Senran Kagura Estival Versus Review – Tedious Teenage Titillation (PS4)
Well, here we are. Another day, another Senran Kagura game filled with jiggling breasts and wiggling rumps. Let’s just get the most obvious thing out of the way, shall we? Before I get into the meat of my Senran Kagura Estival Versus review, know that I won’t be criticizing this game on any sort of moral grounds regarding its fanservice. If you’re into this sort of thing, I’m fully aware that any sort of outrage directed at it will only serve to reinforce your love — and believe me, I don’t have enough energy to waste on such things. But wait, don’t put away those torches and pitchforks yet! I haven’t said what I am going to do yet, which is lend a proper critical eye to the story, gameplay and graphics on offer. As far as those things are concerned, I’m sorry to report that Estival Versus is a mediocre, repetitive beat-em-up with little to offer outside of the aforementioned titillation. If you come for the wiggling and jiggling, just know that there’s not much else to hold your attention in between the shots of T&A.
What’s Your Excuse?
What is there to say about Senran Kagura Estival Versus’ story, anyway? Sure, there’s a plot — involving the shinobi girls being sucked into another dimension to compete against rival schools in a series of summer-themed challenges — but really, most of this only serves as an excuse for a) the ladies’ clothes to start flying off, and b) to set up dialogue with goofy jokes that are so obvious it’s actually kind of of painful. At least the game doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the way it balances fanservice with actual content: the vast majority of cutscenes do absolutely nothing to move the plot forward, instead focusing on another silly way for the girls to please the audience (“boob-grabbing” or “butt-splitting” contest, anyone?!). Marvelous knows most people playing Estival Versus aren’t going to care much about the story, so they’ve turned the pandering up full-throttle, and I have to respect their foresight in that area at least a little.
Bigger Isn’t Always
In the gameplay department, Estival Versus goes for the “bigger is better” approach, and I do mean that literally in at least one regard (triggering Shinobi Transformations often makes the girls’ “endowments” significantly larger). In the most obvious application of this idea, naturally, there are more characters than before — a whopping 34 girls are available this time to take out for a bit of beat-’em-up action. There are also a ton of missions, too: though the game ditches the “multiple team-based stories” model used previously in favor of a single, unified story mode, you don’t have to worry about that affecting the amount of content on offer. There are still plenty of battles to take part in, including Shinobi Girl’s Heart side stories and new missions with AI-controlled allies. You might, however, be inclined to feel a little anxiety about the actual value of said content — because as harmlessly goofy as the clothes-ripping combat is, it’s also clunky and repetitive to a fairly unenjoyable degree.
Heartless, Mindless… No One Who Care About Me
Far be it from me to bash on a bit of mindless fun — while I know button-mashing is hardly the most critically celebrated sort of gaming experience, I’ve praised plenty of games that provide compelling ways to frame that model of play (Warriors crossovers Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below and Arslan: The Warriors of Legend are two examples that come to mind). Senran Kagura Estival Versus, unfortunately, does very little to disguise the fact that most of its levels can be completed by alternatively mashing the square and triangle buttons. Part of the problem is in its character lineup, which — while supplying nearly three dozen gals to choose from — mostly fails to set its individual members apart in any meaningful ways. That’s not to say they all feel identical, per se, just a bit too similar; but when you’re taking on masses upon masses of the same generic-looking shinobi enemies, distinctive characters can make all the difference in the world. Another issue is with the stage variety, which is practically nonexistent: enjoy that beach stage the first time you play it, because you’ll be returning many, many times.
Things fare a bit better in the boss battles and the multiplayer modes, where there’s a bit more variety and you’re forced to use at least a little strategy. These aren’t deep by any stretch of the imagination, but the characters feel a lot more interesting when they’re up against one another rather than fighting the soulless masses in many of the single-player missions. Things can get especially frantic and interesting as the number of players increases — some of the 1 vs. 3 battles in the story mode, which pit you against three AI-controlled bosses, hit a level of challenge and energy that is completely unmatched by the rest of the game. It’s still a relatively easy game to get through (I wasn’t kidding when I said you could get through most difficulties by simply alternating the mashing of the square and triangle buttons), which makes the uninteresting parts just that much more tedious to return to once you’ve had a taste of the more frantic action.
Unprecedented Levels of Boob-Bouncin’ Technology
Graphically, at least, it’s hard to find much fault with Senran Kagura Estival Versus. Sure, these aren’t the most advanced character models and environments you’ll find on PS4, but they espouse the sort of colorful liveliness you experience when watching a hyperactive anime. The same goes for the music, which blasts you with rainbow-pukingly cutesy electronic pop from the menus to the missions themselves. In many ways, the presentation belies the level of energy of the gameplay — just looking at it and listening to it, you might expect it to be a fast-paced and exciting beat-’em-up, but things are a lot more monotonous in practice. And how about those physics? Whether you’re an admirer of Senran Kagura’s fanservice or not, you’ve got to admit the game finds a lot of unique ways to send the girls’ cheeks and chesticles flying in different directions.
Senran Kagura Estival Versus sure has a lot of fanservice…and, unfortunately, not a whole lot else. If you’re a longtime addict of the tongue-in-cheek T&A action here, you may just find enough to enjoy. For everyone else, however, the simplistic beat-’em-up action isn’t likely to be substantial enough for more than a quick laugh or two — barely distinguishable characters and repetitive stage design actually make the teenage titillation quite tedious. The presentation, both in the visual and audio departments, has a cartoon energy that leaps out of the screen and the speakers — it’s just a shame the gameplay comes nowhere close to matching that level of enthusiasm.
Senran Kagura Estival Versus review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.