Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Marvelous AQL
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

To some extent, I’ve become acclimatized to weird expressions of sexuality in Japanese Vita games. A baby-making simulator? Sure, why not. A game where you run around downtown Tokyo, ripping off people’s clothes? One of my favorite games of the year. A game where you basically masturbate your Vita to reveal young girls in revealing clothes and postures? Far better than it has any right to be. With Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, however, I think I’ve reached my limit, the point where even I’m looking at a game and saying, “Okay, that’s a bit much.” It’s basically all boobs, panties and dialogue that sounds like it was written by people who’ve never actually interacted with girls before.

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To some extent, of course, similar criticisms — and worse — could’ve been levelled against Conception II, Akiba’s Trip and Monster Monpiece. The difference, however, is that all of them featured some pretty solid core gameplay, and would likely be good even if they didn’t rely on such titillating hooks, whereas strip away Senran Kagura’s T&A, and you’re not left with a whole lot.

Actually, that’s not completely true. In the game’s defense, the fighting controls aren’t that bad. Admittedly, this is largely because you’re usually fighting so many enemies, you can afford to just flail around wildly and expect to hit something. But still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the quality of the action is single-handedly good enough to say that Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus isn’t completely devoid of merit.

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At least at first. After a while, the game starts feeling more than a little repetitive. It may allow you to interact/flirt with the other girls, and change your lingerie, and win lingerie, and generally do lingerie-related things, but once you’re actually playing through a stage, it becomes pretty difficult to differentiate between them all, since they’re all so similar. If you’ve seen one level where you fight through hordes of murderous henchmen to tear the clothes off your over-endowed rival, you’ve really seen them all.

In theory, of course, you’d be able to tell the levels apart by their various characters and dialogues, but let’s be realistic here: the characters are exactly as flat as you’d expect from a franchise that essentially got its start because a developer wanted 3D boobs (which is kind of ironic, come to think of it). Sure, there’s a storyline about ninja students and rival schools and whatnot, but that’s all just window dressing for girls making single-entendre innuendos to each other and, by turns, dreaming of candy and complaining about being fat. On some level, I guess, it counts as progress that we have girls getting nosebleeds over other girls, but in a broader sense — i.e. the sense where otaku guys just want to see lesbian schoolgirls getting it on — using the word “progress” may be overstating things.

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Truthfully, though? I feel a little ashamed to admit it, but the rampant objectification on display here isn’t what bugs me the most about Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus. I mean, yes, the constant fanservice is a little grating if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to get weird looks from anyone who sees you playing the game, but I have to say that the repetition is what really bothers me most. That may be asking a bit too much of a game that, again, was essentially conceived of as a 3D boob-delivery mechanism, but at the same time, titillation only takes you so far. If a game is going to ask for people’s time and money, it should be delivering something in return that can’t be gotten for free on any number of X-rated sites, and Senran Kagura just doesn’t do that.

Grade: C-