[Note: Due to the fanservice-heavy nature of this game, some of the screenshots in this article may be considered NSFW.]
Shake It Up
The little rumble motors in our controllers are things that we have come to take for granted over the past few console generations. What was once a pretty interesting gimmick offering a bit more immersion back in the days of the PS1 and N64 is now something I hardly notice anymore, what with it being used so often. Hell, the only time I really even notice it is if I have my controller sitting on a table during a cutscene and it all-of-a-sudden vibrates itself on to the floor.
Controller vibration is the norm nowadays, so much so that it feels a bit weird to not have it when going back to classic consoles or playing on a budget controller that lacks it. It doesn’t seem like a technology that really needs much improving – just a couple of motors in a controller programmed to move when certain actions are done on a screen. Really, is it something that even needs to be improved?
Nintendo, busting out their big ol’ book of wacky ideas, was of course the company that decided yes, it can be improved! Within the JoyCons of their wildly popular Switch system is a new rumble engine they market as “HD Rumble.” Essentially a vibration engine capable of producing finer and more subtle movements, Nintendo’s marketing of it seemed to infer that it’d bring another new level of immersion to gaming.
Enter Kenichiro Takaki, the current king of sexy games that aren’t too sexy to be released on consoles. Upon seeing the capabilities of this new HD Rumble engine, he knew what he had to do…sex it up a bit! The end product of his experimentation with HD Rumble is the game we’re looking at today, a spin-off of Takaki’s Senran Kagura series.
Developed by Honey∞Parade Games and published in the west by XSeed Games, Senran Kagura Reflexions was released on September 13th, 2018, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.
Reflecting and Reflexing
The premise of Reflexions is simple – you spend time with the Senran Kagura series’ main character Asuka (or one of a few other characters that will be available as DLC) in a classroom setting. It seems that she wants to confess her feelings for you, but is unable to do so. To help her calm down around you, you introduce her to reflexology – an alternative medicine whereby you put pressure on certain parts of a body to bring about physical or mental changes. In this specific case, it’s Asuka’s hands.
The actual gameplay follows a rather strict loop. You begin in the classroom with Asuka holding her hands out, and you massage a part of her hand by pressing down on one of the JoyCon’s analog sticks. Doing so causes you to see one of a number of “daydreams” Asuka has, typically other (often anime cliche) romantic scenes with her as some kind of warrior, a classmate in the school gym…your sister…amongst others.
From here the reflexology moves to her full body, where you position your “hands” and massage certain areas by twisting and flicking the JoyCons around. Focus in one area enough and you enter the final phase, where things get their most Senran Kagura-y, with Asuka in a prone and suggestive position while you use your choice of a few massage tools (a brush, a roller, your hands, etc) to finish off the session.
After that loop, which takes maybe ten minutes, you start all over again. Rinse and repeat for maybe an hour and you’ll see everything the game has to offer. Reflexions feels more like a demo or proof of concept than an actual game, which explains its $10 price point at the time of writing…but even that is a bit too much to ask for with the lack of content here.
Really, the whole point of the game is to show off its usage of the Switch’s HD Rumble, which attempts to make you feel like you’re actually touching and interacting with Asuka. It’s kind of hit-or-miss, with much of the actual rumble usage being subtle, although some moments stand out surprisingly well – particularly the hand reflexology segments that kick off each gameplay loop.
The gameplay itself, though, is just simple, repetitive, and occasionally borderline creepy. Reflexions literally just has you going through the same motions over and over, with the only difference being the environment those motions are taking place in. The only real entertainment I got out of the game was the pure shock value of the situations Asuka is shown in, and I became numb to that after the first few loops.
Aside from the main gameplay mode, you have a dress-up mode, also known as the mode I never bothered to touch on other Senran Kagura games. This mode is essentially the other half of the game, and its contents are exactly what it sounds like: dressing up Asuka with different clothing, lingerie, and hairstyles. Unless you enjoy dressing up virtual characters, it is completely skippable.
Something Seems Off
Reflexions may not actually have much content, but what there is here at least looks good. As the game only focuses on one character, Honey∞Parade definitely put in the time to make her model look detailed and attractive. The various environments leave a bit to be desired, although I’m sure most people interested in this title won’t be focusing on those.
I’ve always enjoyed the voice acting in the Senran Kagura series for being so hilarious and over-the-top but, weirdly enough, that’s not present here in Reflexions. Sure, we have the same voice actress that Asuka always has, but her attempts at portraying Asuka as a love-struck schoolgirl just feels wrong. This Asuka is completely different in personality from every other Senran Kagura entry I’ve played, and it’s not really for the better.
I know this is a short review, but it’s for a short game, and one with barely enough content to call it a game. Senran Kagura Reflexions is really nothing more than a sexed-up HD Rumble tech demo that will most likely leave you feeling more awkward than satisfied upon completion.
Aside from all of that, what Reflexions is really missing is the charm that’s present in most Senran Kagura games. The crazy characters and their interactions, along with the over-the-top sexual humor, is one of the major things that has kept me coming back to the franchise. That’s all missing here. Instead we get one character that’s incredibly out-of-touch with her franchise-established personality and gameplay that takes the weird sexual moments a bit too seriously.
Even for hardcore fans of the franchise, I can’t recommend picking up Reflextions. There’s just not enough actual game here to justify the purchase.
~ Final Score: 3/10 ~
Review copy provided by XSeed Games. Screenshots taken by reviewer.