Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is an action game with tons of fan service in just about every element of the title. The winks and nods throughout the game’s trophies, dressing room, and destructible clothing in combat are all a major selling point for fans of the series. The Senran Kagura series makes no attempt to hide the fan service in the games, and this can automatically make some people question whether or not they want to try one of these titles out. But behind the giant wall of up skirt shots, sexual innuendo, and giant jiggle effects, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus actually has a pretty solid combat system and plenty of unlockable items that are enjoyable to collect. The sexual nature of the title isn’t actually a problem with Shinovi Versus. Personally, I think the content is handled pretty well even though some instances can be pretty awkward. The issues lie within some questionable gameplay and stability elements. Sure, the combat system is pretty fun and I’m glad the title plays much like the beat-‘em-up games of the past, but long load times, repetition, and a horrible camera all drive the title into the realm of mediocrity.
My first experience with the Senran Kagura series was with Burst, the 3DS entry that was largely similar but the combat took place on a 2D plane instead. Shinovi Versus expands its combat system by creating 3D levels and refining all of the characters so that the combat now takes place on a 3D plane with the camera positioned behind the player. For the series to continue growing, even though it already has a sizable and dedicated fan base, this move was necessary because Burst felt rather dates in its execution. Shinovi Versus makes the jump to 3D combat and translates the combat system to the new look pretty well. But the new camera angles end up creating some issues with the game that can make the controls difficult to manage. The camera glitches out occasionally and overall is a pain to control. During one of the many boss fights the camera got stuck spinning in a circle and I lost all control over it. It was also lowered substantially, so while it was low and spinning I had to attempt to defeat my opponent. I experienced motion sickness and even though my enemy had really low health, I just couldn’t see enough to finish her off. While that was the worst I experienced with the camera, other issues were persistent throughout the experience. The jump to 3D was nice and it’s something I would like to see in the future of the series, but it felt like the kinks weren’t quite worked out just yet.
The story in Shinovi Versus is actually the dangling carrot that drives players forward. There is an emphasis on the combat which includes the destructible clothing, but the game attempts to tell a story through different characters and viewpoints. But the story is so basic and full of filler conversations that it ends up becoming boring as time goes on. The combat screen is also cluttered sometimes when the characters are speaking in Japanese because the English text appearing right in the center of the screen. Since there are so many characters in the game(four total groups of shinobi) it would have been tough to fully translate and localize the experience in English. Many niche titles in the West are going towards this method of importing. The actual text throughout the game was translated pretty well. The story is told through the visual novel style including internal text-based monologues, along with the characters interacting on screen. The story is told through several groups of shinobi, and largely deals with their interactions with one another. Between these interactions and missions are load times. Load times that are long and frequent. After completing a mission you’ll have to slowly go through the unlockable menus, and each time at the end the game will ask you to save. The saving process is relatively quick, but the load times are so frequent that they become annoying. Senran Kagura Burst suffered from a constantly choppy frame rate, and while Shinovi Versus corrected that issue, long load times replaced it instead.
The missions are almost all identical and have players fighting some lesser characters with a boss at the end of the level. The fight has to happen between the characters for the story to continue even though after a while it just isn’t very interesting anymore. Each group has their own story missions spread out through five chapters, and each character has her own side story arc to flesh them out a little bit. The girls within the game are crafted in such a way that is very reminiscent of fighting games. In fighting games all of the characters are extremely unique and sometimes stereotypical, but even though they can often be one dimensional, I have always loved that style of presentation. Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus handles characters in a similar fashion, and most of the girls are the extremes of their personality types. Overall, I enjoyed spending time with the characters and seeing a more personal side to them during their story arcs, but some of the characters were just plain weird. Shinovi Versus also does a great job at making each character feel unique in combat. The controls in combat are very simple. There is a main offensive button that can be tapped or held in for an attack, a power attack, blocking, and jumping. Combining some of the actions can lead to a shinobi transformation which increases attack and defense and allows for secret attacks to be unleashed. There is also a frantic mode which sacrifices defense while stripping the character to their underwear, but wields awesome damage output. Each of the three character modes can be leveled up as the characters progress, and each mode receives up to five bonuses that help benefit the player when utilizing that form.
Shinovi Versus focuses on the action so the leveling system ends up being pretty basic, but it adds an addictive quality to fighting and defeating enemies. Completing missions yields experience and money, and the money can be used at the massive store within the game. The store carries items that are unlocked by playing through the game, and there is also a lingerie lottery which operates exactly the way it sounds. Players can donate money to increase their luck, and if you have high enough luck you can unlock new underwear that can be equipped in the dressing room. Players are also able to spend real life money to buy tokens that give you a one hundred percent chance to unlock a new item, but with how little the luck scales it ends up being much easier to just spend the minimum amount of money each time. I was able to unlock all of the lingerie by only spending the minimum amount to play the lottery, so it felt a little out of place to sell a token on the PSN for a dollar. The amount of unlockable items and the structure of the game allows for quick play sessions on the go. I completed just about everything the game had to offer in a little over thirty hours. Each level can be played on a harder setting as well which helps Shinovi Versus be a game with very high replayability.
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus brought a lot of change to the series by integrating a 3D world into the experience. Many of the old problems that were previously seen in Burst are still present however, including things like repetition and performance issues. The camera in Shinovi Versus also creates some problems when it comes to the gameplay, and those complications should have been ironed out before the release of the title. Even though Shinovi Versus has some issues it still remains fun to play thanks to all of the unique characters, combat system, and amount of collectibles. If fan service and beat-‘em-ups are up your alley, then Shinovi Versus is a game worth checking out.