The time has come for the (formerly) side-scrolling ninja high-school girl hack-and-slash known as Senran Kagura Burst to “burst” onto the PS4 in the form of Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal. This all new take on the adventures five Shinobi girls from the sham high school “Hanzo Academy” is already rife with controversy over a censorship decision by Sony. How controversial can a remake of a game about ninja girls training to defend their way of life actually be? Let’s take an elongated look, shall we?
A New Perspective
Fans of the Senran Kagura series will undoubtedly notice one major difference between the 3DS-released Burst and the now-PS4 Burst Re:Newal: it’s no longer a side-scroller. The gameplay feels so much less confined now that you’re operating in a fully 3D plane. Ranged attacks are more meaningful and dashing has major impact. The combat itself is an all around better experience with this new update.
The character models and attacks have seen the biggest visual improvements. Standard and special moves have both been given a serious upgrade. You have to admire the vision of Tamsoft to not merely port the game over and call it good. They certainly explored new possibilities and improved where they could. Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal may not make use of your PS4’s full capabilities, but that’s sort of an unrealistic standard for a 3DS remake. And be not afraid! The deadly frame rate drops are a thing of the past. Hack and slash away.
Honestly, though, this new perspective has really highlighted how simple the gameplay really is. It may be more complicated than just mashing light and heavy attacks, but not much. You mash a light attack, finish with a heavy attack, launch your enemies into the air, dash at them, and repeat steps one and two. You can throw in a special attack here or there for funzies (and it does get very fun and wacky), but you probably don’t need to.
Getting through the game can feel like a slog. The fights are the premiere gameplay mechanic, but it takes forever to get to one. When you finally do, it’s one wave of enemies, a second wave of slightly different enemies, and then a boss fight. And then the next mission is one wave of enemies, a second wave of slightly different enemies, and then a boss fight. Senran doesn’t mix up its formula frequently enough to keep the feeling fresh. Had I not needed to do so for this review, I doubt I would have finished it.
Look, I know I’m gonna get a lot of people like “well why are you focusing on the boobs?? Talk about the game you loser/sjw/cuck/snowflake.” (Honestly, I’m bracing for much worse.) Here’s the thing, though: you can’t focus on Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal without focusing on boobs, because the game can’t go five seconds without showing you or talking about boobs.
Every time a character is introduced, it looks like it’s shot by Michael Bay. It starts with a low angle, works all the way up the legs, sneaks in an upskirt shot, and then stays on the breasts for far too long before finally showing you a usually passive, giggly, and submissive face. Almost every character is the typical anime level of busty, with jiggle physics better than ever, for whatever that’s worth. Is now a good time to mention that almost all of these women are underage?
There is one character who has small boobs, but almost every word out of her mouth is referencing either her small boobs or other women’s large boobs. “Her boobs are bouncy-jouncy,” she says at one point. You know, just like how real women with small boobs talk.
This is also a perfect example of how Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal undercuts each instance of potential empowerment at every opportunity. This character, Mirai, has a whole segment where she expresses her insecurities about her body—a sentiment to which many people can relate. Then the other women in her group talk about how her self-worth shouldn’t be determined by the size of her breasts or any other part of her body, and that they too have quirks and neuroses that society doesn’t understand. It’s a genuine moment of female camaraderie that isn’t often explored with any depth. Mirai then proclaims that today she learned to love her small boobs. Rejoice!
Cut to the next scene, where Mirai is immediately trying to discover ways to grow her boobs. Thanks, Senran. I mean, I suppose I shouldn’t have even tried to take it seriously when this game said boobs aren’t important, but I still feel like I got “bait-and-switch”ed.
If you’re someone who think that any criticism of depiction of female bodies in media is automatically SJW BS, then fine, go nuts. I’m not going to convince you otherwise. I happen to think that this sort of thing can be done well, but this isn’t the way to do it.
There’s a lot of the same in Bayonetta, for example, a game whose similar aspects were not nearly as distracting. The difference for me is that Cereza owns her sexuality. In Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal, we own these women. Everything they do is for us, and we make them do whatever we want. We can dress them up however we want, and that flat out sucks. Then, we can tear their clothes off before a battle, purportedly for “confidence” and to “reach the peak of their power,” because, you know, women are most valuable when they’re busty and naked.
Sony picked up controversy for censoring on the PS4 Senran’s “intimacy mode,” where you could grope and smack (sensually, I guess?) each character in whatever attire you choose. My only question for Sony is: “What exactly did that accomplish?” Sony draws the strangest lines.
A Burst of Bad Writing
And none of this even touches on the fact that the Tamsoft wrote way too many lines of dialog in Senran like bad pornos—cringe-worthy and rife with innuendo. I started keeping a journal of the most ridiculous lines, which include “He turns and starts jogging down the hill. His back is broad and … manly,” and (allegedly referring to food times) “It’s thick, but I’ll bet I can handle all of it.”
Let’s not forget all the times they throw in the word “naked” for some reason (gee, I wonder). “Rin’s eyes held naked curiosity.” “She stared with naked confusion.”
Let’s put the sexual aspect aside for a moment. The beginning story cards sum up the Senran‘s story, and it’s exactly as simple as it sounds. Good Shinobi” versus the “Evil Shinobi.” I thought for sure Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal would make this more complex and nuanced when I played the game as the so-called “Evil Shinobi,” but no. I guess I found out that they are genuine people, but they’re still openly calling themselves evil and threatening to kill innocent people. And sure, Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal does try to add more complexity, but they end up only as shallow attempts.
Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal reduces each character to simply their “thing.” Mirai is self-conscious about her boobs, Hikage has no emotions, Hibari is worried she’s not ready for school, Yomi likes bean sprouts, Katsuragi likes to grope people, etcetera. None of them can be anything more or less than one-sentence descriptions, and that just isn’t helping the game’s case.
As I went over, it does have good moments. I already mentioned the occasional exploration of how women (I should say “girls”) relate to one another, and it also muses on the necessity of both a shield and a sword. But for each instance that the story or script impressed me, there was another that simply left me in “naked confusion,” as it were.
It’s definitely new and improved framework, but Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal is mostly the same picture. Underwritten busty characters, who serve only to please those viewing them, engage in repetitive combat segments that become little more than “Dynasty Warriors with TnA.”
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with buying and enjoying a product made by a company eager to provide exactly that product—in this case, busty dress-up dolls that want for nothing other than to fulfill your wants. I just don’t find that very interesting or compelling. If that’s what you’re looking for, whatever floats your boat. But I can’t help but feel you can get the desired half of “Dynasty Warriors with TnA” with some quick googling. The end result is the same, but one is free, and the other is Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal.
Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newel review code provided by publisher. Version 1.0 reviewed on a PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.