The Senran Kagura series can be hard not to judge on first sight: here we have a game full of well-endowed anime girls fighting and tearing clothes off, how can one respond to that? For those who take a chance or even openly embrace this image however, they are met with much more than they might have expected. I have said this once before, but it bears repeating for a game like this: extreme sexuality and/or violence can often be used to cover up inherent flaws in a game, but that is far from the case in this series. Every inch of Senran Kagura Estival Versus emanates passion, passion for creating something unique and true to its intended vision, held back by little if anything at all. If nothing else, such conviction in design must be respected.
Game Name: Senran Kagura Estival Versus
Platform(s): PS4, PS Vita
Publisher(s): Marvelous Entertainment Inc. / Xseed Games
Release Date: 3/15/2015
Price: PS4 – $59.99 (physical), $49.99 (digital) | PS Vita – $49.99 (physical), $39.99 (digital)
In terms of gameplay, Estival Versus retains its identity as a visual novel / musou hybrid, complimenting its manga-like story with Dynasty Warriors-style combat, with each aspect mirroring its counterpart in both intensity and fanservice. This time around, we find our shinobi heroines (all 20 of them) brought into a mysterious island paradise where they must compete to prove their faction’s superiority and gain a chance to obtain the highest shinobi rank: Kagura. If the stress of potentially being under attack at any moment weren’t enough, the girls are reunited with their departed loved ones through the properties of this alternate dimension. Such a reunion can bring untold joy, but nothing lasts forever.
That having been said, Estival Versus’ story mode is highly emotional and engaging, so much so that the characters rise above the fact that each fight leaves them nearly (or entirely) nude. You begin to feel for these characters, and understand what they think and experience.
On the other side of the coin, Estival Versus offers high-paced gameplay with massive hordes of enemies, screen-clearing ninja arts, and jiggle physics galore. If you have experience with other titles in the genre, you’ll feel right at home here.
Beyond that, there isn’t a lot to say: each mission puts the player in control of a specific girl and puts them in a large 3D space in which to do battle. The player must adapt to the distinct style, tactics, and unique ninja arts of the character they’ve been given to defeat hordes of grunts before confronting the level’s boss. Not overly complicated, but thanks to the sheer uniqueness of each character, gameplay stays varied and intriguing throughout.
All around, the core gameplay is satisfying, but as was just stated, it’s the variety in the characters that make the game shine its brightest. Every detail put in a character is to make them feel cohesive and compliment them in both personality and style. Take, for example, Hibari. Hibari is a childish and naive girl, and it shows in everything she does: her attacks are awkward and cartoony, and she walks with a feminine bounce in her step. Then there’s Katsuragi, who fights with a pair of massive weaponized boots and runs with the uneasy clunkiness that one would expect from it. The list goes on, but suffice it to say that no two characters feel the same, making each of them that much more distinct and charming in their own way.
Technically speaking, Estival Versus does not leave much to be desired (or to the imagination at that): the environments are beautiful, the girls are well modeled and stylized, and the music adds to the intensity of both the story and combat alike. Animations for the playable characters are top notch, but enemy grunts are a bit lacking, specifically when they choose to move backward as many of them don’t seem to have a dedicated animation for it. If there were one more point of contention as far as art and the like goes, it’s that there are only a handful of stages in the game; this is mitigated somewhat by different areas of the stages being accessible in different levels, and honestly, this is nothing new for the genre.
When all is said and done, Senran Kagura Estival Versus is not for everyone, in fact, it’s not necessarily for most people. However, If you like seeing anime girls in risqué situations, this game has tons of content for you. If you like action-filled combat and the satisfaction of having slain hundreds of enemies by the end of each level, this game has you covered. If you want to experience a story where characters are forced to face the mistakes of their past and learn to carry on past the pain of losing loved ones, then Estival Versus has something for you too.
*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review
Senran Kagura Estival Versus
Life worth fighting for
Embrace life in all its forms
If you really think about it, Senran Kagura Estival Versus is kind of a magical game. Playing through the main story can bring you to the brink of tears at times, and from there you can immediately dress up, pose, and grope a character of your choosing. It's an odd type of unabashed shamelessness that only true conviction and liberation in design can provide. It may not be for a mainstream audience, but Estival Versus is a real winner for its niche.
- Unique, well-defined characters
- Fast-paced yet easily graspable combat
- Well balanced comedic/dramatic story
- Arbitrary wall placement to make stages seem more varied
- Lacking animations in basic enemies
- Maybe don't play it in front of loved ones