game is displaying all of the detailed character models on screen at once. The game audio is nothing of much note, lots of anime cliches like wailing guitars and traditional Japanese instruments. Some dialogue is voiced, albeit in Japanese, and there is accompanying English text for any narrative essential dialogue.
As mentioned before, if you’re unsure about whether you might enjoy Senran Kagura Burst, the cover will be able to give you at least a reasonable indication of whether it will fit your tastes. The game is just as gratuitously sexual as the images imply and for many people this will be enough to dissuade a purchase regardless of whether there is an enjoyable game underneath. Judging on gameplay alone, there is indeed a potentially addicting blend of fast paced action, a wealth of content and unlockables that could keep players coming back to Burst for a while, you will simply need to decide for yourself whether you want to stomach the overtly sexual themes and content that forms a significant and integral part of Senran Kagura Burst as a whole.