Review: Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus [PC]

[Note: Due to the fanservice-heavy nature of this game, some of the images in this article may be considered NSFW.]

20160610180543_1

Too Damn Sexy

It wouldn’t be news to anyone to say that gaming is a typically male-dominated dominion. This has, thankfully, been changing as time goes on, but the stereotypical gamer is still seen as a teenage male.

This, of course, means that tons of game are tailored to this demographic. There are countless power fantasies where you play as the reliable, giant, muscular dude who wipes out hordes of enemies to save some frail damsel in distress. Even outside of this common style, in more general terms, most games present a male main character. When you find the rare game that offers a female player character, you’re very likely to get a lot of…eye candy.

Fit and shapely with a skintight outfit, or perhaps armor that covers so little on the body that there’s no way it could be effective…they’re all standard tropes that, while not true in 100% of cases, have still come to be expected in not only gaming, but entertainment as a whole. Of course, some games don’t even try to be subtle with this, and skip right on up to making that T&A the reason to play.

And so we come to the game we are looking at today, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus. The Senran Kagura series generally falls in the action and beat-em-up genres, with the gimmick of all the main characters being VERY well-endowed women. This isn’t just trying to offer fanservice for players – the gratuitous breast and rear shots are an active selling point of the game. The director of the games has even said that he couldn’t care less about those that are critical and complain about the sexiness, as he’s just making the game he wants to make.

While Shinovi Versus has been available in America on the Vita since 2014, the version we are reviewing today is the recently released PC port.

Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus was developed by Tamsoft and published in North America by XSeed Games. The game was released on June 1st, 2016 for PC via Steam.

20160604193702_1

Good vs. Evil…Again

The story of Shinovi Versus revolves around three schools that are training their students to become shinobi, or ninja warriors. Hanzō National Academy is a school training “good shinobi,” those that fight for noble causes, while their rivals are Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy, who are training the polar-opposite “evil shinobi.” Hebijo was destroyed in a previous entry in the series, but has since been rebuilt, with their new class out for revenge against Hanzō. In between these two is Gessen Girls’ Academy, another good shinobi school, but this one is headed by a previous “renegade” who fought against evil shinobi in ways that the good shinobi looked down upon.

You are given the choice of which school’s story you wish to play through at the outset of the game, each featuring their own cast of girls. The stories for Hanzō and Gessen are both very similar, involving the characters learning the true differences between good and evil, and overall can be quite corny with the morals the characters are taught. Hebijo’s story is different, though, as it presents a quest of revenge against the good shinobi and becomes quite dark at points.

Outside of the main stories, each of the individual characters also has their own side stories. These are mostly lighthearted, and a few of them clash quite hard in tone against the main narratives. While these can be entertaining, most don’t do much to develop the characters, many of whom rely on one-note personalities.

Really, overall, mood whiplash is the name of the game here, even in the school stories. While the director of the series just wants to present some sexy fun, the main writer enjoys taking the game down much more serious paths. This leads to some moments like learning a girl’s horrific past, dealing with the deaths of her family members, and so on, and then immediately she’s making boob jokes and fondling other girls in the next scene.

The schizophrenic presentation is charming on occasion, but the game would greatly benefit from focusing on either hard drama or fanservice fun, rather than trying to have both at once.

20160612145923_1

Strip ’em Down

Shinovi Versus is a third-person beat-em-up style game, focused on pulling off crazy combos to wipe out massive hoards of enemies. In fact, the gameplay here is incredibly similar to a game we reviewed a little while back, Megatagmension Blanc…which was also developed by Tamsoft.

Each characters has a set of weak and strong moves that can be comboed into each other, with more combos unlockable as characters level up. A main focus of gameplay here is called the “Aerial Rave,” where you are able to chase after launched enemies and attack them in midair. Also available are two transformations. First, the “Shinobi Transformation,” changes your characters outfit, restores their health, and gives them a more power-oriented attack loadout. Secondly, there is “Frantic Mode,” which strips your characters down to their underwear and gives them a speedier attack loadout, increasing their strength but greatly decreasing their defense.

When transformed into either mode, you are given access to each character’s “Secret Ninja Arts” – special moves that consume points on a power gauge. These are the most powerful moves a character has in their arsenal, and each gets two, which can be performed at anytime so long as they are transformed and have enough energy.

As this game was originally a handheld release, the style of the game is very pick-up-and-play friendly, with the gameplay taking place within a large selection of quick missions. Every mission is pretty much the same though: beat up hoards of enemies and then fight a boss, or just defeat a boss.

While there isn’t much variety to missions, the sheer number of characters and playstyles therein help to keep things entertaining. Every character in the game has their own unique playstyle, combo layout, and weapon loadout. One uses gauntlets that allow every strike to be charged up, another uses six swords at once as claws and is incredibly fast…another attacks with candy and pancakes. Well, they can’t all be winners.

Learning how to use each character to their full potential keeps the game from ever getting boring quick, and learning how to effectively fight against each playstyle in the game (as all of the bosses in the game are other playable characters) is incredibly fulfilling. Some of the best matchups in the game are ones where you’re clearly at a disadvantage, such as when you’re playing as the aforementioned gauntlet-wielding melee character against an enemy that uses speedy twin handguns.

20160531214203_1

Getting a Full View

The biggest selling point of the PC port is the ability to play in full 1080p and 60fps. Of course, my PC can handle these specs, and I must say, the game looks absolutely beautiful. This is taking into account that this is a port of a Vita game.

The game also has in-battle cutscenes, which are where much of the Senran Kagura series’…quirk…is shown. During battle, when you cause enough damage to a character, or enough is taken on your own, you’re treated to a quick up-close cutscene of said character’s clothing tearing away around either their breasts or rear. Performing a Shinobi Transformation presents the same style of cutscene, showing your character donning their new clothes, with close-ups of the same body areas.

Whether the over-sexuality is a positive or negative for you, many of these scenes are marred by clipping issues in the character models, especially for the characters that wear long skirts. The game also has in-battle cutscenes whenever you perform a Secret Ninja Art, and these are generally animated quite well, especially in 60fps.

However, showing off the characters in all of these cutscenes comes with a major drawback: they take you out of the flow of battle. Having to pause to watch (or, in my case, skip after having seen 30 times) these scenes can be quite a nuisance, especially if they occur in the middle of a long combo attack.

Of final note, the animation given to each of the characters’ breasts is kind of unsettling. Not in a “Oh My God This Offends Me” kind of way, but in a “This is Incredibly Unnatural” style. Most of the characters seem to have gravity-defying chests, while others have breasts that animate as if they were made of liquid. I mean, it definitely calls attention to the game’s selling point, but a bit more realism in animation would be appreciated.

20160604195127_1

Setting the Theme

Much of the soundtrack of Shinovi Versus is rock and power metal, occasionally blended with a stereotypical Japanese style (think wood flutes and shamisen abound). The music does great at setting the mood of battle and, while very “video game-y,” is quite well done and complements many battles well. The characters featured in each stage seem to have been taken into account when selecting what backing track plays. Battles featuring a very childish character (who attacks with CANDY AND PANCAKES, which I still can’t get over) are backed with lighthearted and bouncy themes, while other featuring serious and stoic characters get more driving power tracks.

The game is also fully voice acted, albeit in Japanese only. The large cast of characters means a large cast of voices, and I am glad to say that a good majority of the actresses give great performances. Much of the characterization in the cast comes across in the voice acting, especially when two fighters have occasional mid-battle conversations. Others, though, give performances that lean so much on character tropes that they border on grating (once again, CANDY AND PANCAKES GIRL, and the way she sounds like a five-year-old).

20160602221635_1

They Add Momentum to My Attacks!

Overall, Shinovi Versus presents a very addicting and occasionally technical mass beat-em-up marred by split-personality storytelling. The upgrades given to this PC release make the game incredibly fluid, and I couldn’t imagine trying to play it in less than 60fps back on the Vita. However, for all the spec upgrades the game got for PC, the major clipping issues on character models can be quite annoying.

I can’t help comparing this game to Megatagmension Blanc, as I mentioned earlier. They are both in the same genre and developed by the same company, so the comparison is apt. Shinovi Versus definitely has the upper hand in gameplay, with the characters being much more distinct from one another, even in such a large cast. However, Megatagmension has one major point over this game: it keeps a consistent tone. Sure, the game is mostly humorous nonsense, but it stays that way. Shinovi Versus bounces back-and-forth between drama and humor so often that it’s hard to take any of the serious parts seriously.

Despite my complaints, Shinovi Versus is a game worth playing, but the over-the-top fanservice is not for everyone. Hell, I don’t even think it’s for me…but I don’t regret getting the chance to play this game.


~ Final Score: 7/10 ~


Review copy provided by XSeed Games on PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.