Having made its debut on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2011, Senran Kagura has spent the past four years branching out, appearing on a variety of gaming platforms while spawning numerous spin-offs and even its own anime. It’s one of the many success stories in the Japanese games industry, yet one we didn’t expect from developer Tamsoft.
Boasting a rich heritage, the studio is perhaps best known for its work on Toshinden, a Japanese fighting series that once stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Tekken and Soul Edge. Fast forward two decades, and now Tamsoft is recognised for something entirely different – its propensity for shoving huge, wobbly breasts in just about every game it produces.
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is no different. Much like the original, it tells the story of two rival ninja academies locked in an endless battle between good and evil. Although there are plenty of diversions along the way, it’s a fairly simple narrative and one that tends to orbit the characters rather than the dangers they keep running into. Whether or not you bond with the game’s cast hinges entirely on your level of anime fandom. Exaggerated in both its dialogue and character design, Deep Crimson packs a distinguished level of silliness that simply won’t gel with your typical Western gamer.
Then there are the breasts, of course – a line I never thought I’d have to write in a video game review. Whether you find them offensive or downright hilarious, they’re impossible to miss. Although not every character is blessed with a bulging bosom, most are, and at times it can become distracting. Whether unleashing insane shinobi combos or simply standing still, their chest will wobble almost perpetually. Of course, it’s all intentional, especially given the game’s selective choice of camera angles and poses.
Tamsoft has even managed to work this sex appeal into its mechanics. Senran Kagura is a 3D brawler, but when characters take too much damage their clothes simply tear away until all they’re left with is a sliver of fabric protecting their lady parts. What’s more, upon defeating its femme fatales, they will align themselves in the most seductive positions, leaving very little to the imagination. Again, whether you find it distasteful, amusing or genuinely arousing, it’s a persistent focus throughout.
When not gawping at Senran’s shirtless shinobi, you’ll find yourself absently hacking away at the mindless hordes of enemies. This is done using a combination of light and heavy attacks, mixed in with super-powered ninja arts. Although these, as well as small character variations, help to add some variety, each fight devolves into its own passionless ballet as you inevitably slip into a button-mashing frenzy.
Players can walk around a small hub world between missions, and it’s here that they can interact with other characters while tweaking their appearance using a vast array of custom options. These gradually unlock as your progress, allowing players to change the hairstyles and clothing sets of each main character. Before diving into the next chapter, you can also carry out special missions to unlock stat-boosting gear and give your ninjas an XP boost.
Although the gameplay leaves much to be desired, Senran Kagura 2 sports some impressive visuals for the 3DS. Environments may be dull and repetitive but the character work is solid, even beyond their over-exaggerated body movements. Whenever cranking up the 3D slider, however, the game takes a noticeable hit as the framerate plummets. Sure, it’s still playable, but lacks the same level of finesse. The audio is a little more consistent and although Xseed hasn’t drafted in English voice actors, it’s nice to hear most of the dialogue being talked over instead of presented via walls of text.
Deep Crimson evolves a number of Tamsoft’s original concepts, while tying everything together in one neat package, but it’s just a shame that the combat system lacks any sort of depth or zest. Even when engaged in tag battles or pitted against larger bosses, this added variety does little to reshape gameplay in a meaningful way. What’s worse is that it feels as though this stems from the developer’s overriding focus on sexualising its line-up of characters.