If high school girls secretly trained in the art of ninjitsu storing their ninja scrolls between their cleavage isn’t enough to raise an eyebrow, then colour me surprised. It doesn’t take long for Senran Kagura Burst‘s class of busty femme fatale to stumble their way into innuendo-laden sentences, but some would argue that’s part of the tongue-in-cheek charm.
That hasn’t stopped Marvelous AQL’s creation from already gaining notoriety for such depiction. Supported by manga and anime adaptations in Japan, western sensitivities mean that it is already being cast in a scantily-clad light. But alas, we’re here to review the game itself rather than critique the unsubtle depiction of its protagonists. For prejudgement, in this instance, is a shame, as for those that look beyond Senran Kagura Burst‘s perverse sexualisation will discover an otherwise gratifying hack ‘n’ slash romp.
Senran Kagura Burst is actually a compilation comprising of two games, Skirting Shadows and Crimson Girls. These trace the progression of students at the opposing Hanzō National Academy and Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy, one whose students vow to follow the path of good and work on behalf of nations, whereas the other wander the path of evil and work for the highest bidder regardless of the task. Both co-exist, each performing subversive missions that the other cannot perform, and so each game explores how every light casts a shadow. The basic principle behind Yin and Yang.
The Ninja Room is the best of your operations, hidden within the academy behind a revolving trick door. It is here that you can choose from the selection of activities at your disposal, whether that be embarking on the game’s central missions spread across each chapter, dress for success in the Dressing Room, or explore the Library where you can see your unlock progression, read character biographies, watch anime cutscenes, and listen to music tracks.
Dive into the core missions and you’ll soon discover that combat is commendably fluid, players pulverizing foes with a succession of weak and strong attacks, dashes and sweeping them into the air where they can be pummelled into submission. Perversions soon creep in, each girl’s clothes slowly being sliced away as they take damage, eventually being ripped off entirely to see them continue to fight clad in revealing bikinis. Unclothed they take more damage, the game even sporting a Frantic Mode where you enter missions already disrobed for an additional challenge.
Each character has their own combat styles leveraging more variety, importance being placed on building enormous combos soaring into the hundreds to level your troupe to unlock more powerful techniques. Fear not, however, as even those unused to the genre can rack up such combo scores.
Thwarting incoming enemies will see you build your Ninja Art gauge, and, once filled, will allow you to perform a Shinobi Transformation. Empowering your chosen character by immediately garbing in the clothes that grant their true shinobi form, it allows you to use special attacks that deal damage over a broader area.
With roughly 140 missions to slice your way through, it isn’t through content that Senran Kagura Burst becomes unstuck. Instead, it will be the inconsistent frame rate that detracts from otherwise furiously-paced gameplay, although repetition will soon creep in as you find yourself once again fighting along similarly backdropped locales.
So, potential controversy cast aside, Senran Kagura Burst is an energetic if not juddery experience that is capable of finding many fans purely on its own merits.