Senran Kagura: Estival Versus Review

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Title: Senran Kagura Estival Versus
Developer: Tamsoft, Marvelous, XSEED Games
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 4.9 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: 
Yes

Let’s talk about fanservice and its many meanings.  To me, the term “fanservice” means some sort of easter egg thrown in for series fans into movie, TV Show, or video game.  An example of this would be the inclusion of King Dodongo and a remix of the Ocarina of Time Dinosaur Boss Battle music being thrown into Hyrule Warriors.  Something for fans to pick up on.

The other term, which many people in the gaming world now use, is another term for “Eye Candy”.  When many Japanese game fans say the term fan-service, they’re talking about lewd and sexual content in a game, be it images of girls with bikinis about to burst or innuendo about sexual acts, be it in that context or not.  An example of a game with a lot of this is the Dead or Alive Xtreme series or Criminal Girls: Invite Only.

Even with sexual fanservice, there is always a limit to what is allowed to be brought West and a limit to what some people think is acceptable even in the world of that sort of fanservice.  No PS Vita series is better known for fanservice than the Senran Kagura games.  This is going to be my first time writing for this series.  So, here is my official review of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus!

Story

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The story of Estival Versus takes place in an unknown time period after the events of Shinovi Versus.  During a festival to celebrate fallen Shinobi Warriors, the various schools of Shinobi featured in the series are transported to an alternate dimension to do part in a game of combat with one another as well as being able to see old relatives long past.

The story of Estival Versus is certainly interesting enough to keep you going, especially if you’re a fan of the series.  Series newcomers will also have a fair amount of information thrown at them with origin stories for the various characters.  You won’t know who is who at the beginning, but after various sequences, you will learn a lot about the characters, making this game doable even if you haven’t played previous games or watched the anime series for Senran Kagura.

The only thing I’ll note otherwise about the story is further in as well, with the amount of lewd and derogatory content in the game.  There are times when everyone is acting serious, but there are also a lot of times where you will see overly sexual dialogue going on.  From Kat acting like a horny and shameless teenage boy and groping other girls’ breasts to Ryona trying to re-enact Master/Slave BDSM relationships in casual conversation, there is a lot of sexual content thrown in and it is much more than any other game I’ve ever played.

More visual in nature, but every time the characters move even inches during story dialogue, their breasts jiggle, a lot.  There was a reason that the first day I got the game, someone on PSN sent me a message, asking me if I was masturbating with one hand and playing the game with the other.  No, that’s not a joke.  Someone really did that.

Gameplay

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Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is a 3D Beat-em-up game with RPG elements thrown into the mix.  In each stage you play, you’ll be fighting against hordes of enemies in a 3D arena while gathering items and experience to level up and enhance your own skills.  It isn’t unlike games like Shinovi Versus, Uppers, and somewhat like Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed.

First of all, let’s talk about the fan-service in this game.  I told you about the fan-service in story scenes, but it’s also in the actual gameplay.  This is mostly comprised of story dialogue and costume-tearing.  The dialogue can happen during gameplay as well as story scenes.  While you’re fighting, if you take enough damage, your costume will be torn to shreds while showing your character in an embarrassing scene of said costume being torn.  Remember the costume-breaking in Neptunia U?  These animations are just like that.  Enemies’ costumes break, too.  Generally, all enemies will be down to nearly just a bra and panties by the time you finish them off.

The other major aspect of fan-service is the Dressing Room.  This lets you set characters up for poses, but also has a feature where you swipe the touch screen to disrobe the girls on screen.  Granted, full nudity is not there, but you can get as close as legally possible for a Western game release.

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You can turn off the fan-service, to a point.  Basically, you can prevent your own costume from being torn.  However, this does not prevent enemy costumes from being torn or enemy bosses from having the same costume-shredding scenes when you’re fighting another major character as opposed to hordes of enemies.  Just be sure to remember this when you go to make your purchase.

Now let’s talk about the game, itself.  When you boot the game, you have Story Mode, Multiplayer, Dressing Room, Library, Settings, and Records.  Settings explains itself, though Records is actually the Save Data area, where you can manage your data as well as cross-save between the PS4 and PS Vita versions of the game.  Library is also a smaller game mode, comprised of viewing game stats and unlocked music.

Story Mode is the main area of the game.  This allows you to progress through the 8-day storyline the game has to offer, as well as learning how to control each of the 32 characters built into the game (some not unlocked at the start or without patches/DLC).  Each section is based around specific characters, giving you a chance to use most everyone, an ingenious way to tackle story mode that I first saw in Mortal Kombat (2011) and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

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Each section of this mode are made up of going through story dialogue and going into stages, be it stages against hordes of enemies or stages against a single boss fight.  You arguably spend more time watching and reading cut-scenes than actually do combat, though.  Many of the scenes are quite lengthy.

Stages have you in large 3D arenas with enemies and sometimes partner AI to assist you in taking down said enemies.  In Story Mode, you’ll have missions in each stage, mostly defeating all of the enemies within the time limitations.  Unlike Hunting RPGs, though, time limits can be very tight.  If you don’t fight well against enemies, it can be very easy to run down that timer and fail a mission.  You still get EXP for failing a mission, but it also means you get to do all of it all over again.

Combat is combo-based.  You have combo chains you can link your attacks in and this is key to winning.  You also have different strategies, depending on which character you’re currently using.  Some are better to fast button-mash combos while others have slower attacks that you can charge up to maximize damage output.  It will all be a matter of playing around with each character to learn who is better at what, be it ground combat, aerial combat, combos, items you can pick up and throw, etc.

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The more in-depth parts of combat are in various transformations.  You can build up a gauge to perform a Shinobi Transformation to increase your stats as well as to change your costume, heal, and change your fighting style.  Every character has one of these transformations as well as another that can be used to effectively disrobe them to bare minimum and create a different type of combat aura.

Combining ground and aerial combat will also make the fighting more fun.  If you do a combo and launch an enemy or group through the air, you can dash after them for much faster-paced combats.  Not all that unlike the Hyper Attacks from Samurai Warriors 4: Empires, but requiring an enemy to be launched before the combo can be chained.

Hordes and Bosses differ in the means that hordes are very easy to run around and just mash buttons without worrying about being pushed back much.  Bosses, however, always require a strategy of waiting for openings.  Even when you do have openings, it can be easy for them to break your combos, depending on who the character is.  This makes fighting bosses difficult, and that goes double for when you dive into the Online Multiplayer.

Overall, Story Mode should take you roughly 12 hours to finish, assuming you pay attention to scenes instead of skipping them.  Add Multiplayer to this if you get into the combat and it should last a good amount of time.

Controls

As far as the controls are concerned, this isn’t a very hard game to play.  The game is PlayStation TV Compatible, so you can look forward to being able to play it on the go or on the big screen, even without the PS4 version.

Moving around the stage is done with the Left Analog Stick and camera control with the Right Stick.  L and R are used for guarding, centering the camera, and are used for activating transformations.  The rest of the controls are the face buttons as the D-Pad is just an alternative for camera controls.  X lets you jump and Circle lets you dash and dodge.  Square is used for normal attacks and Triangle is used for heavy attacks.

I don’t have any quarrels with the way the controls are set up.  They’re also explained to you very well as you go through the tutorials.

Presentation

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Visually, the game looks really well-done for a PS Vita game.  The cell-shading has a ton of details and very few jagged edges anywhere to be found.  Certainly one of the higher-end games on the Vita as far as visuals are concerned.  This also does a lot for the lewd fanservice, as there are physics elements for wind and, of course, breast jiggling.

There are two aspects of the presentation I have issues with.  First is the load times.  Many load sequences can take from around 12-20 seconds, depending.  The average is around 12-15, some longer and some shorter.

The main issue with the presentation is how the game plays.  As you go through the game, you’ll see quite a few frame drops when there are a lot of enemies on-screen.  As with many other games, the drops aren’t too heavy to disrupt your flow.  But it’s certainly noticeable.

Summary

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus has a fast-paced and fun combat system.  However, the game is brought down by long load times, consistent frame drops, and a shameful level of lewd and sexual fan-service. 

7/10

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