Friday, 22 September 2017

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash PS4 Review

Wet and wild or a damp squib?

Since this is a review of a Senran Kagura game, it's probably best to deal with the elephant in the room, the one wearing a tight wet bikini. Yeah, sorry for putting that image in your head, but the fact is that like all Senran Kagura games, Peach Beach Splash...or PBS for short, is a bit on the pervy side. The series started off as a side-scrolling beat' em up on 3DS and has transitioned into a 3D 1 v many fighting game. But the story has always revolved around teams of shinobi girls who have detailed jiggling physics, some skimpy costumes and wardrobe malfunctions galore. In some ways, the games a bit of an equality nightmare, because many have highly sexualised characters, but they also have a large cast of females, all of whom are strong and kick ass on a regular basis.

You probably already know how you feel about the series just from the screen shot above, but I suppose there is still a question to be addressed if this game should even exist. I am a white male, so I certainly don't deserve the final say, but I do feel the Left wing Liberal side of society (of which I am a proud but flawed member) can be a bit hypocritical with this sort of thing as we often yell about freedom of speech and expression and that no one should be repressed, yet when something doesn't fit into our world view, we often complain that it shouldn't exist. At the end of the day, Senran Kagura games should be allowed to exist, but us reviewers must make sure we focus on the how the games actually play and move the sexual aspects to one side. Something I will do my very best to do.

"So what's this all about" I hear you screech. Well, the Senran Kagura series original focused on the clashes between the good Hanzo academy and the evil Crimson Squad, both schools of shinobi ninjas, the sequels introduced two new schools with the good Gessen academy and evil Hebijo Clandestine academy. These four schools both battle it out and team up (with none of them really being that evil really) with the true enemies being the demonic Yoma and the series seemingly building up to a confrontation between the shinobi girls and an especially destructive Yoma called shin. So where does Peach Beach Splash fit in? Well the story is pretty bare bones as the girls get summoned to an island (some what similar to the last game, Estival Versus) where they're informed they'll partake in a water gun tournament and the winning team gets to wish for anything while the whole thing is broadcast on 'new tube' a somewhat pointless plot device. But inevitably there are shadowy forces that have a darker agenda.

So now that you know why the girls of the Kagura universe are fighting in water gun battles, the question is how does this all work as the previous games have been close combat fighting this shift in gameplay is quite the change. The battles themselves consist of the character you're playing facing off against either a variety of simpler enemies or other girls from the various schools in a variety of vibrant and interesting looking arenas that unfortunately have no real interactivity unlike Estival versus. One of the biggest changes becomes apparent straight away, as every character is the same...other than the very basic and frankly useless melee attacks theres no variety in how they play. In a way this is good because it allows the player to pick they're favourite character without worrying about not enjoying that characters play style, but it also decreases the amount of variety in gameplay. The more important impact on each match come in the form of cards...

The most important card is the weapon card as there is a total of ten that are the true definition of how you'll play with each having strengths and weaknesses. The Gatling gun for example is very powerful and has good range, but has a painfully long reload time, the shower gun acts as almost a flame thrower and is dangerous close up, but lacks range. There are ten weapons in total and most have a purpose although there are a few duffers I didn't especially like (I'm looking at you pistol). Next, we have pets that act as escorts that do a variety of things such as healing, making the player invisible or simply attacking. In previous games each character has had a variety of ninja skills, but these have been replaced by skill cards. There are a huge amount of these cards to be found... and the abilities of each are based on the character depicted on the card. For example all Minori cards have a healing effect and smart players will realise that the buffs and debuffs shouldn't be overlooked in favour of the attacking cards.

These cards can all be upgraded by spending copies of cards you already have to enhance them and you'll get lots of cards regularly as you play through the games various modes although frankly the higher levels cost massive amounts to upgrade and could have done with having slightly lower costs. Speaking of modes Peach Beach Splash does come packaged with a good amount of the,. There is of course a story mode where you can initially pick a storyline that leads you through some of the woes of each team, these are fairly good but some more variety in missions really would have helped, once you've played through all four a final story path will unlock. Then there are paradise episodes, shorter more light hearted tales usually filled with comedy, next we have the V-road mode which consists of four increasingly difficult tournaments. There's also the regular and pervy feature of the dressing room.

However the most notable new feature is that of a multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode consists of 3 main modes, a capture the flag style mode...or capture the bra as it's called here, point capture and standard team deathmatch. These modes are a bit more varied but matchmaking was pretty poor especially in 5V5 modes, meaning I had to stick with 3V3 for most of my playtime and getting a co-op survival match seemed near impossible, usually games are at there most active when they first come out, so this difficulty getting matches could be an issue going forward.

The biggest issue with Peach Beach Splash is that it feels like a slimmed down spin-off. For example, Estival versus has a silly but enjoyable feature where defeating one of the characters in a specific area of the map would result in them being de-clothed and put in a silly yet awkward pose and these were almost a collectible of sorts. In PBS the equivalent is squirmy finishes, when a girl is defeated she won't vanish instantly and you can go up to her, press square and...just squirt some water in her face or chest or bottom with the later 2 stripping her (no you don't see anything). This gets old very fast and you'll stop bothering pretty quickly. The various ultimate attacks have also been replaced with a drenched mode which occurs when your allies spray you with water...however this just means you can fire away without reloading.

All in all, Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a surprisingly daring sequel that changes an awful lot, with the shift to gun battles and the card system being major changes in the series. This however has lead to a more repetivity than in the past as every girl plays the same with only the weapons adding any form of variety. It's a bit of a shame as this repetition could have easily been addressed in a number of ways such as a greater variety of enemies, individuality in the way the characters play and ways to interact with the arenas. On the flip side, there is more depth here than it initially seems, as once you get to grips with the skill cards, you'll manage to make more of a difference. Peach Beach Splash is fun and vibrant and knows how to laugh at itself, but the next addition in the series really needs to focus more heavily on the serious side of it's story and go back to his melee combat roots. None the less, fans will find many hours of fun here especially of they're completionists.


That's it for this review. I sure give 7/10's Strictly Come Dancing of me. Now, let's tango over to the clean up.

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