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Coming during an important time of the year for Japanese games, Marvelous Games have certainly picked an interesting time to release the rather late PC port of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus. Arriving a whole year after the western release on PS4 and Vita, and on the same day as Nier: Automata‘s PC debut, is there enough here to once again entice players into a world of busty shinobi and exploding clothing?
Estival Versus is a direct sequel to Shinovi Versus, taking place in a parallel dimension resembling a tropical island. Here, an event called the Shinobi Bon Dance is about to take place which is intended to lay the souls of dead shinobi to rest. To do this, the four ninja schools that have been taken to the island must destroy festival platforms because… reasons.
The story in Estival Versus is honestly the games biggest weak point. You’re expected to know what happened in previous games, with little to no background given for any of the returning characters. Furthermore, the majority of the storyline feels uneventful. While the game takes place over eight days, most of them are spent fooling around without any progression of the plot. This also takes away most of the impact when the game tries to throw in anything remotely serious.
An even bigger problem that the story causes is that there’s far too much of it compared to how much gameplay there actually is. After sitting through cutscenes before each stage, you generally only get a few minutes of action before having to sit though more cutscenes.
Thankfully, things get much better once you’re finally able to play. Each character has a set of light and heavy attack, with combos usually launching enemies into the air. From there you can chase and continue your combos as you see fit. Unlike most beat-em-ups, Estival Versus gives you many opportunities to take the fight off the ground, with multiple jumps and airdashes letting you stay aerial for a while.
Changing things up further are the Shinobi Transformations and Frantic Mode. The former activates a magical girl style sequence (which fortunately can be skipped) giving you access to hidden arts, large damaging attacks that can usually take out groups of enemies quickly. These moves are also available during Frantic Mode, where you sacrifice defence, and your characters clothing, for an attack boost and infinite ground combos.
Mowing down waves of enemies is fun to start with but it soon becomes clear that, even with the aforementioned intricacies of the combat, there is not much depth overall. Regular enemies are easy to overcome without putting too much thought into what moves you’re using, and stages are generally very short with only a few giving you the chance to explore. Adding to the lack of variety is the playable characters themselves. Moves are flashy and at least look interesting, but with combat being so shallow each stage boils down to mashing one combo for each character before reaching the boss.
Boss fights also prove to be another sticking point of Estival Versus. Most stages end with a fight against one or more of the cast, who also have access to Shinobi Transformations. The person that transforms is granted a full life bar, no matter how low they were beforehand. This means that bosses effectively have two lifebars if you cannot kill them before transformation. Now, this wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the break mechanic. Outside of having the dizzy status, you can press down on the dpad to use break, a move that uses a little hp for the benefit of launching enemies away from you. Bosses can naturally use this too, meaning that it can often be frustrating trying to get any sort of combo started without being interrupted.
Estival Versus also offers various, mostly competitive, online multiplayer modes. While the cooperative shinobi survival mode can be fun for a while, it quickly becomes repetitive after fighting wave after wave of weak mooks. The versus modes also highlights the lack of balance when it comes to multiplayer, with some characters being practically useless when fighting other players. Overall, multiplayer is a decent enough way to play with a few friends since it supports up to 10 players, but the lack of balance or rewards stop it from being anything more serious or worthwhile.
One element that plays a big part in the Senran Kagura series is the customisation options, along with copious amounts of fanservice. The dressing room allows you to customise each girl with various outfits and accessories. This even includes their underwear, since it seems shinobi have a hard time staying fully clothed during battles. After taking enough damage, enemies can have their clothing damaged or removed entirely. This starts of as a novelty at first, however after seeing the unskippable cutscene of an enemy being stripped for the umpteenth time it just becomes an annoyance. Considering how often it happens during each boss fight, there really should have been an option to skip these interruptions.
Focussing on the port itself, Estival Versus is unsurprisingly a clear improvement over Shinovi Versus on PC. Being based of the PS4 version of Estival Versus, on PC it runs at a constant 60fps with no noticeable drops. Graphical options are fairly slim, but what’s there is serviceable enough. Using a controller to play is recommended as the default key-bindings are awkward with keyboard and mouse, even with the ability to remap them.
Character models have always clearly had the most time spent on them out of anything in the Senran Kagura series, and Estival Versus makes no exception. The cast looks great in the move to HD, with facial expressions doing a good job of conveying each characters’ emotions. Unfortunately, the stages and basic enemies haven’t had the same treatment, with a lot of sub par environments and enemy designs being used. To make things worse, a lot of the stages are just recycled from Shinovi Versus with little done to them.
Unfortunately, the PC version of Estival Versus has also carried over the copious amounts of load screens that featured in the console release. The game often has to stop multiple times during one cutscene, especially with bigger group of characters. There’s even a small loading time before every boss fight, which starts to add up after progressing through the story.
Taking everything into account, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is a fairly average game at best with an unfortunate launch date and price. Unlike the PC releases of Bon Appétit and Shinovi Versus, Estival Versus does not come with most of the available DLC for the game. This would have been fine if not for the large delay between console and PC releases. Ultimately, unless you’re a diehard fan of the series there are far better choices for those looking for an anime styled game on PC.
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus
Systems: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS Vita
Price: ca. €40 / £40 / $40 (Steam / PSN)
Publishers: XSEED Games / Marvelous USA
This game was provided by the publisher for review purposes, check our review policy for details.