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Senran Kagura Estival Versus Review

The team developing Senran Kagura games have been hard at work bringing their older PS Vita titles to PC for quite a while, as we've seen with Shinovi Versus and Bon Appetit! slowly coming to the platform. Estival Versus however plays significantly different from Shinovi despite sharing the genre, so let's dive right in.

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus Review.

Context

Senran Kagura Estival Versus is the latest entry in the Senran Kagura series and was originally released on the PS Vita. Like some other entries before it, it’s recently received a PC release, allowing the fanbase to experience the game using any control scheme they desire, along with a host of new graphical options. As this also came out on PS4, it’s looked good visually for a while, but the jump to PC is still a more than welcome decision.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus is available for purchase on Steam.

Two other titles have come before it as ports to PC in the form of Shinovi Versus and Bon Appetit! which were a third-person action game and a rhythm cooking game respectively. As it shares a name with Shinovi Versus, it feels natural that they’d be the same genre of third-person character action games, although this isn’t quite as close to something like Kingdom Hearts or Devil May Cry as it is to the much more abundant trough of “musou” titles out there.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus Review. Ryobi and Ryoki unleash special moves onto the crowd.

gameplay

Estival Versus plays similarly to musou titles, featuring a very basic combo set for each character in the game, which all use their own unique moveset and equipment to vary up their attacks. A light combo deals damage with a finisher at the end while a guard break move can be thrown in for more damage or held down by itself to do an actual guard break and knock back the enemies nearby. Combos can be immediately followed up by hitting the dodge button at the end to aerial dash towards the enemies that were just knocked up and unleashing an aerial combo, which can usually be followed up with a smash attack into the ground. In addition, both ground and aerial combos can be extended infinitely with the use of quick dash button in the middle of both types of combos, so long as an attack is thrown out between dashes.

There are also some characters that can trade defense for a heavy damage buff that also disables the use of ground finishers, as well as a limit break move that trades a part of one’s health bar in order to instantly push back all nearby enemies. These are much more limited in utility however, and what most players will default to is the “Shinobi Transformation.” Fans of the series will quickly notice that the busty ninjas of game’s past aren’t in their usual attire, some even sporting a typical t-shirt and jeans. As attacks are thrown out and combos launched intro crowds of grunts, a bar at the bottom-left will fill up, and every time it does a Shinobi Scroll is added to the side. The player can consume one of these to transform a character into their true form, sporting clothes that we’ve come to expect from the various girls, as well as gain several bonuses. Increased damage and defense, as well as sometimes changing the movement options, and enabling the use of special moves that also consume the previously mentioned scrolls.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus Review. The model poser could be described as an alternate gameplay mode entirely, albeit a boring one.

It has a lot of flash and crazy effects for everything one can do, whether it’s throwing out several scroll arts out after a transformation of continuing a combo chain until one can end them all in a single finisher, there’s a lot of flair that can be added to the combat by those willing to toy with the combo system. There’s even guards, parries and a recovery system after getting hit that allows a choice between a speedy recovery or a counter-attack. However in our time playing the title, we found that many of the more special abilities don’t seem to come into much use. Even going into boss fights with the difficulty cranked up, the title was never challenging enough to justify many of the mechanics, and the “Shinobi Transformation” mostly just serves as a way to end the fights faster and allow the use of the special scroll moves to either clear out hordes or deal heavy damage to singular targets.

Limit breaks seemed almost completely pointless, and attacking out of a recovery offers invincibility throughout the whole attack, not to mention infinitely chaining aerial attacks among crowds makes one basically untouchable throughout the entire sequence. It’s possible this will change with even higher difficulties, as we can only crank it up to “Hard” at the moment but the bar appears to allow for even higher modes. Regardless, the combo system allowed us to never break a sweat from the very start and still hasn’t changed hours in, so we find it very similar to musou titles in that sense. A lot of flash and crazy effects that lay on top of a combat system that simply doesn’t offer much in terms of allowing skill and practice to come through.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus Review. The story of the games is accentuated with some backstory shots.

presentation

That said, while the title originated on the Vita, it sure as hell doesn’t look like it. Unlike Bon Appetit! before it, we get high quality models with environments that actually have a fair bit of detail put into them. Granted, it’s not Crysis, nor some hyper-stylized art game, but it does it’s job in looking distinct from the previous games. Clipping issues aren’t entirely gone, as the dressing room where one can pose up to five girls shows pretty clearly depending on the pose, but at least everything is now at a proper, high resolution with textures and models that mostly match it. It’s the kind of treatment we’d hope to see all titles that get ported to PC have, and something that’s unfortunately plagued many of them regardless.

However more importantly than the graphics themselves is the art style and presentation, which is what anyone familiar with the series should have come to expect at this point. Anime girls in realistically rendered settings pulling off crazy, flashy moves all over the place as the screen gets covered in various screen effects and different HUD elements like letting the player know they’ve taken down a certain number of enemy shinobi or alerting them to level ups. Like the soundtrack and story of the game, all of it is serviceable. Nothing is particularly memorable, and even a point in the story where two sisters get to reunite with their previously dead sibling doesn’t feel particularly memorable or important. The soundtrack is there but nothing special, and the art style is the same as previous Senran Kagura games.

Senran Kagura Estival Versus Review. Swimsuits are common in this title, even referred to as lingerie for whatever reason.

overall

It’s hard to mark down exactly where this port fits. It was properly ported to PC, featuring resolution options, a handful of graphics settings and full 60 FPS support unlike some other games to be ported to the platform. But in terms of actual gameplay, presentation, sound design and other key aspects of game design, it’s lacking a lot of what makes other titles in its genre so great and fun to come back to for years. That’s not to say that it has no redeeming qualities, taking down a group of enemies with one special move or hammering a boss to death in a corner as their clothes fly off can be amusing, and the flashy combat does feel and look great sometimes. It’s still an improvement over Shinovi Versus but one has to ask as to whether it was enough of an improvement.

We don’t see much reason for people who aren’t fans of the Senran Kagura games or heavy musou fans to buy this, but then again the point is clearly not to draw in a brand new audience, other than those who liked the series but only owned a PC. For those who have followed these busty ninja girls, we’re sure they’ll enjoy a whole new adventure with wacky antics and abundant lewdness in the dialogue and other areas of the game, but it’s difficult to recommend this beyond that fanbase.

ProsCons
 + The definitive version of the game, running at 1080p, 60 FPS and with graphics options. – Combat is very easy and quite dull, upping the difficulty solved none of these issues.
 + Flashy combat can look great in motion and each character has their own effects. – Very little substance in general, sound and the story are barely worth mentioning.
 + Environmental visuals have received an upgrade since past entries in the series. – Doesn't live up to the genre, leaves a lot of missed potential on the table.
6
Fair

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