When I started thinking about how I would start off my review of Senran Kagura Burst for 3DS, I tried really hard to think of a way to write it without talking about breasts. Unfortunately, trying to tell you about this game without mentioning the bountiful bosoms would be like trying to tell you about what kind of pizza I ate without talking about the toppings. This is a game that likely has more sensationalist game journalists screaming words like “sexism” and “objectification” all the way to the bank, but what it really seems to be is just some innocent otaku fan service game that isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at itself.
Senran Kagura Burst is a game about some buxom female teens in a private school who are secretly being trained to be shinobi, or ninjas as we like to call them here in the West. They are simply being trained because their parents were shinobi, or they skilled in the covert ninja arts. The sole mission of these lovely ladies is to battle the other big boobied ninjas from the “bad girls” school of power hungry ninjas. Once you complete the main part of the game, you get the opportunity to play through the same story from the bad girls’ point of view. As you work your way through the game you will be treated to rather lengthy text-only stories about each of the game’s main characters. Despite the gratuitous shots of décolletage and derriere in the game, there was a lot of time and effort spent to make the characters seem as three dimensional as they can be.
Senran Kagura Burst is a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the vein of games like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. The fighting system is so simple it is almost elegant. There are no fancy combos to remember nor does the game require you to do what I call “The T-Rex Grip” to reach all the buttons you need to successfully vanquish your foes. You simply hit one button to jump, one for a light attack and one for a heavy attack. The enemy AI is a little simple, so you will find yourself relying pretty heavily on the light attack because of its increased speed over the heavy option. There is also a special attack called an “Aerial Rave”, which unfortunately does NOT involve glow sticks and electronic music on an airship. What it does involve is relentlessly meleeing your opponents as you hover in the air. It is effective and so incredibly easy to pull off that you will almost feel like you’re cheating when you get your combo count up into the hundreds.
A typical battle scene in Senran Kagura Burst.
One special mechanic in the game is the shinobi henshin, or ninja transformation. Once you’ve filled up your ninja magic meter you can hit the left shoulder button on the 3DS and the student in question will shed her school girl uniform and spend a few moments before you wearing nothing but her swimsuit, in all of her freakishly proportioned glory. Then their unique shinobi outfit appears, and they able to dish out more damage than they were before. If you are feeling up for an extra challenge, before each level begins you have the option to enter “frenzy mode”, in which your selected ninja will shred her garment and fight the whole time in just her bikini. She will take more damage, but will be significantly faster and more agile and the game promises a special surprise if you can compete every level in this manner.
This isn’t to say that the game is all kicks and slices and dices, because there is some attempt to add some depth. There are, for example, seemingly countless outfits and accessories you can put on the girls. These outfits and accessories unlock over the course of gameplay and include tropey selections like a fox ear and tails or a halo. You can also pick different color schemes for each girl’s school uniform, swimsuit and shinobi outfit. The girls also level up as you progress, which will unlock new moves, stat increases and special abilities. There is, however, no control over how this progression unfolds.
Being a teen lady ninja sure has it’s perks.
Visually, Senran Kagura Burst falls a little short. When there are a lot of enemies on the screen there are considerable drops in framerate and polygon counts are pretty low by 3DS standards. To counterbalance this shortcoming, the development team threw a lot of work at the voice acting, which is present throughout the entire game. There are also some nice animated cutscenes and movie clips, and the girls’ bazoombas give a nice perfunctory bounce when they successfully compete a level. Initially when playing the game, I thought the music was fun and would give players the sense than an epic ass-kicking was about to be had by someone, but in the end it felt a little repetitive and could have used a little more variety to make it stand out.
Sometimes they DO wear their uniforms to school. See?
It seems like that in today’s gaming industry, you can’t do anything without someone being outraged by it. If you made a game about feeding starving children in a third world country, you’d be called condescending. If you made a game about rescuing orphans from a burning building, I’m sure someone out there would say it is a metaphor for advocating pedophilia. It is for that reason that I admire the group that developed Senran Kagura Burst: they wanted to make a game full of girls with mutant jugs that are constantly ripping their clothes off, kicking ass and taking names and that’s exactly what they did. Sure, the ninjas jubblies may not jiggle at a full 60 frames per second, but this is a game that does what it sets out to do well.