The boob jokes just write themselves
HIGH Look at that hit counter go!
LOW Try playing this game in public
WTF I've never met any girls this interested in one another's boobs
Senran Kagura Burst is the kind of game that wears its intentions on its sleeve—or, in the case of the European release, its box art.
When speaking on the game, developer Kenichiro Taka said that the moment the Nintendo 3DS was announced, the first thing he knew he wanted to see on it were 3D breasts. While Senran Kagura Burst contains more than one pair of lovingly-rendered high school boobs, it may come as a surprise that it's also a fairly competent brawler as well.
It's hard not to be skeptical of Senran Kagura Burst, though. At face value, the premise of two rival schools of warrior-girls fighting to become the best ninja in Japan seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to get underage females into combat so their clothes can get ripped off... And in fact, that's exactly what happens.
However, I was surprised by the sincerity of the narrative, as each of the girls not only engages in amusing scenarios, but there's some semblance of character development as well. Granted, I could have done without the waterboarding jokes and ultimately the story could not escape the usual high school anime clichés, but a clear attempt has been made to bring life to each of these girls and their individual journeys.
However, the real meat of Senran Kagura Burst is in its 2D brawler gameplay. Though it struggles to compete with recent standouts such as Dragon's Crown, it offers solid button-mashing.
Combat is fairly simplistic, and it's easy to fall into a pattern of rushing enemies with weak attacks, knocking them into the air, and then juggling them to oblivion, particularly early in the game. Luckily, the characters have relatively different play styles. From tank-like babes that talk with their fists to those who use a variety of weapons to get the job done, everyone will find a favorite—mine was Yagyu.
Unfortunately, after the initial honeymoon phase, things get repetitive quickly. It doesn't help that the first few chapters are easy to charge through, making the sudden difficulty hike in the final chapter more frustrating than it should be. An option to don a bikini from the beginning of a stage (increased attack and lowered defense) does ramp up the difficulty for those who want more of a challenge, but I always found that I'd had more than my fill of this smackfest after a couple of rounds.
Boobs aside, Senran Kagura Burst feels a bit mediocre—it's not a bad beat-'em-up, but it's not one of the best. As such, I can't say that it's a must-have title, but it provides enough amusement to make even this grouchy feminist hop in and see that combo meter rise into the thousands now and again. I also appreciate that cheeky, almost self-referential heart that shines through. Players who find the visual aesthetics and suggestive themes appealing will likely get even more mileage out of this quirky title than I did.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the Hanzo side of the game was completed. The game has no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains: violence, blood, sexual themes, partial nudity, language, and use of alcohol. I wouldn't recommend this game to young children due to the sexual themes, but it is almost always used for a humorous effect aside from the ripping of clothes that occurs during battle. Nothing explicit is shown, either, so it's not the end of the world if a child got a peek at you playing this one.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: All story dialogue is the original Japanese audio and subtitled in English, and there are no important audio cues during gameplay.