Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is not the kind of game you bring home to mamma. That fact becomes apparent after downloading the digital title off of the PlayStation Store and receiving a boob icon as a visual representation of the game. If nothing else, one must admire the 3D Action Brawler for its honesty. Developed by Marvelous AQL and published by XSEED Games, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus doesn’t hide the fact it’s an over-the-top action game starring a robust lineup of busty female ninjas. If fanservice were all Shinovi Versus had to offer, it would be easy to write off this PS Vita game. However, while the game’s provocative presentation is debatable, the actual content is surprising entertaining, for the most part.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a story being told in Shinovi Versus and it’s actually not bad. Three stories, to be precise, but the plot involving the ninjas-in-training at Hanz? National Academy is the one to keep your eye on. Asuka, the series’ main heroine, and her fellow busty classmates have been challenged by a mysterious rival school to a competition called the Shinobi Battle Royale, and the victor earns the right to burn the loser’s school to the ground. The challengers come from Gessen Girls’ Academy and their team leader, Yumi, seems to hold a personal grudge against Asuka and her famous ninja granddad. As the story progress, Asuka and her friends are later challenged by another school, Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy, driving the tension even further for the gang.
All three stories representing each ninja academy share the same structure, but they tend to contradict each other on certain details, depending on which point of view you chose. However, the theme of good and evil needing each other is represented well, despite its simplicity. Continuing on with the writing, the female characters in the game are thankfully not empty vessels created for sheer eye candy. Some are wacky, psychotic, pitiful, and deeply sympathetic. For a game about scantily clad ninjas, the story can get remarkably dramatic and tragic at times. The Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy portion of the game demonstrates this best, with the Gessen Girls’ Academy section being a close second. There’s also a bit of progressiveness to the game, with the yuri undertones found among the girls feeling more sincere than just pandering to the male fantasy.
As a 3D Action Brawler, the gameplay in Shinovi Versus is fast and straightforward. Stages will either revolve around you beating your main opponent, or facing hordes of enemies and then beating your main opponent. At your disposal are the traditional weak and strong attacks, which can unleash a variety of impressive moves, depending on the button combination. Be careful, though, as taking too many hits will not only deplete your life meter, but have your clothes ripped to shreds, possibly leaving you with nothing but your birthday suit on.
If you were wondering what type of games Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed was parodying, this is it. Fortunately, you do have the option of transforming into your full ninja self, which provides you with a new set of clothes via a sexy magical girl transformation sequence and two unique special attacks for delivering a finishing blow to your foes. There’s also a berserk mode in which you rip off your playable character’s clothes with the Vita’s touchscreen, allowing for powerful, advance attacks in your undergarments, but at the cost of your defense.
The action is satisfying with its simple controls and exaggerated animation, making you feel like you’re participating in one of those crazy anime fight sequences (think Dragon Ball Z). Heck, it even has the main characters losing their clothes mid-battle, albeit in a pandering way. With that said, the action stages don’t evolve much throughout the game. Tougher enemies are introduced and exploration is later encouraged, but as a whole, the stages become routine too quickly. The feeling of repetitiveness strike you sooner or later as you play through all five chapters for each school. The same goes for the side mission, but the stages there are quicker and provide a deeper look at your chosen character, usually in a comical way.
The graphics in this game are good, with 3D environments that are simple but adequate. Character animation is where Shinovi Versus shines, particularly in the overblown special attacks. Watching one ninja whip out a giant pancake to crush her foes, or another execute an energy beam attack with her gigantic robotic fists never stops being amusing. Even the little things, like watching a character skip like a schoolgirl as she violently trounces her foes, add to the excitement. It’s just a shame that the camera can’t always keep up with the fast-paced action, even with the inclusion of a lock-on target. Small, enclosed areas are the camera’s biggest victim, but even wide open areas suffer when playing multiplayer online, with so much action going on at once without pause.
Japanese voiceovers make up the audio for character dialogue, with English subtitles provided, of course. An English dub would have been nice, but hearing the Japanese cast in full glory is always a good thing. There are some particular performances that are really worth listening to. The game’s soundtrack is also fun, matching both the high-adrenaline attitude of the stages and the silliness of the characters. Controls are comfortable and functional, with the only drag being the camera-center function sharing the same button as the block move.
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is not for everyone, and that’s perfectly understandable. The sexually-motivated gameplay of tearing women’s clothes off in battle will undoubtedly rub some people the wrong way. But for this reviewer, the funny and exaggerated atmosphere, along with a well-developed cast whose personalities extend beyond their breast size, were enough to excuse the pandering. Though, admittedly, there were a few times when the game came close to crossing the line – one loading screen reminded me that I can look up a character’s skirt, as a helpful tip. The pros mentioned in this review may not be enough to convince doubters to give Shinovi Versus a try, but if you’re open-minded, this PS Vita game will definitely give you a good, fun, sexy time.