Senran Kagura is a series that has experimented with a number of genres since its inception. Hack-and-slash games, a card game, a shooter, a rhythm cooking game, it’s been a real mish-mash of stuff. You can now add a massage game on to that list with the latest release, Senran Kagura Reflexions. That isn’t a typo, by the way, you heard right, this is a massage game and as you could probably guess, it’s a rather dull one at that.
It is clear from the outset that this series is aimed at a particular audience. Its overly sexualised themes naturally narrow down the people that would buy the game. The shooter title I mentioned in the first paragraph? Well, that’s a water-based shooter game and you do not need me to tell you why. At times, it feels like it goes a little over the top. In a way, I get what they are trying to do, but it can be very perverse. In previous games, underneath all of that was a fairly decent game that had some substance to it. In Senran Kagura Reflexions, they have stripped it right down (no pun intended) and what you are left with is a rather dull game with many half-naked women to gawk at.
Senran Kagura Reflexions is a visual novel with quite the lacklustre story. You get to accompany Asuka, who fans of the series will remember from past games. You are alone with her in a classroom, which in itself is a bit weird, and just like in real life, she is confused so she asks you to hold her hand and massage it, thus leading her to have fantasies about you massaging her in various scenarios. After the hand massage comes the full body massage, or as I like to call it, prodding, grabbing and slapping, because that’s what you do and apparently that’s what women like. Who’d have known? When you do this correctly, you then get to give her a leg massage by awkwardly flailing the Joy-Con around like it’s 2006 all over again until a meter fills up and then you are done.
Once you finish the massage you are brought back into the classroom, she asks if you can carry on and the exact same gameplay loop repeats itself, only with Asuka wearing different clothing and saying something a little different. Once was dull enough, but you have to do it five times! To give a Nintendo-themed example, imagine getting Super Mario Bros. and the only level you could play was the first level repeatedly. Well, that is what it felt like, only much, much worse. Once you have done this enough times, you move on to the next stage of the game, which consists of the exact same thing you have just been doing with many of the exact same scenarios playing out. You do also unlock some cool stuff like music and accessories, but when the main game is the exact same thing on a loop, I rather expected something a little more.
The Diorama mode is quite possibly one of the weirdest and creepiest modes I have ever played in any video game ever. This is a mode that, without beating around the bush, allows you to dress Asuka in Lingerie and make her pose in rather seductive positions. There are tons and tons of pre-set poses you can get her to perform, with many involving leaning or bending over. I will say it how it is, there is no other reason for this mode other than to allow us to be very perverse.
Again, if that weren’t weird enough for you, going back to the main portion of the game. One of the fantasies that Asuka has (which repeats an awful lot) is when she calls you big brother, telling you that she doesn’t want you to get with the wrong girl and saying that you shouldn’t rush into anything while she is stood right in front of you. It’s one thing being able to massage an anime girl in a video game, but another bringing an incest connotation into it too. As a true professional, however, I proceeded to touch her midriff. She liked it. Then I massaged her leg again and got a full-on view of her undergarments. Again, she loved it. In all honesty, it was just rather uncomfortable to be involved in, especially as when I was rubbing her leg she kept saying “big brother” to me.
The HD Rumble feature of the Joy-Con plays a prominent role in the game and it works just as well as you would hope it would do. It is not the best use of it on the Nintendo Switch by any means and maybe with a little more practice with the technology they could make it even better in future titles. Having the game on the Switch means that you do not need to play it on the big TV, therefore risking somebody walking in on you massaging young anime girls by flailing your hands up and down. Nobody wants that.
I am not going to mask it, the only real reason you would actually buy Senran Kagura Reflexions is so that you can look at scantily clad women and see them in seductive positions. However, let us be completely honest here, if that really is your sole reason to play, there are many better and cheaper ways of doing such things. Even though other games in the series featured many of the same themes, at least the gameplay had a bit of substance to them. There just isn’t anything here to hook anyone but die-hard fans.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by XSEED Games