Review – Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash

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Those who follow Kenichirô Takaki on twitter know that Marvelous’s star producer is a big fan of western FPS. Despite being busy on its own projects, he still saves some time to play Call of Duty, Battlefield and the likes. From there, merging that interest with the Senran Kagura series was only a question of time, and here we are with Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash.

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The beginning is worryingly similar to Senran Kagura Estival Versus : the girls from the four shinobi schools suddenly get warped on some island paradise, where they are asked to compete against each other. Yes, that’s the second time in a row that the scenario writer comes up with some old tournament coming from nowhere… The teachers Kiria and Suzune are in charge of the commentary (in a hilarious way) of that strange competition in which the heroines will face each other using… water guns! To be frank, the five storylines felt anecdotal and the story in whole is once again quite meaningless. Nothing like the first episodes of the series, but with such a wierd main topic, building a serious narrative seems contradictory. It’s very clear (and logic) that the devs whould keep a light-hearted tone while trying an unnatural genre.

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The story still has some merits as it announces major changes in the timeline : central characters seem about to leave their respective groups, with very interesting perspectives, and others like Ayame officially join as main characters. Certain side stories are still lot of fun, like the now famous Ryôbi/Ryôna duo who never run out of ideas in their SM relationship. The way the story is told is still modest (simple dialog and plain text) despite being once more nicely illustrated. The narrative is slim and maybe the producer was aware of that, because Senran Kagura 7 is cleverly teased at the end and we can now expect the story focus to be back.

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The solo mode is composed with several storylines corresponding to each faction. Those mini-stories are themselves divided into short missions where you have to beat larges group of robots, other characters or an entire opposing team. The player has 4 life bars so as to withstand entire matches in which water is coming from all directions. Yet the normal mode is piece of cake and you’ll prefer hard or ultra-hard to enjoy it more : IA becomes a lot more aggressive, asking you to be fast and precise. Ally IA is a lot less satisfying as it’s totally erratic. They can sometimes clear the mission on their own, but in other stages you’ll have revive them constantly.

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While standard missions can feel tedious, this episode introduces bosses at lot more interesting and innovate than ever in the series. Those objectives are hard and make an intense and rewarding end for each storyline. You’ll have to fight giant robots, some in limited time, but there’s also a cool Easter Egg to the anime as you’ll be facing a giant Ryôna bathing. Last but not least, the final boss is absolutely glorious : fun, with crazy music and behavior, it makes the best use of the wacky side of the game.

Basic gameplay is voluntarily close to your average western shooter : you aim, fire and jump with the same buttons. No problem for players used to FPS or for anyone for that matter, it’s thoroughly intuitive to play. Like in any competitive shooter, Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash gives you the choice between a lot of weapons of various fire(water?)power, reach or firing rate. Again, it’s like any FPS out there so everybody can enjoy the game in its own playstyle, at close, mid or long range. The double jump being quite vigorous, you can achieve impressive aerials with the sniper rifle.

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The gameplay is based on aim assist, which can seem childish at first, but is justified by the very fast pace of the matches, where opponents’ moves are a lot more unpredictable than in Battlefield or Call of Duty. The jet pack for example allows you to go through the map at astonishing speed. Very clearly, players would spend their time missing with just manual aim. The focus is non stop action from the first second to the last, and it works pretty well : camping is useless, everybody has to move to get some points.

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But aim assist is no auto-aim and you’ll need to be careful to fire from a correct angle, otherwise you’ll just be throwing water into the air. Water storage is limited, so you have to refill liquid like you’d change ammo, making you vulnerable. You’ll therefore look for the scarce cover points to do so, or do it while jumping which accelerate the refill. In short and despite the new type of game, Senran Kagura keeps its dynamic gameplay.

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Adding to weapons, the game will ask you to prepare a deck of cards. This TGC is in fact a transformed version of the smartphone game Senran Kagura New Wave, the rules of which being adapted to Marvelous’s TPS. After each mission, you’ll receive a booster pack including several cards with a chance to get super rare ones. Exactly like how you’d by a booster pack in reality, in fact. There are several types with various effects : protecting/healing yourself, attacking opponents, boost your stats or hinder enemies’ actions. The diversity of those effects adds a little strategy in matches like you’d find in Call of Duty.

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The cards can be reused after a short cooling time. You can therefore use your entire deck several times in one match. And for the first time, you’ll be happy to get duplicates since all extra cards will be transformed in experience points and allow you to boost your characters’ HP and the weapons’ power. With a total of 821 different cards, the collection is vast and can keep you busy for some time. The only drawback of this system is that sometimes the cards are more efficient than shooting, which is contradictory to the central idea of the game.

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Senran Kagura being what it is, the competition will deliver its deal of risqué scenes. The kune kune finish replaces the puru puru finish in Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash : it’s about sprinkling water at maximum pressure on a KO girl to take off one part of her bikini. The game doesn’t falter on the fan-service it wants to deliver, and also the kinky angles of the defeat poses. Costume break is still on the menu, and now you have a selection of costumes that can get wet to see through them.

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Among the good surprises, you can now who you want to see as shop clerk in the in-game costume & accessory shop. The amount of fan-service clearly doesn’t disappoint, even though it’s less varied than in the previous game, and graphics & animation benefit from the PS4 exclusivity (richer animation and far more effects on the screen).

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The Georama allows you to make very fun, cute, but also very hot scenes thanks to the numerous poses and accessories. But the changing room mode is where we come to miss PSVita as the touching loses all the fun despite the fresh sprinkling.

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Like any shooter, Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash include online multiplayer. There are two main parts : cooperation and competition. The survival mode can unite up to six players who’ll have to protect bases against 50 enemy waves. It gets real hard at wave 30, so you’d better build solid teamplay to repel increasingly resistant foes. That’s when you can take advantage of the nure power-up : when allies splash you, you can benefit from an aura that allows you to fire (water?) at will without the need of refilling.

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In competitive ranked matches, the multiplayer get a lot less fun. Battles are 5 vs 5 players and include domination, team deathmatch and now capture the flag. The problem is that everyone has lvl 10 characters and weapons, so you don’t stand a chance unless you’ve grinded quite some time in solo play. Maps are rather tiny and movement very fast, so it gets very confusing most of the time, making it difficult to achieve anything. Weapon and card balance is still wobbly, so it’s not as accessible as the producer promised. Matchmaking isn’t very effective, taking long minutes to find players. Finally, lag is still bothering on 1.07, thing that didn’t happen in Estival Versus. So the competitive side isn’t living up to today’s FPS standards.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash was a risky project giving its unexpected genre, but Kenichirô Takaki manages to establish a wonderful compromise between TPS and the Senran Kagura spirit. Despite the poor story, the successful conciliation of lavish fan service, fast-paced gameplay, high-end visuals and traditional TPS features guarantees a lot of fun for series fans. A shame that the multiplayers remains a half-full glass, but solo play has everything you need for enjoyment.

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A Marvelous con

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Switch is getting traction. Ignored until now, Nintendo’s new system arouse interest among indies and japanese publishers. Gust’s key AA game Nights of Azure 2 will be getting a Switch version at the same time as PS4 and PSVita version. It’s fine : it’s only normal that japanese companies would seek to reach a new audience to offset Vita’s unavoidable decline. It is not ok, however, to take opportunistic behavior and turn your back on your fans, like Marvelous is doing.

The Japanese corporation is proud to announce that Fate Extella is coming to Switch this summer, with all the previous DLC included. The game came out for PSVita and PS4 just 3 months ago. Day-one buyers on Sony systems find this outrageous : why would they still be charged large sums (it’s 2€ per costume) while Switchers, who have yet to prove that they’ll support Marvelous’s business, will receive the whole stuff for free? Sony fans are on edge, they’ve recently made Senran Kagura Estival Versus a significant success with some 320K sold worldwide, only to be treated like dirt. Even after that unfair treatment of customers has been made public, Marvelous keeps prompting Playstation players to open their wallets for their overpriced DLC. Anybody would choke at such shameless commercial practices. Marvelous points out that both Vita and PS4 had exclusives costumes, but the Switch version actually has a better costume and it comes on disc whereas the Playstation-exclusive costumes were preorder items, so every Switcher will get it. The great mocking continues.

At this point, you might wonder whether Marvelous has just gotten hostile to Playstation. But notice one thing : US and European have been including the DLC in the Steam late ports until Nitro+ Blasters. But recently with Senran Kagura Estival Versus, they’ve started charging you for additional content just like PS players. This has been reconfirmed with Valkyrie Drive today, while Switch owners still receive the largesse. Let me rephrase it for you. If you play on a Playstation system or on PC, you are SECOND-RATE costumers to them. Glorious PC players, if by any chance Fate Extella ends up coming to Steam without the DLC, I expect you to RIOT until those vultures give you the equal treatment you deserve. At some point, we must express our anger to be played second fiddle despite our long commitment to share our love for their content. I don’t say that you should boycott Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash because it’s a fine game and producer Takaki has been fair to its audience since Estival Versus. But don’t buy the DLC or buy less of it, that should hit their profitability hard (DLC gives by far the highest margin). I didn’t buy the Super Sonico DLC and I wouldn’t have bought the whole DOAX3 DLC if I had known the publisher would back-stab me like this.

In doing unfair practices and denying equal treatment for all their customers, Marvelous reopens the era of rotten game business and illegitimate favoritism. Such wrongdoers must be hit with the mightiest strength, otherwise another console war will break out, undermining the gaming community again.

Review – Fate Extella

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Extremely large media mix IP, Fate has gone into anime, visual novels & mangas. But it of course doesn’t fail to visit the gaming business to meet the demand for more interactivity. So after Fate Extra and Fate Extra CCC on PSP, it’s the turn of Fate Extella on PSVita.

Fate GO, Fate Zero, Fate Extra, Fate Stay Night, Fate Apocrypha, Fate Kaleid Liner Prisma Ilya… Not always easy to get facts right in the sprawling Fate universe. The aim of Fate Extella is thus very simple : to offer an action game picking charismatic characters in all those sub-IPs so that fans can play as their favorite characters. Altella and Elizabeth come from the smartphone game Fate Grand Order, No Name Archer is well-known for being Rin Tôsaka’s servant in Ufotable’s anime adaptation of Fate Stay Night, and Nero & Tamamo come from the previous PSP games. In Fate’s lore, some humans called magi or masters can summon the spirits of past heroes, reincarnated into powerful servants. You are to expect the evil Roman emperor Nero as a extrovert Blond girl, Attila as a tsundere girl and, more in line with history, Alexander the Great as an old and bold king. That’s a total of 16 playable characters in Fate Extella, with both handsome men and sexy girls. So no one gets left behind here.

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Fate Extella’s story happens after Fate Extra and Fate Extra CCC : the Holy Grail War is over and your main character is already crowned king of SE.RA.PH, virtual domain set by the Moon Cell, itself a central system measuring and controlling activity on Earth. The main character first appears with his/her servant Nero Claudius, who de facto become regent of SE.RA.PH. Their reign however won’t be peaceful as Tamamo No Mae, another servant from the Holy Grail War, starts invading their territory.

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Altella, another spirit, will barge in this struggle to power not to conquer, but to destroy all. This particular event foretells greater trials for the servants, which go beyond the Holy Grail War. Each of the three has a team involving other heroes, so Fate Extella shares out good and evil a bit like Dissidia does for Final Fantasy. The player is invited to experience the story from the three different points of view, three alternate futures that shall lead to an ideal fate in the lovable true end.

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Likable on its principles, the story of Fate Extella is a little less exciting in the way it’s told : its structure is basically repetitive and vary only in the very last chapter, which is more interesting to follow. But before it, you can’t help thinking you’re doing the same game 3 times with 3 different characters. Note that purely narrative part are quite long (you often spend more time between chapters than playing) with lots of raw text in the middle of dialogs. In doing so, Fate Extella gets back to its roots of visual novel, even at risk of annoying players eager to enter the fray. It remains that those sequences have a strong poetic tone and excellent writing. A good read, but here again they could have made it more concise.

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Besides that, dialogs still a have a strong sense of humor : driven by their unstoppable love for the main character and their own rivalry, Nero and Tamamo will keep making a fool of each other or come up with hilarious strange words. Their behavior is clearly over-the-top and lives up to the craziest JRPGs. Strangely, this wacky talk balanced by very sophisticated language, with complex use of Japanese kanjis and rare vocabulary. Once more, the redundancy of situations can be boring.

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The combat area in Fate Extella is divided in several little sectors. The rules are pretty simple : you have to take a set number of sectors to make the boss appear. Once you’ve defeated him, the level is cleared. To make a sector your own, you first have to sweep dozens of basic (but sometimes threatening) enemies to make “aggressors” come down. Those much tougher entities are the guardians of the sector : you have to destroy three or more to secure the sector.

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But that is easier said than done, because the opposing side isn’t going to stay idle while you march on its soil. Foes counterattack at every occasion, harass your sectors relentlessly and can even invade them from afar by devices called “plants”. Those strange UFOs can indeed send enemy troops from and to any part of map. You therefore have to eliminate them in priority, even it that means going all the way to the other side of the map. Thanks to those powerful means, opponents progress very quickly and your sectors are in a constant state of hemorrhage. Besides, enemy heroes will regularly stand on your way, slowing you down. Fate Extella is an action game with permanent pressure, because you always play on the brink of defeat! The game won’t even hesitate to throw you on map controlled 90% by the enemy, where surrender is a question of minutes! Up to the player to rush towards key-sectors and unleash his fighting spirit. Sensation are guaranteed.

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Your arsenal of combos rely on variations of square and triangle buttons, a bit like Senran Kagura Estival Versus in fact. The good thing is that it ensure a good variety in gameplay while keeping the game very accessible. The same pattern being applied to every character, you can switch between stories without having to learn everything again. However, the three main heroines do have a fighting style of their own : Nero prefers shield/sword combos, Tamamo casts fire/ice/wind spells, while Altella boasts the most impressive combos with her polymorphic rainbow blade. To allow faster progression, each character has 3 trump cards.

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Extella maneuver is a series of blows targeting every foe in the vicinity : it’s useful to take out several aggressors at the same time. Moondrive is a transformation that makes you temporarily invincible and the hôgu, the most powerful capacity and the one that makes the most impressive cut-scenes, blows everything in a sector. Even if you master the use of those abilities, victory is far from certain but you do keep the experience gained after losing. This way, missions become gradually less difficult, so that no one gets stuck. The boss characters, of seriously dumb AI, are still extremely disappointing. On the minus side, changing characters in the story is very limited, since you can switch to the current lieutenant and no one else. A bit of variety would have been welcomed here.

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So we’re definitely happy to have side-stories for every character. «Story» might be a little exaggerated since the actual scenario is thin. Elizabeth’s stands out though, because her story is really fun and draws the best of her yandere personality : she will finally fulfill her evil ambitions and crush her rivals. This mode is a good occasion to fully enjoy the cast, not to mention that secondary characters’ movesets are as good as the main ones.

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Combos and skills are original and varied. Jeanne d’Arc for example fight with a spear with a large flag on the top of it, also drawing on her knight sword from time to time. The holy maiden however heavily relies on her hôgu, considerably more powerful than any other and which, reference to History, costs her one life. Seriously challenging, those side-stories are a clever way to enhance to general value of the game.

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If Marvelous’s technical mastery on PSVita needed further proof, Fate Extella is more evidence that the publisher take handheld fans seriously. Despite numerous elements and lot of movement on screen, the framerate knows no problem on PSVita. In fact, the game pixelates slightly to keep framerate stable at any time. A drawback for greater good, easily forgivable since character modeling is quite above average.

Fate Extella is a fun and intense action game making clever use of the series. With a rich array of characters and lots of storytelling, it adds a lot to the Fate universe and offers fans a thrilling way to experience the passion despite redundancies here and there.

Most anticipated games for 2017

Valkyria Azure Revolution (PSVita)

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I’ve been waiting for it a lot more politely” since the horrendous Autumn demo. The Action-RPG focus that has been reconfirmed doesn’t fit with Valkyria’s universe, and the battle system itself is fishy at best. Yet the prologue on PSVita was a little more satisfying, so maybe we can end up with a decent RPG of cool design.

Cyberdimension Neptune (PS4)

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The moment of truth for the Neptunia IP. Compile Heart took more than 1 year to think, work and offer us a game powered by Unreal Engine 4, which is a visual revolution. Still, little is known is this Action-RPG taking place in a MMORPG itself. We don’t know how the developers have calibrated fan-service and innovation, two key-elements to drive the series forward. The producers made very clear promises not to disappoint fans, so they better stick to it and avoid bland compromises this time.

NieR Automata (PS4)

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The demo was exactly what I expect from this game : precise and rich gameplay, Platinum touch in the camera work, an attractive main character, a intriguing world… March can’t come soon enough.

Nights of Azure 2 (PS4)

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Not especially a high priority until a few weeks ago, Gust’s next game suddenly made itself indispensable by its latest video. The least you could say is that there’s quite some “movement” here… Gameplay also looks like to benefit from dramatic improvements as the tag battle system seems quite lively with lots of charming allies. The developer was undoubtely right to postpone it.

Musô Stars (PSVita/PS4)

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How not to be excited when the spiritual successor to the excellent Orochi Warriors 3 Ultimate is almost within reach? For the first time, KoeiTecmo picks characters in all their IPs for a single action game. We’re therefore gonna be able to ease our stress on dozens of ennemies with unexpected dream teams involving Plachta, Oka, Kasumi or Marie-Rose to cite a few.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash (PS4)

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Already called Splatoon PEGI18 by some, the sequel to Senran Kagura Estival Versus trades ninja weapons for water guns, in which you have fancy models like snipers. Takaki-san likes it wet (well, wet cute girls at least) and promise to deliver aquatic entertainment with a few surprises here and there.

Gun Gun Pixies (PSVita)

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While the general feeling of Cyberdimension Neptune remains shrouded in mystery, Compile Heart’s new PSVita exclusive is very clear from the start. Part of all the nice projects lately, Kochiwa producer presents a game close to action Netpunia U, with some novelty in the plot. You play as two very tiny alien girls whose mission is to infiltrate a girls’ domitory, which means a lot of private life scenes.

Blue Reflection (PS4)

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Boasting Gust’s most advanced 3D engine to date, Blue Reflection comes at us as a turn-based RPG featuring magical girls fighting dark demons. Like Persona 5, there will be lot of emphasis on spending time with classmates (including a clone of Hifumi, in a somewhat younger self).

Dungeon Travelers 2-2 (PSVita)

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Only game that ever had me shut down a handheld system in a hurry while I was commuting, Dungeon Travelers 2 had to reconfirm its direct sequel. It’s now official and the base scenario should keep providing juicy situations : the main character of the first game, Freid, has lot to the final boss and was turned into a insolent young boy. All the girls of the previous game have turned into demonic women. Let your imagination do the rest.

Wipeout Omega Collection (PS4)

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Quite nostalgic of the legendary futuristic racing game, the reveal of this ultimate collection at Playstation Experience was pure delight. I can’t wait to compete again on board those distinguished little ships for more speed, violent weapons and cool techno music.

Legend of Heroes Sen no Kiseki III (PS4)

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Falcom will need to be particularly clever if they want to justify Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel III as a PS4 exclusive. Graphics are barely sharper so no one will believe that a Vita version wasn’t possible at this point. Despite Altina’s already confirmed return, believe me that I’ll be extra harsh on this.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

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Yes, I’m still waiting for Final Fantasy XV. The game released end of November isn’t FFXV, because it fails to comply with basic rules of FF. No choice but to wait until Hajime Tabata fixes his mess by eventually offering a more compelling experience, with an enhanced narrative and more playable characters.

Dragon Quest XI (PS4)

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While FFXV has seen rampant westernization, Dragon Quest XI is so faithful to its roots that I’d want to hug it. Here’s what I call a JRPG cast with varied styles of characters, and the first trailer clearly shows it will remain true to its genre.

I’m also eager for Ni no Kuni Revenant Kingdom (PS4), Gran Turismo Sport (PS4), Itadaki Street (PSVita), Tekken 7 (PS4), Gravity Daze 2 (PS4), Happy Manager (PS4), Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4).

Review – Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni

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Rather ambitious media mix project, Valkyrie Drive had launched in three different formats last year in Japan. First a sexy mobile application, then a borderline hentai anime, and finally Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni, the console game part. And for the game to live up to the rest, the IP needed no other than Kenichirô Takaki, the creator of Senran Kagura.

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This new game from Marvelous starts with a heftier synopsis than Senran Kagura. Teenage girls are affected by a mortal virus of strange properties : some girls can transform into weapons, and others acquire the formidable strength to wield them. Dangerous for the society, they are quarantined on distant islands. Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni (not Bikini, although you’ll surely find some) tells the events happening on the island called Bhikkhuni, where are treated the girls who bear both symptoms.

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But of course, what’s important is not the base of the scenario, but what you do with it. Whereas Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus actually told great stories from almost nothing, Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni fails to correctly develop its original setting. There is some long and tiresome part where the game introduces every character without making them really charismatic. This lasts about 10 hours and features mundane dialog with few humor strokes, nothing to be remembered. The story gets some interesting twists at the end, including more existential talk : you’ll learn the truth about the V-Virus treatment program and the risks implied for the persons affected. No illustrations have been made for the side stories, which are told on a black screen. This is boring to say the least. You might still be curious to discover the strange universe of the school-island Bhikkhuni, the professors of which being giant robots of animal aspect. This, at least, was surprising and entertaining.

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There are seven playable cuties in the game (four times less than Senran Kagura Estival Versus), but of uneven importance. While the sisters Rinka and Ranka bear a somewhat tragic past, all the others have little background. Viola (back on photo) may well be the most charismatic of the rest by its elitist and haughty personality, and her voice actress Yû Kobayashi (Katsuragi’s voice in Senran Kagura) performs that quite well. The real disappointment remains that the past of the secondary characters is often hinted at, but never explained. There’s clearly a feeling you’re missing something and that the story lacks a lot of substance. And seven is no lucky number here : as characters fight in groups of two, there’s always some strange nonsense with Manpukumaru (absurd character with zero personality) coming randomly to balance the teams.

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Immediately when you start playing, you realize that Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni wants to go beyond Senran Kagura in terms of gameplay. Adding to the traditional combos, complexifying at each Drive (see below), the battles put some emphasis on various aerials. Initiated with circle and X (although in some cases, X alone can trigger them), they allow different final blows like Phantom Dance (long aerial combo) or Phantom Fall (throwing the enemy back on the ground). Each character can also charge a more powerful attack with triangle, capable of wiping out large groups of opponents.

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Like said previously, the character you control can resort to a Drive, that is to say the weapon form of her buddy provided the Drive gauge is filled. The aforementioned gauge has four levels that correspond to as many steps in the Drive state, with each time a more lavish look and more destructive skills for the weapon. The good point in Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni is that dodging (elegantly rendered by a quick slow motion) makes the gauge fill faster, ideal base for intense beat’em all action.

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Like in Senran Kagura Estival Versus, three special attacks of superior firepower are available, but that will empty your Drive gauge in no time. You’ll have to take that into account since you might also want to use the healing capabilities of the Drive, which heals your character at each transformation. The girls have their own particular weapon and fighting style, which is slightly more developed than in the rival series. So in theory, the game developed by Meteorise (which worked on Senran Kagura Bon Appetit before that) has a compelling gameplay.

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But there is theory, and there is the actual experience. Once more, Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni ruins its good intentions by a simple drawback : it’s ridiculously easy. Even in hard mode, 90% of the game is piece of cake, as challenging as easy mode in Senran Kagura Estival Versus. The foes might far outnumber you, their I.A is close to a newborn chick and they’re barely threatening. The regular ground combos end up the best way to clear the stages quickly : no need of dodging, aerials, special moves whatsoever to prevail, the player might perform them to escape boredom. Bosses aren’t any stronger, since your fellow highschoolers can be beaten as fast as in twenty seconds… The teachers are way tougher but they’re just longer to defeat but not especially strong. In such circumstances, you can hardly be motivated to throw yourself in challenge mode (which asks you to perform a definite set of actions in limited time), not to mention the even longer survival mode. The most worthy goal still is to tackle the true end, which can be unlocked by clearing missions at high rank. In such case, the game should last you thirty hours or so.

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All this is a real pity, because Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni is seriously good to look at : it’s colorful, it’s over-the-top with lots of nice special effects and the moves are stunning and detailed even though the framerate could be better. As you could expect in a Takaki-made game, you’ll have your load of oversized breasts, underwear shots, suggestive poses and the mischievous changing room full of naughty touchscreen communication. Special mention for the Connect form for its glowing and deliciously revealing cybernetic armor“, it’s an absolute work of art in the ecchi style. Costume break might be a little shy compared to Senran Kagura, there is clearly no deceit in the fan-service.

Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni wanted to transcend the Senran Kagura formula but forgot the most essential part : game sensations. The appeal of fresh game mechanics vanish given the clear lack of challenge, and the incomplete story and universe don’t help it make a stronger experience. The fan-service is still met with fine graphics, design and direction. Up to you to decide if it’s enough.

Review – Senran Kagura Estival Versus

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After its failed return on 3DS, the busty Senran Kagura series is back to Playstation, where its customers are. And for first time, it’s not a portable-only game anymore because it also comes to your living room with a PS4 version.

While Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus was a lot more than a mere spin-off, this Senran Kagura Estival Versus has indeed no pretension to tell a story whatsoever. The 20 characters of the previous PSVita game are warped on a paradisaical island where the four schools will compete in what is called Kagura Sennensai, a very ancient ceremony aimed at appeasing the soul of departed ninjas. At stake, no less than the title of Kagura, the ultimate goal of any Kunoichi. That said, this particular setting is rarely used and developed even less in the various chapters, which are nothing but an excuse for sexy battles between girls. The only genuine narrative involves Ryôbi and Ryôna : the sisters from Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus will meet their older sister Ryôki again, since she’s been resurrected for the time of the festival.

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Which leaves nothing but the traditional humor of the series, but all along the 8 chapters it is seriously getting old and redundant. Besides, the narrative style finds its limits as the storyline is clearly lacking. To many sequences are still told on a black screen, so the visual novel style really fails in that new episode. One example : one of those text sequences depict the battle between Yumi and Kurokage (who also has been resurrected). Wouldn’t it have been better to set an actual battle and let the player experience it firsthand ? Another big hole, the sub-story of the Mikagura three sisters, told with small episodes here and there, does not come to a conclusion (update : there’s a hint in the last DLC). It’s pretty clear that Marvelous has decided to empty this game of any credible narrative to give Playstation players the short end of the stick in that aspect and ensure the primacy of the main series, which could very well head for NX next. This is UNACCEPTABLE! WE are by far the main clients of the Senran Kagura IP, we should be entitled to EVERYTHING.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus kafuru (2)

PSVita

In terms of gameplay however, the series is taking a good turn. Very much like in Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus, each mission will have you face countless enemies, in addition to one or several rivals. That’s the very important point of this game : it will be you against 1,2 or even 3 rival characters at the same time! The gameplay is consequently astonishingly fast and the battles very intense, not to mention that the enemy IA is monstrously aggressive. They will hunt you down and won’t hesitate to use their ninpôs repeatedly. You therefore have to be nimble and aim for aerials combos, the key to victory. The drawback is that it tends to be really crowded and frustrating at times, because your character is way too often downed, stunned or frozen. To avoid being stuck, the controls include several counters, one of which is done by leaning on walls. We do still lament the poor camera angles when next to a wall.

Senran Kagura ESTIVAL VERSUS_20150426213102

PS4

The series finally balances its challenge this time with 3 difficulty levels instead of 2. So there’s one for any type of player : those who want to bite the dust every time, those who want to go progressively by re-achieving previous missions to get some experience, and those who want to go through it quickly. Wise use of ninpôs will again be the key to win. Those powerful special attacks triggered with L1+square or triangle have been made further spectacular and over-the-top, even though some keep been ridiculously kawaii. This latest installment adds a 3rd which is in fact the characters transforms : this metamorphosis which consumes a great deal of skill points is of incomparable power and can wipe out a boss in a flash. Mayabi for example takes an angel-like form and Homura draws her famous 7th katana. In short, the gameplay of Senran Kagura Estival Versus is the opposite of its narration, brilliant and punchy.

After a somewhat lengthy Senran Kagura Estival Versus, Marvelous again delivers here a large content that should ensure at least 30 or 40 hours of play. Adding to the 8 chapters of the story, it includes an in-game challenge in which you must search and destroy altars hidden in the stages. Challenge that itself unlocks mini-stories for each one of the 25 girls of the game. Furthermore, numerous updates added some chapters for free. The online multiplayer from Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus is back and has been enriched. There are now plenty more combat modes (score attack, deathmatch, survival, capture the flag) and 10 players can join the fray on PS4 (4 on Vita). Regardless of the system, the matchmaking is effective, the servers strong and the frame-rate solid.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus kafuru ar

PSVita

The five new characters are quite unbalanced, especially in their fighting style. Of the Mikagura sisters, Kafuru seemed the most interesting and the funniest one by far : she fights with waters pistols and is assisted by a dolphin of virile voicing (!) Renka felt a little average with her drums. Hanabi, despite her shiny fireworks, is a lot too slow to keep up with the pace of the game. Clearly they find their inspiration in the Okinawa regional culture, southern island famous for its summertime.

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PS4

Ryoki is definitely the new star of this episode, and logically the best designed one. Her fighting style has been framed in accordance with a personality : in trance, she will throw away her shotgun and shield to battle only armed with her coffin!

Senran Kagura Estival Versus Ayane

PSVita

And if you happen to have some savings, each of the renowned guests of the long DLC season, including Ayane from Dead or Alive, Ikki Tôsen‘s trio (note : those three are not confirmed for the West) or Naraku & Kagura (those two coming from Senran Kagura Deep Crimson where they were NOT playable), have been designed and animated so perfectly that they end up more exciting to use than most of the base cast.

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PS4

In pure aesthetics, Marvelous’s game is still a niche game so it won’t revolutionize PS4 development. Stages are narrow and unrefined, the basic enemies are roughly animated. I won’t surprise you by telling that every technical effort has been made on the heroines and their physique with deliciously precise outlining. To this let’s add the best interface ever : those are dynamic title screens (a dozen of them) switching depending on the characters you’ve chosen. 1080p and 60fps on PS4, this is quite a sight to behold.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus shiki

PSVita

On PSVita, the game naturally loses in terms of frame-rate and sharpness, but it’s still a very solid portable version. Unlike many developers who neglect Vita versions to focus on PS4 lead-development, Marvelous gave maximum care to this one : the cel-shading from Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus has disappeared to make room for sharper 3D models which don’t fade in comparison with their PS4 counterparts. The frame-rate dropped quite a bit especially at launch, but that’s the price to pay to keep it with yourself. On the misuc side, the game didn’t really live up to the previous ones. I’ll pick only Homura’s theme and  iza, atuski omoi o mune ni!  which was a great final composition.

Senran Kagura ESTIVAL VERSUS_20160223185102

PS4

Of course, impossible to close a Senran Kagura review without going through its licentious business. Clothes destruction will happen less often to keep a smoother action, but they are a lot more suggestive than before. Plainly obvious, poses and facial expressions ovebid the past episodes so much that the latter seem shy today.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus Yagyu box

PSVita

And because no one stops progress, Kenichirô Takaki’s new title introduces what’s called in the original version puru puru finish. Those “fatalities” in some way suppose you give the final blow to your opponent next to a special element of the stage, and this will trigger a special kinky scene in which nudity is prerequisite. You got it, Senran Kagura Estival Versus makes no compromise and should be played by fully aware adults. Funny then that it would “only” be PEGI16 here whereas it is for 17 year-olds and more in its country of origin.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus is as enticing and exciting as badly told. Relevant gameplay changes have been made, the character’s rendering is exceptional and the fan-service sets new records. However, its unwillingness to offer a decent narrative prevents it from becoming the final realization of Kenichirô Takaki’s vision.