Senran Kagura: Estival Versus – PS Vita

Senran Kugura Estival Versus is apparently the seventh game in the Senran Kagura franchise. Despite some of them being spin-offs, that’s quite a feat for a series barely a few years old. Rather than following the sidescrolling gameplay of the mainline games on the 3DS, Estival Versus continues the Vita-line style whereby you move around in a full 3D environment, Dynasty Warriors-lite fashion.

The story revolves around the Kagura Millenium Festival. Ninja clans established in previous game entries are warped to a mysterious tropical island to participate in the festival to potentially learn the highest secrets of the Shinobi. Why a tropical island? Well it’s the prefect excuse to get the girls in their bikinis. Senran Kagura’s notorious over-sexualised themes are present and in full force in Estival Versus.

As stated, Estival Versus feels very much like a Diet Dyntasy Warriors game as you face off against hordes of enemies and then a boss at the end. The square button is for your normal attack and triangle is the stronger attack, if you combo your opponent enough, a flash on green light will appear as they fly away from you. When this happens you can press the circle button to instantly dash towards them and continue dishing out the pain and keep your combo up. I have to say it all feels quite shallow, especially when you first use a character who hasn’t learned any new moves yet. Although even when they have levelled up quite a bit it still feels more mindless and repetitive than a Dynasty Warriors game (and I’m saying that as a fan of the series).

A lot of the fun comes from your other abilities. You can perform a Shinobi Transformation, which as you’d expect makes you more powerful and completely restores your health. Interestingly, despite the transformation process being rather lewd, the final uniform is often less revealing. Although if you want to go to the opposite end of the spectrum and instantly get down to your bikini, you can go into frantic mode.

Character models for the girls are superb, and that’s putting the pervy-ness to one side. Each girl is incredibly colourful, detailed and stand out beautifully on the Vita’s screen. That being said, it’s quite a contrast to the environments you fight in. I think in part due to the high amount of characters on screen at once, the environments are a little bland and lacking in details for both models and textures. To be honest, you’re so focused on fighting and the game is quite fast-paced, you don’t notice the poor environments too much.

Despite being set on a tropical beach, that’s not the only kind of battle environment featured in the game. Somehow the scenery can instantly switch to some other place, be it a winter park, a neon-lit city or even a playing field. I’m not aware of any explanation for this, but it’s certainly better than just the beach setting that you’ll be tired of after the first chapter.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the boob-thing. From what I vaguely remember of the original game, Estival Versus has lost any thread of subtlety it may have once had. Pantie eating contests, oil rubbing in private parts and defeat poses that I have no doubt took inspiration from adult videos. Not to mention how easy it is to completely strip girls of their clothes, with only their dignity (haha!) being protected by sparkles of lights from their private areas. For me personally, I don’t really mind it. The unbelievable ridiculousness and audacity of it all often made me laugh and cringe in equal measure. There is no shame in Estival Versus and if that’s fun for you, you’ll be happy here. To be honest it does get tiresome at points because never seems to let up. “Oh another boob groping references… and another… and another.”

I found the controls a little difficult to adjust to. My muscle memory is telling me that the L shoulder button should be for a block, to readjust the camera view, or lock on to an enemy. For some reason this is the trigger for your Shinobi Transformation which on multiple occasions I activated way too early, just because I kept thinking it should do something else. Overall, the button layout is a little strange to be honest. Locking on to an enemy is up on the D-pad, activating Frantic Mode is done by holding R, putting two fingers on the touch screen and then separating them, similar to how you would zoom in on a picture. It’s unnecessarily awkward, no doubt due to the Vita’s lower button count.

Unless you’ve played the previous games, it’s really difficult to keep up with the vast array of characters in Estival Versus and initially the story will be just a wall of characters, names and references you just don’t get. It certainly takes a while to get going, especially during the first chapters where every clan needs to be established in to the situation. As the game progresses, however, it gradually becomes more interesting.

To give it credit, despite the shallow nature of the game, there is a lot of character development going on throughout even though it might not exactly be the deepest, meaningful development you’ll ever witness, every character seems to get their turn in the limelight.

There is a tonne of content in this game. The story mode consists of eight days, usually involving about 5 or 6 stages per game. There’re also side-missions for each individual character in a mode called Shinobo Girl’s Heart where every girl has a short side-story that can be completed. While I’ve not gone through all of them just yet, I think it’s safe to say these side-stories are completely inconsequential to anything in the main story. These optional missions can be unlocked by destroyed platforms hidden in many of the stages. There are dozens of playable characters, all of which play and feel completely different from each other. I’ve not even mentioned all the unlock-able items and outfits. You will be getting your money’s! Or if not, there’s sadly a tonne of DLC outfits you’ll be able to buy.

One aspect of the game that may interest a lot of players is the online multiplayer where you can compete against players around the world in a few game types. Unfortunately as of the time of writing there has been no opportunity to test the game modes and quality of net code as every time I went online there were zero people available to play against. Which is a shame as I was really looking forward to trying out “Capture the Bra”. The music seems to be pretty good overall.

The music in these kinds of games is difficult to gauge since most of the time it’s completely overshadowed by the sound effects of attacks, grunts and screams. One thing I did notice is how eclectic it is, such a vast array of styles for different situations. I really do like the main menu music and I think that’s the stand-out track with its mix of old style Japanese (that strongly reminds me of Okami) and distorted rock guitars.

So overall, it sounds like I’m being more negative than positive, but that doesn’t mean I think Estival Versus is a bad game. It’s a solid, if shallow beat ‘em up that fans of the series will adore and those who couldn’t get on with it before, still won’t. It’s packed with content, characters and a ridiculous amount of fan service. It’s more of the same. A lot more.

Good points

– Loads of content

– Great character models

– Varied playable characters

Bad points

– Poor environments

– Controls are a little awkward

– Maybe a little too repetitive

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