Senran Kagura Burst is a 2.5D Beat ’em up, starring a cast of rather busty characters training to be Shinobi. We are given a choice to either play as either the good or evil shinobi schools, each featuring a group of 5 unique characters as they battle it out with whatever crosses their path. It is recommended by the game to start with the Hanzo (good) side as the evil school starts off with spoiling the ending. Either way, it doesn’t matter all that much as they are simply alternate versions of the same story.
Right off the bat you will be treated with a ton of dialogue explaining the lore. That is not a one-off thing; there is a huge amount of talking throughout the entire game is something to keep in mind if you just want some fast action. Starting off, we will find ourselves in a Ninja room, alongside our other four ninja classmates as well as an instructor. This area serves as the hub world allowing us to accept missions, dress our character, listen to music and a few other things. It is at this point that the game reveals a rather unfortunate flaw.
The framerate. Ye gods the framerate. While it does look decent for a 3DS game, even being in the tiny hub-world ninja room has it in the low 20’s at all times. It never gets better, and while you do get used to the sluggishness, it does have a negative impact on what is supposed to be a fast-paced game. Moving on from the technical side of things, there are both main missions where you must use a certain character and side quests that allow you to use who you please. Side quests don’t feature any dialogue while every main one will have quite a bit before as well as after a fight. There is little difference between them otherwise, it usually comes down to killing everyone in the stage or fighting a boss.
The game looks 3D but you are restricted to attacking either to the left or right of you, meaning that if an enemy is slightly to the background or foreground, you must be in the same “lane.” You’ll either be fighting against training dolls or other ninjas that simply disappear in a cloud of smoke when defeated. Each character has their own style of fighting though they all have both a weak and heavy attack to combo their targets into oblivion. It’s always just you versus a horde of enemies for some Dynasty Warriors like levels of crowd control as you kick, blast and juggle them mid-air.
It is very satisfying to pull of giant combos while not missing a beat to slay everyone around you. If you find yourself low on health, you can simply transform into your true shinobi form by changing your costume in a very erotic undressing cut-scene. In this form, you have greater abilities and can now use your Ninja Art, a powerful attack that causes a ton of damage to whoever it connects with. Ninja arts cannot be used immediately however. First, you must either cause or take damage until you fill an energy bar. They unfortunately suffer the same thing as transforming and that is they trigger a cutscene every time you use them. It definitely gets annoying and breaks the flow of the game on a constant basis.
Along the shinobi transformation, you can also tear off all your clothes before the mission to enter Frenzy Mode. This essentially leaves you with little defense, but in exchange, your attack power is increased. The neat thing is that transforming into either mode changes that character’s fighting style, so each of them have three move-sets at their disposal. It is by no means a complex fighting system and one can hop from character to character without issue. You can dash and jump but always staying on the offensive is necessary as a combination of other flaws forces that style of play. For one the camera is extremely zoomed in so you can get hit out of nowhere, not to mention there is no blocking and you can only dash left or right in a game where you are usually surrounded.
The awful frame-rate worsens that situation. To make matters worse, the AI can block and attack you even if you are not on the same lane making it inevitable that they will whittle down your health unless you play very aggressively. Your best way of surviving is to toss enemies into the air and press A when a green ring shows up around the enemy to instantly dash to his side mid-air. You can then wail on him without fear of her comrades getting a shot in on you and it makes the game an absolute breeze. The combat is just too flawed to be fun, and you’ll spend most of the time mindlessly mashing the attack button.
When not fighting the generic grunts, you’ll be facing one of the five rival schoolgirls from the other school. The kicker here is that the near useless range based characters become decent in AI hands since they can lock on to you from different lanes as well as block your attacks now. As you two battle and take damage more & more of each other’s clothes tear off usually ending in one or both of you being in nothing but swimsuits. Every time a piece tears off it triggers a cut-scene to zoom in and make it flashy. If you are keeping count that is three things that trigger cutscenes. Those being transforming, special attacks and now even taking or causing damage. An option to disable their cut-scenes would have gone a long way.
The story both saves and damns Senran Kagura Burst. On one hand, there is much more thought put into it than you may expect from a pervy looking beat ‘em up game, but on the other, the amount of filler puts even Dragon Ball Z to shame. It is a pretty good story that gets unexpectedly dark towards the end so it’s a shame they decided to pad it out so much considering the game already has a ton of side quests for us. The characters have more to them than just being a pair of giant exaggerated breasts as well. All have different reasons for being a shinobi though once again with the good there is also bad.
Most of the Hanzo (good) shinobi characters are pretty generic and one trick ponies. You have the energetic friendship loving girl, the serious and mostly silent eyepatch-wearing girl and a typical innocent one. They are nearly unbearably boring to listen to with things only getting interesting when the blonde pervert of the group named Kat has screen time. The Hebijo (evil) cast of characters are much more interesting as they are more of a ragtag group of delinquents with clashing personalities instead of a generic anime squad. Both sides have a secret character to unlock, making it a total of 12 playable characters.
Say what you will about the game, but the music is simply awesome. It is full of guitar riffs mixed with traditional Japanese music for a truly epic combination. Something I’ve yet to mention is that every character is fully voice acted and so is all the dialogue. It is very impressive considering the sheer amount of text throughout. Yes, the game is highly sexualized for the sake of it, and that may draw some people off though it is not just a simple shovelware game. As much flaws as it may have, it has a plethora of content to play through for those willing to overlook them and is a surprisingly decent though far too overstretched story.