With so many unique hardware features at its disposal, Nintendo Switch has given developers plenty of inspiration when it comes to using the HD Rumble and gyro-controls of the Joy-Cons. We’ve aimed down imaginary sights with triple-A first-person shooters, pulled off many a routine with dancing simulators and even performed open-heart surgery/clinical murder. Well, now we can say we’ve given a high school ninja a thigh message as well. So there’s that box ticked.
Yes, the Senran Kagura series has finally made its way to Ninty’s latest hardware generation, but we’re a long way from the side-scrolling/visual novel days of Senran Kagura Burst on 3DS. All pretences of making this anything other than an excuse in ogling overdeveloped schoolgirls have departed, and what you’re left with is Senran Kagura Reflexions. For all intents and purposes, it’s a ‘romantic massage simulator’, where you meet Asuka - one of the main heroines from the wider series - and run your virtual hands across her body. It’s presented as a love story, with your reflexology sessions supposedly designed to help Asuka ‘find herself’. Ahem.
We should point out this game isn’t designed to be all-out porn - even the liberated Nintendo of today has its limits - but rather a part of a Japanese subculture of sexual identity known as ‘Ecchi’. Games that fall into this category are usually meant to represent flirting and barely-contained sexual tension, rather than represent the act itself. Be that as it may, that doesn’t stop this dating sim from really pushing the envelope when it comes to content on a ‘family friendly’ console. In other words: this game is definitely NSFW.
Let’s all be honest with ourselves here. Any game that enables you to play a scene where a high school student wears a costume worryingly-titled ‘Gift Wrapped’ gives you some idea where this is all leading. It all starts out innocently enough, with Asuka asking you to massage different parts of her hands. By either moving the Joy-Cons in different directions - or moving the cursors on-screen with the analog sticks - you can then unlock different potential scenarios where Asuka is dressed up in various costumes.
You can see which ‘scenarios’ you’ve played before thanks to a thought bubble Asuka shows as you focus on one area of her hands. If it’s one you haven’t played before, you’ll see a silhouette. Next, you’ll need to start massaging her body. Depending on where you massage her, you’ll be able to read her mood based on the changing colour of the musical notes and love hearts she expresses. Light blue means unhappiness and red means, well, the opposite of unhappiness. Repeatedly massaging her arms, thighs or wherever will eventually unlock a ‘Glorious Reflexology’ mini-game session where you can use your hands (and a variety of massage tools you periodically unlock) to help Asuka relax into a state of zen. Eventually, you'll fill a vessel that represents her Heart’s Desire.
Depending on the exercises you’ve performed, this vessel will change colour, revealing new sections of a heart-shaped image. Fill them all and you get to enjoy an even more ‘romanitic’ scene with your virtual ‘friend’. Each one of these reflexology sessions is represented as a ‘dream’ or Arc, which is presumably why one such ‘dream’ sees you role-playing as brother and sister with so much sexual overtone it’s not even funny anymore - it’s just plain creepy. There are plenty of others, all unlocked by massaging a particular part of her hands, but all of them just boil down to overt male power fantasies. It’s presented as romance, but we all know it’s just cheap titillation.
Outside of this main ‘story’, you can also perform freeform massages, should your ‘heart’ so desire, or head into the Dress-Up mode and customise Asuka with various revealing costumes that show off a cleavage that defies all laws of physics. You can even turn her into a Diorama and adjust everything from her expression to the angle of her posture. Progressing in the main story unlocks more items for customising Asuka, and with DLC planned for additional characters from the series, there are hours of ‘fun’ to be had.
So Senran Kagura Reflexions is a thing, and it’s out now on Nintendo Switch. If you’re a fan of the series, this entry won’t be of any great surprise - after all, we’ve had a water gun third-person shooter and a rhythmic cookery game under the Senran Kagura banner - but if you’re new to the series this title might look like the kind of thing you'd not normally find on Switch. As innocent and silly as it all pertains to be, it’s just a tame excuse to get a bit of cheap sleaze onto a Western games console.