Back in January, Marvelous announced, for some unknown reason, Senran Kagura 2 Deep Crimson on 3DS. Well aware that every single fan of the series had migrated to PSVita, the publisher couldn’t just jump ship again without upsetting its audience. They hence had to give something to feed Vita owners. And they did, literally.
Bon Appétit is a rather classic rhythm game which you push buttons following the melodies, but the general subject is cooking. The 22 heroines of Shinobi Versus compete in a cooking tournament, each having her own funny story. Frankly, I didn’t enjoyed the story mode that much : the characters’ motivations are a bit ridiculous and the humor is pretty much a copy of Shinobi Versus. Except for Suzune-sensei, Ikaruga and Murakumo, I found the stories rather boring and artworks not that good.
On the other hand, the gameplay established by Meteorise looked rather solid. First thing, it innovates by making symbols scroll on two lines instead of one. That makes the game quite tricky despite the (large) error margin (almost one second, I checked). The challenge is therefore extremely unsettling at first, but enjoyable in the end.
Why so? Some neurology is in order here (yep, I’m talking neurology from Senran Kagura). Let’s compare with Project Diva : Hatsune Miku, or Vocaloid at large, is thought for composing and listening. As you listen to your Vocaloid songs very often, you keep the rhythm somewhere in mind. So when you start playing Project Diva, your brain doesn’t need to infer the rhythm from the speed and the spacing of the symbols. All it has is to identify the buttons.
That’s your situation when starting Bon Appétit, because you don’t know the songs (which you can listen to freely only after the story mode). Fortunately, the Easy mode is ideal for some training : there are like six times less buttons to push, so everyone can clear the songs. After some time in Easy mode, I could master the Normal mode without much problem. Note that there’s also a Hard mode for those who like to bite the dust, because it’s REALLY hard! As we’re talking about music, I must stress that I really liked most of them. Few are actually voiced songs but the melodies were quite entertaining. Technically speaking, Bon Appétit is on par with Shinobi Versus, which still is one of the most beautiful games on the system, and thus in handheld history. The modeling (as you can see) is incredible and animations seamless, even though the spin-off is less spectacular than the main series.
Each cooking battle has 3 rounds after which master ninja Hanzô gives his verdict (his tomfooleries become pretty quickly annoying). However, I still don’t understand why the first two are for since victory is decided in the last without any kind of advantage if you win the first two.
The result depends only on your rhythmic performance : don’t expect to choose ingredients or set the microwave-oven, the cooking is just for show and is essentially used for the fan-service. Although it’s again not that different from Shinobi Versus in that department, Bon Appétit throws it lavishly with countless costume destruction, crystal-clear sexual innuendo and seriously borderline poses (NSFW, you have been warned!). The viewer mode (which has been copied many times but never matched) is as good as ever but you do have it in Shinobi Versus.
In short, I think Bon Appetit doesn’t differ enough from Shinobi Versus to be a real must-have. The volume is rather unsatisfying : arcade is useless and free mode of limited interest. It introduces a few nice ideas, but fails to develop them. Hardcore fans in the series might jump into given the reduced price (15-30€ depending if you choose the full game or not).