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Senran Kagura Burst Review


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On 01/09/2014 at 12:30 PM by Angelo Grant

A perfectly fan-serviceable, but mindless brawler.
RECOMMENDATION:

If you enjoy a fun, but mindless brawler and don't have to click any of the Wikipedia article links to find the definitions of those terms, you might like Senran Kagura Burst, so long as its focus on fan service doesn't offend you.

Despite the variety of games classified as brawlers, they typically fall into one of two camps: Those that have deep, complex mechanics and require thoughtful, strategic combat decisions and memorization of enemy tactics, and those that are simple, fun, and generally don’t require a whole lot of thought. These are games like Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Musou games like Dynasty Warriors. Senran Kagura Burst falls squarely into this second camp, but that doesn't mean it’s not a unique experience. Senran Kagura Burst is probably the most Japanese game I've ever played, and that’s really saying quite a lot.

The credit for this goes mostly to Xseed’s thoughtful approach to localization. Right off the bat, players will notice that the game is voiced completely in Japanese with text appearing in English. In cases where context renders translation unnecessary, such as the team wishing a character well as they depart, or welcoming them back after a mission, even subtitles are absent. This minimalistic approach to translation works perfectly well considering the subject matter, which is a secret school training young girls as shinobi warriors in modern day Japan. The entire game is unapologetically steeped in Japanese culture, enough to potentially cause bewilderment to those unfamiliar with it.

The gameplay itself isn't nearly as unique however. It’s basically a classic belt scroller; players walk left to right and hit their opponents until they go away, occasionally leveling up once they collect enough experience. One of your primary objectives is to fill the meter that will allow you to unleash screen clearing special attacks. This is accomplished, of course, by beating the crap out of things or grabbing special items.

Like most games of this type, it’s in your best interest to isolate one or two opponents at a time or you’ll end up being overrun. Senran Kagura Burst allows you to do this by inserting a heavy attack into a combo, which will usually pop your opponent into the air. You can take off after them by pressing A and then bash their face to your heart’s content. At the end of the aerial combo, if they aren't dead, or you want to keep beating on their corpse to build meter, you can follow them with a second well timed press of the A button and continue the abuse.

The game features a mission structure very similar to Code of Princess. Players select a character, then pick from a list of available missions that average around two or three minutes in length. Aside from being able to pick from several girls, each with different weapons and levels of competency, you can also dress them up in various, unlockable outfits and choose from two different fighting styles (which increases to three after certain conditions are met). This does little to keep the combat from becoming monotonous, however. The overall strategy of “isolate a few opponents, build meter, kill, repeat” remains the same throughout.

It’s the girls themselves that will probably play the biggest role in determining players’ opinions on the game. The game is basically an ecchi manga come to life, which means there is a lot of skin on display. One of the earliest pictures in the game’s digital instruction manual is a genre-typical hot springs image showing the girls bathing with their “naughty bits” barely covered by wisps of steam and splashes of water.

While there is never any full nudity, or even any sexual content of any kind aside from some flirting, exposure is a theme the game actively embraces. Character costumes visibly erode based on damage, eventually causing them to become ruined. While you will find items that restore health and fill your special meter, no item will restore your costume in any way. Even though ruined gear acts as a mechanic indicating lowered defense, it’s probably more of an excuse to show your character in her skivvies until you complete the mission.

Players also have the option at the start of a mission, or via style selection, to “shed” a characters uniform entirely, leaving them in a swimsuit. This causes them to dish out quadruple damage, but at the cost of an extremely significant reduction in defense. All the while, the game puts effort into showing off its breast animations, which are exaggerated enough to make Dead or Alive's seem somewhat restrained.

The young ladies have each been assigned a distinct, but stereotypical personality. Players familiar with harem anime or manga will recognize them instantly. That being said, a lot of care went into each one. Their fighting abilities, choice of weaponry, speech, and style of dress all feel completely appropriate for their personalities, making them equal parts predictable and enjoyable. The game’s story segments (told in a visual novel style) go a long way to giving these characters some added depth, which makes them at least a little endearing.

Senran Kagura was a very early title for the 3ds on its original Japanese release and it shows. The game suffers from excessive loading, occasional slowdown, and limited use of the system’s ability to display in 3D. That being said, it is budget priced and is really two games in one, so it is simply “Burst”-ing with content. The first title lets you play the main story, while the second lets you play as the evil, rival school, showing the same story from another perspective.

While Senran Kagura Burst really doesn't bring anything too original to the table, it is a perfectly functional brawler that serves as a good time waster. Its digital availability means you can always have it on your 3DS to kill a few minutes when you don’t really want to engage in anything with too much substance. While anybody with a similar title already installed won’t be missing out if they give it a pass, it’s clearly got its sights set on a niche, otaku fanbase, and they’ll probably eat this title up.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Pacario

01/09/2014 at 06:42 PM

I had to laugh at the tags listed at the end of this review. Coconuts, melons, and tatas? Stimulating gaming indeed--just not in the intellectual sense, I suppose.

SanAndreas

01/12/2014 at 02:37 PM

I'm part of the audience that would enjoy this kind of game. I liked Code of Princess a great deal, and one of my favorite games of last year was Dragon's Crown, which is providing serious challenge to Konami's Simpsons game as my favorite brawler of all time. There's been a lot of good brawlers out lately.

BrokenH

01/12/2014 at 05:58 PM

I always like beat em ups for the fact most of them had sexy undertones. lol. You got to admit Blaze Fielding from Streets Of Rage probably kicked off puberty for a lot of young boys. Beyond that, there's something thereuputic about beating the crap out of thousands of thugs.

It's also nice to see great Beat Em Ups of today incorporating deeper nuances such as leveling up,unlockable characters,and environments with hidden areas. Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim really blew me away when I first played them. They also gave me the warm fuzzies as I reminisced about Alien versus Predator,Shadow over Mystara,Golden axe,and River-city ransom!

Honestly if I had a simplistic enough game maker and decent sprite editor I would "love" to make a beat em up myself!

SanAndreas

01/13/2014 at 10:54 AM

Enterbrain ought to consider coming out with a product like that. They do have a Game Maker suite but I think that's more geared towards shmups. I'd be all over a beat-em-up maker myself.

BrokenH

01/13/2014 at 02:18 PM

I would too,Andrew! Pretty much would be a day one purchase for me. 

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