Developed by: Tamsoft, Honey Parade Games
Players: 1 offline (2-10 Online)
Also Available On: Steam
Many thing can be said about the Senran Kagura series, but i give Marvelous a lot of credit for going fuckin bananas with the franchise. For such a niche series of beat em up games, you won’t expect at all a rhythm game spin-off, or basically their take on Splatoon, i really like that constantly try to expand it in such oddball fashion. You’ve got bahonkas of steel, Marvelous, no doubt about it.
We’re going knee deep. In the plot.
YE OLD WATER GUN TOURNAMENT
So, before we tackle the gameplay, let’s talk about the plot. It’s technically another spin-off, but like Estival Versus, it has a plot that ties into the overall narrative of the series, calling back on previous events and characters, and even setting up some plot points for future installments, bt revealing the name of the next main installment in the Senran Kagura series, “7even”, which is still up in the air, with nothing substantial about it.
And the reason given for having all the characters dress in bikini and soak each other is a water gun tournament, and old ritual here reenacted as the Peach Beach Splash event, taking place in an unknown island resort (livestreamed to the ninja secret video streaming sites), using only water guns and no ninja arts, with the squad that emerge victorious receiveing any prize they wish for.
The story reason given for this is to collect energy in order to creat a seal for the upcoming and unbelievably powerful yoma, Shin. But also the guy who made the weird contest has a secret plan and use for the Picchi Bicchi Splacchi event.
All of this is delivered via 5 mini-campaign/mission sets, with each campaign revealing different (but similarly motivated) drama among that ninja squad, and more info about the overall plot, with a lot of dialogue and cutscenes using the in-game engine. Stop and think about this for a moment: more effort was put into an elaborated plot-excuse for an absurd niche japanese pervy “soak n run” game like this than in Anthem, as far as having an actual story (and not just a big bucket of lore with shards of a plot). Yeah.
Dialogue is definitely on point with the series, being absurd, insane, but able to get some genuine laughs with moments of odd self-awareness in an otherwise boobular world of sexual molestation treated as “gals be gals”, that tries to mix the shameless anime obscene most people think of (because preconceptions) with some heartfelt moment of friendship and camaraderie, when the sadomasochist blonde shinobi doesn’t complain her sister WON’T hit or abuse her verbally by calling her – and i quote – “a bitch” as punishment. And this isn’t the most insane exchange, by far.
Yeah, Senran Kagura didn’t need to make a “bikini babes water shotgunning their clothes off” spin-off, it was already insane before, but then again, it was just a matter of time this happened in some fashion. Given they already did the “cooking rhythm game with anime bahonkas” and later they did a softcore porn pinball game. And for some reason brought it to Europe digital only, but still charged 40 bucks for the base game anyway. Yeah, still a bit salty about that.
SQUIDDING ME TWICE
Gameplay wise, it’s a fairly typical third person shooter. I wish the impression it gave of being “Splatoon but with bikini clad anime girls with big tits and water guns” was brought to it’s logical endpoint, but yeah, at heart this isn’t a total Splatoon rip-off, it’s just a third person shooter with water weapons with a similar reliance to a shared resource (water instead of ink) which is used both for combat and movement. Here you have a jetpack for rapid dashes and flying which consumes water…
Ok, yeah, this is a Splatoon rip-off, but it’s not an issue since “Splatoon-likes” aren’t a thing. Sadly the comparison isn’t particularly benevolent on Honey Parade’s work, since it lacks a strong “gimmick” to enhance the otherwise typical but fairly competent and satisfying third person shooting. You have more vertical mobility, but it feels like a missed opportunity to copy the “hide in the ink” mechanic with something like “being able to hide in water pools” or something with a ninja theme, especially since the latter it’s already baked in the series.
Each character also has a slightly different melee attack, and each weapon has two different modes to switch into/from, but for the better or the worst the weapons aren’t charactered restricted, so if you have the card (and you already do from the beginning) for a water shotgun, you can equip instead of the default weapon for said characters. A “hero skill” unique to each character would have sufficed, but there is none, and so the characters mostly feel all the same, with some shallow differences (mostly in the way each character jet jump manouver works). Shame, because here we also characters from Senran Kagura New Wave, a smarthphone card game that never left Japan.
But then again this is a game which in the character select screen prioritizes letting you know the girls birthday, measurements and blood type, so…
About the weapon selection, you have the typical array of arms in water gun variety: pistol, dual pistols, shotgun, gatling, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, and some oddball weapons like the garden hose and the sprayer, which fit the theme and make it even more obvious how they wanted to ape Splatoon. After spending time with all of them in the campaigns, i gotta say they’re quite fun to use, but aren’t all well balanced, with the sniper rifle consuming way too much water and lacking any sort of precision aiming, the single pistol being pointless when there’s a dual pistols option (there’s no “magnum” equivalent), and the gatling gun is simply OP.
The games uses cards as a means to equip weapons, with auxiliary skills with cooldowns, the latter branching into character cards activating a skill (4 slots), and Pets (3 slots), which summon or enable sentries or similar effects. It’s a bit overcomplicated, because you are shown just three pet-and-skill cards from the deck at the time during matches, you use one and another skill or pet card becomes usable, and it repeats. There’s also a character card “average cost” but it doesn’t matter, since there’s no card cost or card cost limit to consider at all.
The cards you collect in excess are stored in order to power up other cards, you don’t have to precisely select every excess copy, they are just collected together and sorted in pool by rarity (with the tipical tiers seen in anime games), and to avoid you being forced to swap the same skill card between too many characters, many skills cards tend to have the same skill, with maybe the skill being a little more or less powerful, but still, just changes the character’s portrait or pose.
BUT hold your horses, despite the set-up ripe for microtransaction bullshit, there is (and was) none of it! Which i didn’t bet on, since previous Marvelous titles like SK Shinovi Versus and Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkuni let you purchase “panty tokens” with real money, but then again, it was just for completely cosmetic stuff (lingerie, panties, that shit), the cards here are important to the gameplay. Not that it was acceptable in these previous cases, but i guess Marvelous has some twisted sense of pride.
Not any particular, typical pride, because it’s Senran Kagura, so as you might have guessed, defeated enemies can be put through the “Squirmy finisher”, which means you use a rubber ducky shaped gun to spray water at the face, breasts or “groinal region”, and you focus on one of these to eventually “detach” them of the bikini part (with the naughty bits covered by a bit too radiant beam of lights) and make them cry like it’s gonna turn into a snuff movie or something (it’s not). You are scored in points, and while it’s not obvious, the more points you manage to score, the quicker skill cards will charge for use for a limited time.
I guess Tamsoft hold onto ideas from Demolition Girl, in a way.
Also, there a “soak” system, as in you can spray teammates to fill their “soak gauge”, which at max basically grant the player/character a powerful rage mode with increased power and endless water for a brief period of time. A surprisingly smart design choice, since you can easily splash your teammates by accident when in battle, a good way to not penalize friendly fire that’s gonna happen anyway due to the “ammunition” used.
OLD ISSUES, NEW TROUBLES
Keep in mind that this review was done by playing the single player content on offer, which is a lot more than you might expect, but for a sensible reason that Tamsoft and Honey Parade clearly were quite aware of: no one is gonna play the Senran Kagura online modes after the initial month of release. Maybe a little more, but years after,,, yeah. Doesn’t matter if it’s a spin-off essentially built for multiplayer, most people that play Senran Kagura titles don’t wanna make any public fuss aboing playing them.
It’s a niche series, after all, so unless you organize with other people on Discord or something similar (which i find to be a hassle), you ain’t gonna find anyone online. I tried to play the dang online multiplayer mode for Senran Kagura 2 on the 3DS, ghost town/server, expected the same thing here, and was totally right. Kinda, I found a bot, put up by the developers themselves, which is even sadder, in a way.
So, if you play it today you’re gonna do it for the story and the single player content.
The story -as said before – is delivered via 4 mini-campaigns, one for each faction/team, with 10 missions each, and a final one that’s a bit longer. They definitely serve their purpose of giving you something to play for story and to learn the game, but also suffer from a typical issue of SK, as it tries to build a human-sized house with three Lego playsets, so most of the missions differ mostly in the cutscenes happening at the beginnind and end, and all have you fighting hordes of peons that don’t use water guns.
There are ranged peons but only other shinobi do shoot you like a human would, it’s an odd and frankly baffling design decision to have peon tier enemies (with the Tamsoft style of design, going from knock-off Angels from NGE to girl in swimsuits swinging phallic shaped baton/stick, and girls dropping bombs while hiding within the three lifebelts attached to their body) not use ranged attack in a third person shooter.
Of course this “low budgetisis” extend to the levels, with the same locales (which are taken or inspired from various titles in the series, and frankly it kinda sad that this has more locales than the standard SK titles) being reused for many more missions than you’d think, with a very small number of variations. And while it may work (for me, at least) with EDF, here it doesn’t so much, and frankly they could have done more, instead of just giving you missions because the story conveniently dictates for a battle to repeat once again in one of the few locales.
Even in the last campaign you’re doing the same three types of missions: fire suppression, fighting random peons, fighting other shinobi with water guns (with peons thrown as a bonus), with some new characters to fight against and unlock. Here the IA kinda falters, because in Story Mode you’re mostly playing with 4 other characters controlled by the IA, which does a decent job (better than you might expect), but in the last campaign you’ll manage to see (at least on the Normal difficulty) its limits.
At least each campaign has a different boss, and some different shinobi to fight, but the missions get repetive quick, since they get basically recycled for each faction. The bosses and some fights with other gun equipped shinobi can be quite challenging even on Normal, but nothing stops you from cheesing it by choosing Easy, which you can toggle before a mission and will make progressing to end a lot quicker. And to really hammer home the Splatoon-aping going on here, the final boss is basically a DJ Octavious rip-off, there’s no reason in context, even characters are bewildered by it, there just to make it “low key” obvious as hell the nature of “we did because we wanted our own Splatoon, but with big anime tits and butts and water guns”.
SOGGY MEAT MOUNTAINS
Ultimately, the Story mode is there to give you money and cards as rewards in order to unlock all the stuff in the in-game shop (which sells card packs and the typical cosmetic stuff, music, etc.) even if you can’t find a match online, they knew the servers would quickly empty, they really did, since not even a trophy is online multiplayer exclusive. The game doesn’t keep track of the playtime (or if it does, it doesn’t tell you in any shape), so i estimate it took me like 6 hours total (on Normal) to see the finale.
There are many “Paradise Episodes” as well, basically side-stories sets of mission based around one or some of the characters. Which i thought would be there just to give you more content, without any other variety, and…. i was right. Playing them is kinda necessary, though, as the rewards offered unlock the many Pets cards, which amplify the skills at your disposal. Again, it would be nice if it there was anyone online to test this sets and skills against, but what can you do?
Also, there is a V-Road Challenge, basically a series of consecutive offline multiplayer matches (match type: which squads has more kills wins), divided in many cups of increasing difficulty. A VR mode was later patched in, but i don’t have PS VR, so… As expected, there is the obligatory “Intimacy/Perv mode”, with dioramas, spray gun, and stuff like that. And once again, i’m not gonna bother, unless i want to platinum the game at some point in time. I really just don’t care, then again i don’t like doing crusades on social media because we don’t get the “creepo modo” in the boob game and we get to molest anime girls in VR. Weird, i know.
Besides this, Online Mode offers free and ranked match, and a co-op survival mode (which can be played , with matchs being of three types: Capture The Bra (a variation of “capture the flag”, as you might expect, later patched in), and the typical 5 vs 5 deathmatch with the team having most kills winning. Typical stuff, with some options, but – again – the servers might as well be haunted, so the online stuff it’s kinda pointless to have as today.
While there aren’t any kind of microtransactions, Marvelous couldn’t resist the usual fleecing of their fans, with obscene amount of cosmetic items to buy as single DLCs (so much to make Koei blush), and nothing has changed on that front for Beach Peach Splash. There are some fairly appropriate collaboration characters as paid DLC, from the girls of DOAX3 to the Ikkitousen cast, characters from the japan-only SK New Wave, Neptunia from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, and even Super Sonico herself, all redrawn in the Senran Kagura style.
From a technical standpoint, it’s a low budget affair as you’d expect, with most of the budget going to the breast physics and the bikinis flying off in the close up “rubber ducky spraying finisher”, but at least it’s a very colorful game, the water looks nice enough, and the characters models are decent. It basically looks like Senran Kagura Estival Versus, maybe a lil better, but don’t expect a miracle, it’s still a low budget affair.
Which is more evident in the cutscenes, the dialogue and the script don’t have a budget to back up whatever insanity they are plodding, so most of the scenes where it would jump to an animated representation of the scene if it could… it can’t, you gonna have to take the 3D model movements (which aren’t many, some are funny though) and the text for it, and some sparse CG art made for the beginning and end chapters. There are some nicely animated cutscenes, at the very beginning and the very end, and some nice music, with a better sound mixing so you can actually hear it during the cacophony of sound effects, the characters talking to each other, which happens, a lot.
Marvelous and Tamsoft (and now the subsidiary Honey Parade games) decided to bring the Senran Kagura series in yet another direction for this spin-off, a third person shooter that has some guts to try aping Splatoon. Not it was gonna ever take Splatoon crowd, but i tried more than it had, and the result is a decent tps shooter, imbued with the absurd ecchi extravaganza you by now expect from the series. Not a great one, and frankly – even it had some actual human presence in the servers – not a very well balanced one, and the “Splatoon” copying could have extended to the “ink” gimmick.
It’s an odd proposition to launch a third person shooter built for multiplayer first and then offer a more than reasonable amount of single player content, but everyone – including the developers and publisher – knew the niche audience they had, and that online servers would become basically empty outside of the launch week, when the fans that preordered the title might have bothered to let themselves known to the world.
I have more respect for this than Ubisoft and the other major players, in a way. Like i said before, SK BPS will remain of some worth years down the line due having some single player content that’s not a 1 hour glorified tutorial and no “need” for constant connection, but 10 years from now you will find yourself with plenty of For Honor(s) to use as drink coaster. If you bought the retail version.
It’s decent, if you plan to play all the games in the Senran Kagura series, i’d recommend not spending full price on it, since the story and single player modes do suffer the usual flaw of the main titles, trying to squeeze more content from a low budget, so locales end up reused and mission variety is very, very small. But it’s better than you might think.
Just don’t expect Splatoon (or Splatoon 2).
Also, Kanagawa Jet Girls will feature some girls from Senran Kagura (DLC in Japan) in the american & european versions, already baked in the base game. Because why not.