Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 15, 2015
The publisher provided a retail code of the game for this review.
Ninja Waifus Await You
Senran Kagura is a series often vilified for its rampant fanservice at the expense of most critics focusing on the jiggle and less on the gameplay. Jim Sterling, for example, recently blew up the most recent entry, Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, in a “review” simply for having a lot of large chests in it. An entire write-up based, mostly, on jokes about mammaries. They were, admittedly, funny in parts, but it failed to offer a critique of the game. This series, for all its reaching for the otaku set, showcases, time and time again, excellent action gameplay that few series other than ones made by Platinum, come close to touching.
The series first stateside entry happened to be on the 3DS with Senran Kagura Burst and has seen various spin-offs (including a rhythm game based around cooking) that relegated the series to the Sony handheld for a while. Whether you’re a lover of disproportionate anime waifu ninjas or enjoy side-scrolling action games, XSeed/Marvelous have a game right up your alley. Are there gratuitous shots of underwear, waggling bits and the like? You bet. Over the top? Of course. Offensive? Not really. The first real sequel offers more of the Ninja Academy antics the franchise is known for, plenty of oversized chests and a rather self-serious narrative that is offset by some great humor.
I Read These for the Articles, not the Ladies
Is there a ton of depth in regards to the story in Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson? Not so much but, then again, these games aren’t known for their storytelling. These games have captivated their audience (niche as they are) by offering solid mechanics, tight controls, customization out the wazoo along with killer art direction and more under the watchful eye of series producer Kenchiro Takaki. His attitude towards those who would dismiss the Senran Kagura games outright is a simple one:
The art book that comes with the “Let’s Get Physical” version of Shinovi Versus for PS Vita comes with a foreword from Mr. Takaki with the same sentiment. The special edition of Deep Crimson also has a similarly ridiculous name with the “Happy Boobs Edition” in the EU and the “Double D Edition” in the United States. The audience that continually dumps money into the coffers of Xseed/Marvelous for these games isn’t going to stop anytime soon nor should they. The games, aside from occasional missteps, offer quality action experiences that (fanservice aside) deliver a fantastic handheld experience.
Tight Controls and Tight Sweaters
It all comes down to a simplistic control scheme that finds its depth in the superlative combo system. Simple strings turn into more complex chains that give the fingers a workout and result in some Devil May Cry-esque absurdity with nearly as much SSSSTTTYYYYLLLEEEE too boot. Shinobi transformations and special attacks add another lay of depth that must be utilized by players if they’re to advance past the initial opening stages. The SK games have never held the players hand and, will likely, cause some frustration in those that are new to the series. Even as someone who has enjoyed these games in the past I ran into some relatively significant difficulty spikes throughout the game’s runtime that were surprising. It might be too much for some, honestly, and serves as one of the major knocks against this 3DS entry.
The joy of pulling off combos and working up those big chains into air attacks, pounding down and juggling foes can provide an insane rush that few other experiences on the 3DS offer. The controls, much like its Vita predecessor, feel tight and responsive. Execution of simple chains to the more advanced techniques mixed in with magical ninja transformations works well though the camera proves to be quite problematic at times when facing a slew of enemies. Targeting enemies doesn’t work as well as intended either with more than a few completely whiffed attacks happening due to a mistargeted minion, etc.
The game does throw players a bone in many of the missions by offering a companion (controlled by AI or by human if playing co-op) that will help to keep the damage flowing even if your combos drop. The steep hills of the game are mitigated by the addition of a partner in most missions and boss battles are far more manageable that way. You can flip between the two characters on the fly with the touch of a button if playing Solo and it offers a great variety of ways to approach the big bads as they come down the pipe.
Beyond the game’s story mode players are offered the opportunity to test their mettle with a gauntlet style 14-floor slog known as Yoma Nest that gets harder with each passing floor. The longer one goes without healing, the more experience earned and, for those brave enough to attempt it, will get rewarded with a heaping helping of XP. This, too, is preferably done with a partner as attempting it solo is an exercise in frustration.
Special Missions are also available with various time requirements and other criteria to meet to make the cut. The reward? Shinobi Stones. These items offer stat enhancements for the girls that simply can’t be found elsewhere. They, too, will certainly provide a significant level of challenge for those willing to dive in though I found myself burning out quickly on it. Your mileage will vary.
Asuka and Homura are back, as they should be, to serve as the game’s main protagonists. The rival school leaders not only push each constantly, taking their jabs as they can but provide some of the game’s best banter. It is there, in the interactions between the two rival schools’ students before and during missions that the game’s jovial sensibility about itself can be seen. The serious approach is offset by comedic moments aplenty, and it works to temper the otherwise weak narrative. The first playable male character, Murasame, joins the familiar cast of characters here and for those familiar with the exploits of these buxom ninjas not much has changed in that regard.
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson not only serves as the series first true sequel (following up 2013’s Burst) but as a worthy continuation of this anime brawler. Fanservice galore will certainly have its detractors and supporters but for those who give the game a shot they’ll find a decent side-scrolling action game that delivers a deep combat experience. The game’s steep difficulty curve is tempered by the co-op and the ability to play as two busty ninjas. The controls remain as solid as ever though the camera provides its set of issues. Those spikes in difficulty will result in replaying levels again and again. Those Senran Kagura people out there will be pleased with the stereoscopic 3D additions to the game along with the series staples that have made it a cult hit. There are few experiences like it on the 3Ds at the moment though few can be as frustrating as well.
P.S: Rin is best girl.
+ The game isn't quite as crisp as Shinovi Versus on Vita but the game definitely takes full advantage of the 3DS hardware including the stereoscopic 3D.
+The sound design, as always, is top-notch with several memorable tunes from the OST still stuck in my brain days later.
+The combat is as simple or as deep as one wants it to be through mastery of advanced techniques and using Shinobi transformations will become vital to progress past certain bosses.
+ The banter between the two schools and their students is a good comedic balance to the self-serious (and a bit dumb) main through-line of the plot.
+ The customization options for each girl offer a wide-range of different outfits to kit your warrior of choice out in.
+ For those who want that fanservice? PREPARE FOR THE MOTHERLODE. Between clothes that rip off during battles as a very visible way of showing damage to "inventive" finishes to nearly every boss battle. That audience will definitely be served here.
- The camera can be downright awful at times and will cause anger. I know I felt it rise within me numerous times.
- The steep difficulty curve and somewhat stiff spikes throughout could help to turn away new players entirely.
- There is a definite grind here that can get tedious at times.