Those who aren’t traditionally fans of shooters often complain about the genre being stale. Well, if DOOM, Titanfall 2, and SUPERHOT haven’t shown that there’s plenty of innovation left for the genre, let me present to you Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash. Say what you will about the water gun game, I’ve never seen a shooter where special attacks wind up taking the competitor’s clothes off. Now that’s the innovation I like to see.
It’s easy to dismiss this as pure T&A, but there’s actually quite a few interesting gameplay ideas in play, including the ability to use a lock-on aim. As someone that isn’t fully attached to using both analog sticks to aim a gun, I really enjoyed this quirk. It allowed me to focus less on lining up my reticle, and instead think about my character’s movement and space. Was I behind cover? Should I be retreating right now? When the shooting is less of a concern, the player is free to really think about their strategy more. The typical third-person shooter controls are also available, but I’d recommend trying something different and seeing what you think before dismissing the lock-on.
As with the prior Senran Kagura games, there’s a pretty in-depth single-player mode to jump in. I absolutely loved the extreme lengths the game went in order to justify a completely canon bikini-laden squirt-gun competition between the shinobi, but sadly most of the solo level design isn’t that interesting. There’s a semi-decent story to be had that has some tender moments about the bonds between friends, but they’re often broken up by edgy characters calling each other “bitch.” I just don’t find myself liking the characters in the series all that much, and it’d be a pretty forgettable campaign if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to shoot suds off a naked 40-foot-tall teen to finish one of the story arcs. Trust me, I’m not gonna forget that.
I was left unimpressed with the single-player, but thankfully the multiplayer is where the action really shines. From team deathmatch to capturing bases, I found myself having fun no matter what mode came up during ranked play. There’s not a ton of options for online play, but the matches all ran smoothly and competing against other players was filled with some hilarious hijinks.
Ranked matches come in two separate variants where teams of either three or five compete against each other. I enjoyed both types of play, but ultimately found myself selecting three-on-three more often than not. Due to having less players on a team, each individual participant has a greater chance to impact how the game will play out. I also loved that despite being a team game, the success largely depended on my own play. Five-on-five is more frantic, and slightly less strategic at the moment, but both offer up different experiences that each have their own merits.
My favorite part of Peach Beach Splash‘s multiplayer is how it handles downed opponents. Unlike Gears of War, where you take a chainsaw to their body, players instead get out their squirt gun and choose to either aim for their bikini top or bottom. This initiates a cutscene where that portion of their bikini flies off, and you get a view of them at a compromised position. It’s ridiculous, super over-the-top, and I got to learn that the majority of the players favor breasts over butts. I do have to mention that you can also aim at the girl’s face to get a less provocative scene, but not once did I ever see a player go for that.
Peach Beach Splash is a title that regularly has jumblies jiggling all over the place and women losing their drawers mid-combat, but surprisingly the most outrageous thing about it is the day one DLC. Currently on offer is the “Week 1 Mega-Bundle” pack, which includes plenty of cosmetics and weapons for the affordable price of $54.99. While gamers have led revolts against AAA games like Evolve over their business practices, it’s often niche titles like Peach Beach Splash that have the most offensive DLC. There’s already over 25 pieces of add-on content, so if you don’t believe in these sort of business practices then you should put your money where your mouth is.
While I find a lot of the sexual content to be more lighthearted fun than offensive (it’d be quite the dull game without it, and I’m glad it’s there to give it some sort of personality), I do have to mention that it goes into total creep territory in its Intimacy mode. This isn’t entirely new to the series, as I distinctly remember doing things I’d rather not mention to get trophies in one of the Vita titles, but this allows players to not only look and touch the girls, but to explicitly grope them. There’s literally a button prompt that tells the player how to “grope,” and the player can basically twist and play with the girls’ breast as if they were Mario’s face in the Super Mario 64 startup screen.
It’s sort of amazing that they went there, and I’m sure someone will pontificate about how this is really just a moral quandary that epitomizes the fact that players have the choice whether or not they choose to grope these virtual women, but it’s ultimately just really weird. I’m not exactly sure what the end goal is for this mode. Is it to erotically excite players? If so, it even fails there. I can’t speak for everyone’s kinks, but I can’t say that seeing a girl’s comically large breasts stretched out like silly putty got me going. Either way, this mode can be safely ignored despite the inherent creepiness that comes with a groping command, and players can just dress-up the characters if they want (I gave Minori a really cute cat tail!). It just feels unnecessary for a game that has more to offer players, but hey, at least you can practice playing bongos.
Qualms aside, if you can look passed the risqué nature of Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash you’ll find an enjoyable shooter that can be a lot of fun in multiplayer. Sure, it might not be able to compete with the likes of Titanfall 2 in terms of gunplay, but I’ve never seen any bikini tops come undone in Titanfall either. Peach Beach Splash certainly has something unique to offer, and while all of its ideas might not be ace, you have to respect the developers for committing to an idea and simply going for it.
Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.