Game Review: Senran Kagura: Estival Versus (PS4)
21/03/2016 Leave a comment
It’s been just over a year since the last Senran Kagura title hit a playstation platform and less than a year since Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson was released onto the Nintendo 3DS and yet here we are again with a brand new fan-service themed hack-and-slash game that defines the logic of reason.
Introducing Senran Kagura: Estival Versus; the second ‘major’ instalment into the Senran Kagura franchise on Playstation platforms and the first to grace our beloved PS4 console; but is it any good? Or is it just another excuse to see digital boobs on the big-screen? Well lets find out.
|Title:||Senran Kagura: Estival Versus|
|Resolution:||1920 X 1080
Developed by Tamsoft and published by Marvelous Games Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is the Senran Kagura game many have been waiting for; the game that finally brings high quality anime visuals and over-the-top fan service to the PS4. Unfortunately however that’s where the positive aspects of this game end; as everything else found within is pretty much what we have already experienced elsewhere and, as a result, by the second hour the game starts to become a rather tiresome and repetitive experience.
Ironically enough I am not referring to the games over-sexualised visual style or its constant fan-service between fights; I am actually referring to the gameplay itself as during long-sessions it can become a relatively dreary experience.. This, accompanied with a rather unimaginative storyline, means that despite offering the best visuals and lag-free-gameplay-experience Estival Versus is one of the more disappointing games in the series. Of course if you can stand the constant hack-and-slash nature with seemingly never-ending and undefeatable enemies after 10 minutes then sure… Senran Kagura: Estival Versus has exactly what you need; accompanied with boobs and fan-service naturally.
For me the general gameplay, and the relatively bland nature of visuals for the PS4 version, are what disappointed me the most in this game. The combat mechanics are exactly the same as past titles, with Square and Triangle for Low and High damage attacks which combined together in different ways perform combos, as well as Circle for Dashing around; but it is the realisation that ultimate attack combos cannot be performed unless you activate Shinobi Transformation sequence. Upon pressing the L1 button players will activate a lewd scene which sees their character transform into their ‘true’ shinobi form and as a result the attacks will become stronger. The alternate result of this is that players can now use special abilities each of which use part of the ninja scroll guage (located at the bottem left of the screen) which increases each time you defeat an enemy. By pressing the L1 button with a corresponding attack button a different type of powerful attack can be used to deal endless damage to your opponent.
Another type of Shinobi Transformation, known as Frantic, can also be activated by using the touchpad on the Dualshock 4 pad. This type of transformation gives the impression that you are pulling the girls clothes off (as they go down to their underwear) and as a result all attack damage is increased for a lenghty period of time. It’s basically a last ditch effort and it’s a feature that was first introduced in the previous PS Vita game (well the ripping clothes aspect at least). New types of combat mechanics, such as team attacks and wall-attacks, bring a fresh approach to the game but even then it all remains simplistic and easy.
This is where Senran Kagura’s gameplay tends to fall down; especially after four games. The controls and inputs are extremely simplistic, which is always a good thing; but the fact that special attacks can only be activated after using the Shinobi Transformation means that the endless amounts of enemies on-screen, which easily rival that of a Dynasty Warriors game, will see you spend several minutes of mindlessly pressing the same button. Of course you could activate the shinobi transformation – but as it can only be used once (and restores your health completely in the process) using it at the start can be considered a waste. I am giving the impression that I have grown tired of Senran Kagura titles; but the obvious answer is that the enemies are too strong, even in easy mode, and that more attack combinations and abilities should be added to offer a balanced gameplay experience; which is a shame as the story Estival Versus offers is quite a unique one.
The story of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus sees the three main shinobi academies, namely Gessen, Hanzo, Hebijo, along with Homura’s Crimson Squad transported to a mysterious island that is being used for the current Kagura Millenium Festival; a festival, which is ran by Asuka’s grandmother Sayuri, that helps transport dead spirits into a peaceful afterlife. You would assume the objective is to aid in the operation of the festival, which in some context it is; but instead it’s actually a tournament to see which academy is currently the best shinobi team with the victor gaining easier access to the ultimate shinobi title; Kagura.
It starts off as a relatively interesting storyline; whereby Sayuri and her team of Shinobi attempt to kick-start them into fighting each other, but after awhile it becomes a relatively dreary process that just moves from one argument to another within the team – with most discussions revolving on why they are actually on the island (despite being told). The only aspect of the storyline which seems to hold up is the reunion of Ryobi and Ryona with their once dead sister as we get to experience a deeper relationship with the characters that’s more than just swimsuits and fan-service.
Unlike past story modes however players have no control on which team (academy) or character they will get to use; instead everything has been predetermined by the creators of the game. The result is a much more ‘stricter’ narrative and, at the same time, forces players to use characters that they are not familiar with. Basically once you start the main campaign of the game you won’t have to worry about switching characters or navigating around a complicated hub room in-between missions; it’s simply a never ending stream of dialogue, action and boobs that is only broken-up with small loading screens and mission result screens. Personally I do not mind this type of stricter gameplay – as it means you can just push through the story – but it does lose some flexibility in the process.
For instance the dressing room, which is where unlocked outfits can be equipped and used in game, now requires that team (or character) to be in the current mission in order for any alterations to be made apparent to the player. I must admit; I haven’t fully grasped how to use the dressing room; but whenever i tried to use it the same characters always appeared and they were the same ones appearing in the current mission of the campaign. It’s needlessly confusing; and thats before you dive through all of the dressing room sub-menus.
How is this possible you might be wondering? Well it’s because of the new sub-menu that is in place. As opposed to a hub world, which users would return to after completing a mission in Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, players now have to physical quit the story mode in order to access this sub menu. In this sub menu players are able to visit the dressing room, view records, change characters, enter the shop or view past unlocked content. Sure enough this sub-menu is easier than the hub-world but it acts disconnected from the main campaign and as such makes using it slightly more awkward; for instance changing characters will change the current background for the sub-menu but do nothing for actually changing the customisable characters in the dressing room. Even when you return to the main campaign and choose to continue the story a warning will present itself saying that you cannot use the selected character.
Despite my complaints about the dressing rooms functionality with the main campaign you can actually access it from the main menu of game – which just shows how ‘disconnected’ from the main game that this feature really is. In any event the exceptional customisation options of the game returns with hundreds of different outfits, clothing and underwear available for you to equip (or unequip) as you see fit. Do not get too excited though; as at the beginning only a limited number of outfits are available for selection but as you progress through the campaign, and perform required tasks set in each mission, you will unlock additional outfits for use… some more interesting than others.
Further unlockable content can be purchased from the in-game shop whereby using money earned in battle can be exchanged for additional outfits, cut-scenes and artwork thats seen throughout the campaign. Alternatively a lottery option is also available which can be used to unlock more ‘exclusive’ pieces of content. Interestingly enough however this lottery segment also features in-game purchases whereby players can purchase (by using real money from the PSN store) lottery coins to win better prizes. Of course this option isn’t forced upon you but still begs the question why it is even included in the first place.
Despite my heavy attention to the games story mode Senran Kagura: Estival Versus does not just feature a single campaign mode; as also bundled into the game is two alternate side-mission storylines as well as a shinobi showdown dojo mode. The former two campaign modes play out similar to the main campaign however they must be unlock be meeting certain conditions; some more harsh than others. As with past Senran Kagura titles they will provide a more ‘informative’ experience to the player as well as some more fan-service. The latter option on the other hand, Shinobi Showdown Dojo, is an area which sees players fight battles against the numerous characters on offer in the game.
To me Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is a rather shollow experience; it sets itself up to be a rather eccentric storyline but what starts off as an emotional story soon fades out into fan-service and mindless battles. A good story is to be found here; but unfortunately its shrouded in so much fan-service and potentially poor taste that you will have to look hard to find it. It’s a good story when it wants to be; but combined with basic combat mechanics that become extremely repetitive in a short space of time you will find yourself struggling to keep yourself motivated to play – which is a real shame as it had some great potential.
—- PS Vita Notes —-
Having played the PS Vita version alongside the PS4 version we can say that both versions offer the same type of gameplay content and story with the only difference being the visuals and minor control adjustments – such as the activation of the rage mechanic during combat. All gameplay elements, characters, story mode and features are exactly the same and better yet both versions of the game feature a ‘transfer save data’ option that allows users to use their game save data across both version of the game; which is becoming an incresingly useful feature amongst games that are released across multiple playstation platforms.
The only downside the PS Vita version suffered, along with those already mentioned in our ‘main review’ is that the frame-rate can drop during battle sequences that see a lot of opponents on screen; but other than that the visuals, alebit on a smaller screen, look extremely similar to their PS4 counterpart. You could say Estival Versus was made for the PS Vita and then ‘enhanced’ for the PS4; bu at the end of the day both offer the same type of gameplay content and experience. Those wishing to to play both versions of the game will also be glad to hear that each game has its own set of trophies so you will be able to stack them.
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is now available for the PS4 and the PS Vita within the UK and Europe.