Game Review

Senran Kagura Burst Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Fit to Burst

Fresh from the friendly fields of Rune Factory 4, XSEED returns with another, decidedly more deadly offering from the Land of the Rising Sun in Senran Kagura Burst. Taking its gameplay inspiration from classic side-scrolling beat-'em-ups, and its over-the-top, undergarment-filled style from anime and manga, this is a fun, frenzied fighter with a unique feel that shines in spite of its faults.

Senran Kagura lets you follow the day-to-day, butt-kicking lives of two secret, rival schools of the shinobi way - The Hanzō National Academy and The Hebijo Clandestine Girls' Academy. Hanzō is ostensibly "good" and Hebijo "evil", but thankfully it's a bit more complicated than that, and each side is worth exploring; you can play through both stories simultaneously or tackle them one at a time, and they overlap in interesting ways. Slice-of-life episodes of the story are told through voiced, character model cutscenes, while more major plot points advance through visual novel segments, and both are surprisingly good fun.

The characters are mostly built around anime tropes, but they're still likeable and interesting, and the unexpectedly poetic visual novel scenes give players well-worded reasons to care about their motivations, trials, and triumphs. The rest of the game is stuffed with what is euphemistically described as fan-service (read: voyeuristic camera angles, ridiculously impractical sushi-eating techniques, and an alternative interpretation of gravity localised to a predictably puerile place on our otherwise sharp-edged shinobi heroes), but the story is (mostly) more muted in tone.

Of course, in-between discussing the merits of bean sprouts and having meaningful flashbacks, these teenage ninjas spend their after-school hours doling out extracurricular, iron-fisted justice - and that's where you come in. Senran Kagura's gameplay consists of side-scrolling beat-'em-up action in the proud tradition of Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and Code of Princess: you'll move from left to right (or vice-versa) slashing up dozens of evildoers per screen, before a blinking "GO" command gives you the OK to move on.

Like the Hanzō and Hebijo heroines, brawlers live and die by their fighting style, and it's here that Senran Kagura really delivers, with an emphasis on speed, aerial action, and massive combos that gives it a feel of its own. By chaining together weak and heavy attacks, you can launch enemies into the air and follow after them, bringing the beatdown to the skies with gravity-defying Aerial Rave attack sequences before diving like a hawk onto baddies back down below - all without breaking a combo. It's fast, frantic, and a whole lot of fun, with airtime approaching Marvel vs. Capcom 2 levels and a hypnotic combat cycle that lets you string together hundred-hit combos with ease. And though the actual button pressing gets repetitive very quickly - it's easy to find a few combos that work best for you and rinse-wash-repeat your way through levels - there's a ton of variety in how each character plays.

There are five girls to play as from each Academy, and while each Hanzō shinobi has an obvious Hebijo counterpart, the correspondence isn't a simple one-to-one: think Ryu and Sakura rather than Ryu and Ken. On Team Hanzō, Asuka is a quick fighter with dual swords and a penchant for air-launches, Ikaruga swings an impossibly large broadsword ala Code of Princess' Solange, Katsuragi keeps things lower to the ground with her powerful kicks, Yagyu uses her umbrella to slash and fire projectiles, and Hibari fights with the incredibly endearing art of seemingly random flailing. On the Hebijo side of the tracks, Homura one-ups Asuka with six-bladed style, Yomi carries the big sword, Hikage shakes things up with her collection of knives, Mirai goes B.B. Hood with a submachine gun under her petticoat, and Haruka combines Hibari's close-up combat with homemade chemical bombs.

No matter which character you choose - and the structure of the story makes sure you'll get to play as all of them - you'll fight under the aegis of two equally exciting and eye-roll-inducing systems: Costume Durability and Shinobi Transformations. You'll start out each stage in an unassuming schoolgirl outfit, with life and costume gauges that deplete as you take damage. Fortunately for our fashionable heroes, the space-age fabrics of their school uniforms serve as a first line of defense, so your character's overworked outfit will expire before they do - take too many hits, and you'll find yourself fighting in your frillies. Imagine Arthur from Ghosts 'n Goblins battling for life in his sexiest speedo, and you'll have some idea of the subtlety of the execution here.

All isn't lost when you're left in your Lycra, however; pressing the 'L' button at any time will activate your character's Shinobi Transformation, triggering a magical girl metamorphosis of embarrassingly crass camera angles - a far cry from Sailor Moon's class act - that completely refills your health and costume bars, powering the novice ninjas up to their true forms, with heightened attack and defense and a brand new outfit.

Fighting in your powered-up shinobi form will fill a multilevel Ninja Art gauge, which lets you unleash screen-clearing, character-specific Secret Ninja Arts on your foes. Each fighter has a spirit animal that lends its likeness to their unique attacks, all of which deal out massive amounts of damage and come with elaborate animations (which can be enjoyed in full or cut short smoothly with a button press). And as we all know, with great power comes greater fibre durability - the shinobi form grants an extra level to the costume gauge and a welcome halfway point in-between "fully dressed" and "underpants".

As silly (and sleazy) as these systems sound, they make for a wonderful risqué/reward mechanic in gameplay: do you fight to the last shred in your schoolgirl suit, so you can squeeze the most out of your first lifebar before filling it back up? Do you pull off the Shinobi Transformation right away, eschewing the extra health to power up your attacks from the get go? Or do you bet and bare it all by going "Frantic" at the start of a mission, starting out in your shinobi'd-up skivvies and forgoing any "armor" at all for increased speed and attack?

Regardless of your play style, Senran Kagrua controls very well, too. 'X' and 'Y' are used for light attacks, 'B' jumps, and 'A' is used to dash, as well as to follow your enemies into the air for Aerial Raves. Combo inputs are processed as quickly as you can mash them in, and both the D-Pad and Circle Pad allow for smooth movement and mid-combo direction changes - essential for taking down the hordes of enemies thrown at you in every stage.

At the end of each mission, you'll earn character-specific EXP, and you can unlock more combos and new Secret Ninja Arts as you level up. But character progression isn't limited to a simple linear grind - how you fight feeds directly into the game's novel Yin and Yang system. By taking and dealing out damage in equal measure - rushing in to attack, going Frantic, and fighting to the edge of your Costume Durability - you'll eventually unlock the Yin mode, which grants a huge attack bonus, special moves, and longer combos in return for greatly reduced defence. If you mostly fight with Shinobi Transformations and Secret Ninja Arts, you'll work towards the Yang mode, which extends your Aerial Raves, helps your Ninja Art gauge fill faster, and lets you take hits without being stunned or knocked down.

If only the missions and minions were as thoughtfully produced as the combat. No matter how fun or elaborate the story set-up is for a mission, no matter who you're supposed to be beating up or who you're supposed to be saving, you'll still find yourself railing on the same three or four types of palette-swapped enemies - some of which feel like placeholder objects in the first place - throughout the entire stage. And aside from a few exceptions, almost every mission has the same objective: defeat so many enemies, move forward.

Granted, repetition is a common trait in the genre, but it's especially conspicuous here, and stands in stark contrast to the commendable variety that runs through the rest of the game. It also lends an disappointing sense of disconnect between the story and the action - if Asuka's supposed to be stopping underage classmates from drinking, why is she spending the stage beating down the same generic thugs from last level? Code of Princess married relatively repetitive gameplay with varied, story-driven mission types; surely Senran Kagura's shinobi deserve the same treatment?

Thankfully, it's easy enough to overlook the phoned-in foes and monotonous missions when the actual combat is so dizzyingly fun, and when each level brings the promise of seemingly endless unlockables. There are costumes - including dozens of outfit options for each character's swimsuit, schoolgirl, and shinobi forms - accessories, movies, and music (complete with composer commentary!). With seventy stages each on both the Hanzō and Hebijo sides, there's plenty of content on offer - and while the beatings do tend to blur together over extended sessions, the modestly-sized missions make perfect pick-up-and-play material. Unfortunately, you'll have to tackle them all solo, as there's no multiplayer action here.

Early on in the Hebijo storyline, Homura tells a fellow fighter: "Your appearance is a childish concern. It has no bearing on your strength as a shinobi." She's right, of course, but unfortunately the development team also seems to have taken that fact to heart - Senran Kagura isn't much of visual showpiece for what the 3DS can do. For starters, the 3D effect is only enabled in certain sections of the game: the single-room hub area for each school, the talking heads cutscenes, intro and victory poses, Secret Ninja Arts and Shinobi Transformation sequences, and - no prizes for guessing! - the dressing room.

That leaves the actual gameplay in two-dimensions, which makes sense when you consider the inconsistent framerate at which the game often runs, from relatively smooth in the action sequences to bordering on picture-book in the post-battle victory pose animations. That's a shame, because in its shining moments of smoothness (especially in the indoor environments), Senran Kagura looks like a much better game. Still, the character models are fantastic, and the backgrounds bright and colourful, with smooth lines and polygons that remind us happily of Dreamcast days.

The original Japanese voice acting accompanies XSEED's excellent localisation, and it's a fantastic fit - it gives the already personable characters tons of personality, and it really does feel like playing a (well translated) anime. The soundtrack for the action sequences consists of relatively generic rock (albeit with interesting instrumentation), largely covered up by the cacophony of combat and not likely to stick with you after playing, but the Japanese-meets-light-jazz tracks that play during the story sections and menus are wonderful.


Senran Kagura certainly has its issues - an inconsistent framerate, repetitive missions, and a sketchy, ecchi aesthetic that's likely to turn off as many players as it turns on - but it delivers an intoxicating blend of quick, combo-heavy combat that's an absolute blast to play. Silly-and-serious visual novel sequences, fun characters with markedly different fighting styles, and tons of customization round out the package, and with two full stories to play through, there's enough game here to outlast a wardrobe full of outfits. More than just the world's most effective PSA for battle armor, Senran Kagura Burst is a lovely, lighthearted brawler that's well worth a round.

From the web

User Comments (79)



sinalefa said:

I will get this one after I beat Code of Princess. Too bad it does not allow for co op though.



WreckItRyan said:

"A sketchy, ecchi aesthetic that's likely to turn off as many players as it turns on." Loving this line.



BakaKnight said:

So it's both a fanservice game and a good 'brawler' one? O.O

What a great unexpected surprise
Now this game have both the attention of my otaku and my gamer side, can't wait it to arrive in Europe!



cfgk24 said:

I'm playing through this now! A Very Enjoyable Game! - in-between my bouts of breaking-into-a-sweat vertigo going up to level 12 on the Tower of Hera in Zelda ALBW! Eeeeeesh!



Emblem said:

Can't wait until UK release date, no way I'll be playing this one on the commute to work though lol.



Gioku said:

"...ridiculously impractical sushi-eating techniques..."

Anyway, glad to hear this turned out good! ...I may just have to get it!



JuanitoShet said:

While I do get sick and tired sometimes of all the fan-service games like these tend to include, I won't mind it if the game is good. Some can actually balance all of that crap (Dead or Alive comes to mind, though they're not games of the same genre) and others exploit it to the point in which it just annoys the crap out of me and makes me want to stop playing the game.

'Cause seriously, I know it's just a ploy to get people to buy their game by controlling their inner pants, but come on, it's ridiculous sometimes.



divinelite said:

3ds ers go get it, it's fantastic
I'll wait for senran kagura shinovi versus, but to makeit happen burst must be a success, so get it everyone



DualWielding said:


Versus is hack n slash, (dynasty warriors) I prefer the classic final fight style of Burst, loving the game so far, and I'm not really into Ecchi, I can recommend the game to anyone who likes 2D beat em ups



gojiguy said:


A crappy button-masher gets an 8/10 while actually good hack n slash games like Samurai Warriors Chronicles and Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper struggle to get 6/10 scores.

Sad to see how far titillation goes in review scoring these days... Wonder what the score would be if a woman reviewed it...



accc said:

Such a shame that this isn't being released at retail. I don't feel that digital games are worth $30 when they have no resale value, no physical collection value, and can't be played on more than one system thanks to Nintendo's bad account system policies. As much as I'd like to play Senran Kagura, there's just no way I'm buying it on the eShop unless it has an extreme sale/price drop.



mr570 said:

This game is surprisingly fun. Once you open up your combo chains to higher levels it gets even better. The voice acting is top notch. All in all, this is a solid buy for anyone even remotely interested in the subject matter.



edhe said:


Did you even read the review? Are you suggesting the game should be docked points because of a little (Ok, quite a lot of) fanservice? This isn't Gamespot or Kotaku.

The review I read considered the saucy content and acknowledged that it might be a bit undesirable for some, but in all, it's a solid game.

And I'm sure if a woman reviewed it, it would get a similar score.

(Not a graphical representation of this review.)



Megumi said:

I'll just....stick to, er...."normal" games...? Is normal the right word? Ah who cares, lol.



shinpichu said:

Or it could be that the reason those games got low scores was that the reviewer didn't like them? From what I've heard, SW Chronicles and OW3 Hyper aren't well liked even among Warriors fans.



Gioku said:

@Yukari_Sendo: Normal games don't have "...ridiculously impractical sushi-eating techniques..." Normal games have practical sushi eating techniques.



DarkKirby said:

Glad to see a review that isn't complaining about a lack of political correctness. I plan to download this eventually (no physical release makes me sad).



NintendoMaster said:

Interesting, upon reading "Fit to Burst" I figured the review would be negative. After reading, I guess I was wrong.



DarkKirby said:


@gojiguy Wonder what the score would be if a woman reviewed it.."
The same, why wouldn't it?
It would be different if said reviewer is a politically correct obsessed person or a fem nazi who believes in the double standard that only women can be sexually exaggerated unfairly in media and women "shouldn't have to live up to those standards" but it is impossible to unfairly sexually exaggerate a man.



redsoul91 said:

ya know, I was actually kind of hoping this would get a low score so I wouldn't be tempted to play it and have to defend myself by saying it's "for the gameplay"



DarkKirby said:


You are entitled to your opinion to not enjoy this type of game. Not every game is for everyone, nor should they be. But a review that lowers the score for not being in line of their own personal beliefs is being biased. Keep in mind, when you read news, news isn't necessarily right because it agrees with you biases.

But explain to me how it is NOT a double standard that only women can be unfairly sexually exaggerated in media.

True equality is in which NOBODY has more rights than anybody else, not when equality is forced everywhere and rights differ depending on the person.



shinpichu said:

You do realize that a review is effectively just an opinion, right? So, if I played the game and the aesthetic legitimately hurt my enjoyment of the game(perhaps all the fanservice made me uncomfortable, which wouldn't be out of the question since as I understand most of the girls in this game are young teenagers), is it really "biased" to put that in my review?

And saying that men are "objectified just as much of women" is a false equivalence because male anatomy is exaggerated for different reasons than female anatomy is.



LunaticPandora said:

@shinpichu You do understand teenage fanservice girls is pretty standard fair in Japan right? They don't get quite so up in arms over this kind of thing as other countries seem to. If people who aren't from Japan find it uncomfortable, maybe that's because it wasn't primarily intended for audiences outside of Japan in the first place, hence why the games have been Japan-only until now.



shinpichu said:

I'm aware that teenage fanservice is more prevalent in Japan and is more socially acceptable. That doesn't make a difference. They're releasing the game for an international audience, so they should be prepared to deal with the standards and cultural norms of that international audience.



DarkKirby said:


You posted the "you keep using this word" video as if you disagreed with the definition I was using of "double standard", but it's not that you disagree with the definition, you disagree that double standards are wrong.

And there is a difference between reviews being opinions and letting your personal bias dominate how you review something. You should be aware of what your own personal biases are, and be aware other people have different preferences than yourself. As a professional reviewer to give a game a low score specifically because something in it goes against your personal beliefs on a subject and ignore the rest of the game makes you a bad reviewer.

For example, the person who reviewed Metroid: Other M on X-Play gave it a garbage score because she was a feminist, and believed that Samus should not be portrayed as having emotions (like being sad or afraid) or ever listening to a male for whatever reason, as to take orders from a man is the ultimate insult to a "strong" women and makes her weak. To this end, she unfairly criticized every other part of the game as being terrible, and that the game itself was terrible.

Or there was another review from another gaming website which a reviewer gave Bioshock Infinite a poor score because he said it went against his religious beliefs in that the protagonist is unpleasantly forced into a baptism which he (the reviewer) claimed was against his religion, and further was upset at how religion was not portrayed positively in the game (as the antagonist is a religious leader). To this end, he claimed the entire game was terrible and nobody should play it because it's insulting to his and possibly other people's regions. Or another poor review because the reviewer disagreed that the poor would be equally unfair to the wealthy if they were in a position to do so, which if you were to look at history, a massacre of the wealthy was essentially what happened every single time a country became communist, followed by totalitarianism.

There are other subjects that some people complained about, but most reviewers didn't plummet the score of a game because of it, even if they made the complaint in the review. Like how people complained that almost all the enemies in Resident Evil 4 were black, and that the protagonist is a white person killing black people, and furthermore, many of the black people were portrayed as savages, and not all black people are savages. Completely ignoring, somehow, that the game takes place in a rural part of Africa, and in the rural parts of Africa the population is in fact, mostly black people, and some of them are savages. Also, ignoring, that these "enemies" are essentially victims, infected with a parasite against their will so they could be controlled. What should they have been? Mind controlled parasite infected successful black businessmen attacking you with briefcases or peaceful discussion? Then there was the racism in Bioshock Infinite which people complained about but most people didn't lower it's score because if it. Racism happened to be pretty prominent in the time the game takes place, the developers were just trying to portray what they thought the world would be like at that time under those circumstances.

It's clear from your posts, you do believe in forcing political correctness on things and censorship, things I am adamantly against as a strong believer in free speech and completely against censorship.



shaneoh said:

"They're releasing the game for an international audience, so they should be prepared to deal with the standards and cultural norms of that international audience."

Rather perhaps that the international audience should be prepared to deal with the standards and cultural norms of the Japanese audience. It doesn't mean we have to adopt them, and vice versa.

Play it or don't, those are the only two ways to deal with these "issues"

Game needs to com to the EU/Aus



LunaticPandora said:

@shinpichu Yes it does make a difference. Western devs don't radically alter their games for Japanese audiences, so why should they for the west? Especially if it never intended to leave Japan in the first place?



Aaronzord said:

Can't wait!

This score is at least three points too low, by the way. (I haven't played it, but I can tell from the screenshots)



Ralizah said:

This will definitely be my next 3DS game when I can afford one. Sounds awesome.



JustinH said:

I'm in. Hopefully it goes on sale though, as $30 for a download-only title doesn't sit too well with me.



Rafie said:

This is MY kind of game here. Sometimes I wonder if I was Japanese in another life. I love the culture so much....especially the entertainment part. It's everything I look for.



Magikarp3 said:

Hibari fights with the incredibly endearing art of seemingly random flailing.

From videos, I'd always wondered what this style was, but you've described it perfectly

This review was hilarious, here's hoping the game lives up to it haha



shaneoh said:


Watched it, seems like he was griping about something based on fantasy not conforming to reality.

I'm not saying they shouldn't expect criticism, but if noone is being hurt, why should they change anything?



KarateKid1234 said:

@DarkKirby You two need to stop arguing over one little darn review.
I mean; it's like when 2 kids get mad over each other when they argue over which piece of candy is better and they know each is even.



Marioman64 said:

i'm PRETTY sure the framerate differences are only visible with the 3d on, as it is with Pokemon XY.
But it's worth having it on to see the globes o3o



KarateKid1234 said:

@Gioku "I kinda like ecchi, though...
It's better than hentai, at least! "

But I like he.....
...Anybody heard about Super Mario Galaxy 3?



jkvasn said:

Just got this. The frame rate is terrible (almost unplayable) and the game can be played with your eyes closed.



BulbasaurusRex said:

@Gioku Um, "ecchi" is short for "hentai," as it's the pronunciation for the first character, so aren't they the same thing?

Anyway, definitely grabbing this after Christmas.



Gioku said:

@BulbasaurusRex: Basically, ecchi is like softcore hentai; and it's definitely what this game is! With ecchi, nothing is overtly sexual - it's up to the viewer to "fill in the blanks". So it's basically just highly suggestive, whereas hentai is, well, you know...



Captain_Balko said:

@DarkKirby Being politically correct has nothing to do with your freedom of speech. Are you free to go to a public place and share discriminatory views with people? In most first world countries with a constitution, yes, you are. Is this a good or respectful thing to do, is it ethically right? Of course not.

There is a difference between what you're allowed to do and what you should be doing. In creating a product, game developers have to be careful not to offend groups of people. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech, but rather with another, equally as vital pillar of Western civilization - tolerance and inclusion. When you make a game that promotes intolerance, you essentially exclude a group of people, as the game might very well upset them and detract from the experience. Alienating minorities is simply not good business practice (or ethical practice in general).

For example, if somebody made a game that was essentially a genocide simulator, would it not be okay for the reviewer to remark on how offensive it is and how much it detracts from his or her experience? At this point, it doesn't matter how good the gameplay is, how nice the graphics are, and how much content is in the game - if the game is incredibly offensive, none of this matters anymore, as the product cannot be an enjoyable experience for a great deal of people.

Obviously the examples you've given are times where this principle was blown out of proportion. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with a reviewer noting that something in the game offended them, especially if it is likely to offend others. A review should be able to say, "I disliked the way that Samus' character was portrayed because it made her seem like a weak woman, which offended me", or "the game portrays black people as savage, and nearly every enemy in the game is a black, and I found this offensive" because a review is supposed to be a recommendation of a game, and the reviewer cannot recommend the game to like-minded people because if the game offends them, it will undoubtedly detract from the experience. Should a minor offensive portrayal in the game cause the entire score to plummet? I don't believe it should. However, I do believe that because it affects one's ability to enjoy the game, it needs to be mentioned and possibly have some sort of effect on the score.

Concerning this game here, women might very well be offended by the way that it portrays them, and it is perfectly acceptable to state that in a review. Personally, I'm not interested in the game because it makes me quite uncomfortable, and I'm glad that the reviewer stated that some people might not be comfortable with it. If no mention was made to it, and I somehow bought the game without knowing what was waiting for me (which I'll certainly admit is quite a long shot, but still possible, I guess), the experience would be marred thanks to how uncomfortable it would make me. Because it's referenced in the review, however, I can make an informed decision as to whether it is worth purchasing or not.



masterLEON said:

Tons of dropped frames everywhere when you're fighting more than a few enemies, 3D on or off. But the game remains responsive throughout, I was able to adapt to it. It's the smoothest in the one-on-one fights towards the end of either scenario. There are surprisingly huge….tracts of…story in this game, in the visual novel sections that is. The anime barely even touched on it. I liked the Hebijo, dark shinobi academy, side of the story better. It had more d'aww moments versus the Hanzo side, if you're into that sort of thing (though Hibari is adorable as all heck). I found myself looking towards both the action and the story parts equally.

Btw, anyone else give Yagyu the eyepatch accessory? It's totally ridiculous, LOL!



Superconsole said:

@zipmon Morgan - trust you to be reviewing this one ;D

@Doma I would love to review a game like this at some point, I always wanted to review Akiba's Trip, purely to see if I did feel really uncomfortable or not. There's only been one incidence when I reviewed a J-RPG (on PS3) that I was annoyed by its portrayal of women, and that was mainly to do with the language used rather than how they were dressed.



zipmon said:

@Superconsole You know me! Was that Time & Eternity? I was almost going to pick that up just for the art style but I'm so glad I read your review first, I definitely wouldn't have been able to deal with that!



JamesAlroth said:

I would like to point out that no-one here knows that the game is based off of an anime and manga called Senran Kagura. If you're going to say that it's just a bunch of anime tropes you know nothing of the story



TheTrapKing said:

Well i got this game and been playing it i wont put fan service into my ideal review. This game its game play what people say is repttive its simple but fun old school side scrolling beat them up and you get different characters each own moves and attacks speeds and such, With the leveling up you learn new movies and increase in power kinda like rpg in a way its so simple yet awsome. I replay missions with each character level them up but never get bored of it. This a game i think you can play over and over again. The story they lay out is intresting short but simple too plus this what i read else where is 2 games in terms. you fgot the first Senran Kagura and the new one. Which is awsome that they give us a 2 in one game. i give it 8/10 also. With out fan service. XD fan service is nice and not over the top very funny at times, i laugh my ass off some dialogue they say each other what supposed be fan service.



HnD said:

"Be prepared to deal with international norms, equality, repercussions, etc. blah blah blah whack whack." Pansies! Sounds like some people around here have a massive head trauma case of, "STOP LIKING WHAT I DON'T LIKE!!!!"

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