Boobs. Breasts. Titties. Front bumpers. Bazongas. Mammaries.
Whatever your chosen term for them is, those mounds of flesh that adorn the female form are somewhat an obsession for a legion of sexually-charged men out there (and some women too!). Developer Tamsoft apparently knows this fact all too well, and probably spurred on by the well-known marketing adage that “sex sells”, they created Senran Kagura; a video game series now spanning multiple genres, with each and every one of them focusing on its bevy of female ninjas’ physics-defying bosoms.
The first in the series to make its way to the PS4, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus makes no exception, shoving them in your face as soon as the first loading screen. After that, it pulls no punches, revelling in how many times it can distract you with its cast’s heaving chests as they bounce and jiggle in ways that are not humanly possible. Senran Kagura: Estival Versus then is truly a ridiculous game that certainly won’t be to the tastes of the conservative crowd or those who strive to be politically correct, but the niche group of gamers it’s aimed at will no doubt enjoy it in some way or another. Considering that the gameplay itself isn’t anything more than passable however, read into that how you see fit.
Whilst anime boob appreciation is certainly the main focus of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, those who manage to turn their attention away from them long enough to get a firm grip on a controller will find that it has a considerably lengthy story mode. Following the game’s all female cast as they are inexplicably transported to a tropical island by a bright white light, the girls are forced to unwillingly take part in the Kagura Millenium Festival. There’s around 40 stages to complete just to see the story to the end, but by finding and destroying platforms hidden within the levels, you can unlock “heart missions”, which will reveal more about each character. Whilst the story is entertaining, it is not by any means going to grip you due to its nonsensical nature.
The gameplay of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus often at times feels like a game in the Dynasty Warriors series, with you using repetitive attacks against a large number of generic enemies in an open area. Some stages however play like a straight up beat’em up, with you taking on one or more of the supporting cast of characters, whilst other stages end up being a mixture of both. The girls typically start out in battle only with access to standard and heavy attacks, but by filling up a gauge they can gain the ability to transform into their “shinobi form”, refilling their health and gaining access to secret techniques that will cause devastating amounts of damage. Alternatively, for players that like to get risky and frisky, the girls can also enter “frantic mode” which sees them stripping down to their bikinis, gaining a massive boost to their attacking strength but at the expense of their defence. Although you’re limited in moves the combat is still quite enjoyable, and features such as the aerial chase and wall-runnning add a little depth for those who like to make the combat a little more showy.
For all the fun the gameplay provides however, the combat isn’t without its problems. Some of the girls are immeasurably more fun to play as than others, with many having skillsets that make them noticeably inferior or superior to the rest of the line-up. The hit detection is very poor, often making it hard to tell when you’re damaging an opponent or when they’re damaging you. Blocking also suffers from the same issue; you never really feel the audio and visual feedback that’s vital in giving you a satisfying sense of impact. Using the various bomb pick-ups scattered in the levels can also be frustrating due to the fact that you can only throw them in the direction you’re facing.
The problems continue into Senran Kagura: Estival Versus’ online offerings too, where you can engage in battle with other like-minded boob-meisters. Whilst the netcode seems agreeable and there’s a decent range of match types including favourites such as team deathmatch, free for all and capture the flag, the player base is apparently so small that finding games with more than a few people in them is a rarity. Luckily, bots are available to fill in the empty spaces, but once you’ve had a few fights you’ll probably just find the whole affair rather unfulfilling and go back to ogling breasts in the single player mode.
Ultimately though, none of that really matters because in case I haven’t already made it clear, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is not a game that anyone plays for its tight gameplay. The primary focus of the game is very much the male gaze, and in that regard players are unlikely to be disappointed. Dialogue is often a pervert’s fantasy, with the girls constantly wanting to grope each other or discuss the merits of competitions such as “the undie-eating contest”. When in battle, characters’ clothes get destroyed and reveal more flesh as you fight, and when defeated you’re treated to a risqué pose as they pant from exertion. That’s nothing compared to the questionable “Dressing Room” mode though, where you can observe the cast of girls in various states of undress and interact with them by grabbing and slapping their boobs and bum to your heart’s content. Yes, literally slapping their boobs. Inappropriately grope them enough, and you’ll fill their “heart” meter which will give you the opportunity plant a kiss on them. Even to the most liberal and easy-going person, it feels pretty uncomfortable and unnecessary. But hey, this is Senran Kagura.
If you can forget about Senran Kagura: Estival Versus’ unhealthy obsession with mammaries, then you’ve got a flawed but somewhat enjoyable game on your hands. Unremarkable in every way apart from its unique selling point, which is obviously its assortment of jiggling breasts, it’s certainly not going to appeal to the mass market. To sum it up then: If it’s boobs you’re after, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus will provide more than your fair share, but if you’re wanting actual gameplay, it doesn’t deliver anything you won’t find better done elsewhere.