Senran Kagura Estival Versus marks series’ debut on the big screen – all of the previous games were made for either 3DS or the Playstation Vita. For the latest Senran Kagura game, we played both the PS4 and the Vita version – here’s our review.
The obvious elephant in the room, for every Senran Kagura title, is the emphasis that is placed on (female) nudity. Because of this, Estival Versus will be somewhat of a polarizing title – even with the best gameplay in the world there are people who are not going to like it, and then there’s a group of people who would enjoy it even if there was a lack of gameplay altogether. As is so often the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Yes, Senran Kagura Estival Versus does feature nudity, and excessive amounts of it as well. Using a sword to slice off pieces of clothing? Check. An emphasis on the female form that puts Dead or Alive to shame? Double check. It’s over the top, but the game’s designers seem to realize this as well – as can be seen in the names of multiplayer online modes like “Capture the bra”. Sure, it might be off-putting to some, but we’re going to focus on the gameplay underneath all that.
For all its emphasis on three dimensional forms, Senran Kagura Estival Versus is a relatively one-dimensional title when it comes to gameplay. It’s a hack and slash game that lacks the tactical/strategic depth of a Dynasty Warriors game and doesn’t have the refinement in its fighting dynamics that you’ll see in a Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat title. Instead, it’s a good old-fashioned button-masher, especially at first. Attacks are easy to pull off, and you’ll quickly find yourself launching your enemies into the air only to jump after them and knock them around some more.
It’s not until later, when you unlock more skills, that the combat becomes a little more varied. This correlates with your progression through the story, which is your usual “excuse to bring a bunch of fighters together to beat each other up” kind of affair. In this case, it’s a festival of the dead and the backstory ties into each of the 34 characters on the roster somehow – but the story is more or less forgettable.
Breaking up the action are a few boss fights, scattered around the 9 hour campaign mode. Finding a successful strategy to beating them depends on the character you choose, since the roster offers quite a bit of diversity. Some characters are fast, others slow and powerful – and there’s a difference between melee and ranged specialists as well. It’s all rather straightforward at first, but you get more options once you start adding more moves and potential combos to your move list.
If you’re invested in the series, there is a wide host of additional content to find inside the game as well. These are often character-specific and will mean very little for those who never played the handheld games or saw the mangas, but it’s excellent fan service as an addon to the combat elements. Multiplayer also got some attention from the developers, although we had trouble finding enough users online prior to the game’s official release. Either way – this is a content-rich package despite the rather basic format of the core game.
A game like Senran Kagura Estival Versus is always at risk of just sticking to a basic gimmick and leaving it at that, but that’s not what has happened here. The game has shaped up to be a fun little brawler that’s incredibly accessible and can be enjoyed in short bursts – even if you’ve been away from the game for a while. This makes it an even better choice for Vita owners, since the conversion is well done and playing on the Vita is always a little more discreet – a nice bonus for a game like this. It’s not going to win any awards in the fighting genre, but for those who just want a classic button-masher of a brawler with the potential to add some combos to mix things up, this is a decent choice.