With how the series has been over the past few years, it can be hard to remember how much tamer the original Senran Kagura was. Sure there was fanservice, but it at least attempted to tell a more serious story. Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal sets out to combine the narrative of the first 3DS game with the updated gameplay of later releases, but it only ends up showing us how little the series has evolved.
As you may expect from a Senran Kagura game, nearly every major character is a high school girl that is training to become Shinobi. There are two playable stories, each focusing on a different school of Shinobi: The good Hanzō Academy which was the only one available in the original game, and the evil Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy that was made playable in the Burst version of Senran Kagura. The majority of the story is told via long visual novel-style segments, with only the occasional in-engine cutscene used for certain important scenes. Compared to later games in the series Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal’s story is somewhat serious, but rarely does it ever succeed at being interesting. This is mainly thanks to the less blatant but still present fanservice that ruins any attempt at serious writing, even if the game does occasionally come close to having some interesting moments.
One area that the Senran Kagura series has never got right is the balance between gameplay and story, and this is still the case in Burst Re:Newal. It feels like you’ll be watching story scenes most of the time, with only the occasional few minutes of fighting in-between. It’s especially bad early on, where battles are over before anything really happens and yet another long cutscene takes place. The 3DS release had this problem too, but even that version had more gameplay compared to what’s available here.
The actual battles have seen very little changes from Estival Versus, and if it wasn’t for a few minor visual changes it would be hard to tell the two games apart. Combat still relies on the usual button mashing combos that can be chained into launchers which send enemies into the air. Most characters have their usual transformations and special attacks, though a couple received some new moves. Haruka, instead of fighting with melee attacks like in Burst, just uses her Estival Versus moveset which comes across as lazy. The returning burst mechanic does little to help how repetitive the game is, as all it really does is make your attacks stronger and faster. Furthermore, you’ll often struggle to see what’s even going on thanks to the camera. It has a habit of getting stuck on objects in the level and if you’re fighting near a wall it’s near impossible to see anything. Camera issues are nothing new to the series, but this is the worst it’s ever been in the series.
Being a remake of the very first Senran Kagura game, there is also a lack of content compared to other recent games in the series. The base cast of characters is very small, and they don’t have an even amount of stages and story scenes. Also, if you ignore the lengthy cutscenes there’s only around an hour or two of gameplay per story. Difficulty levels and a pointless levelling system attempt to stretch out playtime by making you repeat stages multiple times, but there really isn’t enough incentive to keep playing after the story is over. Even multiplayer is absent from this release, meaning that you can’t grind up levels while playing with friends.
At least the visuals have been improved, even if it’s not that great of an upgrade. Character models are a little more detailed and expressive, even if they still have the ridiculous jiggle physics. Attacks also look more interesting, though the amount of effects on screen will often cause the game’s framerate to tank on a base PS4. Areas have also received some improved textures, though they still look quite bland overall. It doesn’t help that the majority of stages are just reused yet again from Shinovi Versus, making gameplay feel even more repetitive.
For all intents and purposes, this is yet another by the numbers Senran Kagura release. There are minor improvements here and there, but not enough has been done to differentiate it from previous entries. Nearly everything is reused and there is not enough new content here to keep Burst Re:Newal from feeling stale after a few hours. This may be worth it if you want a simple hack and slash game with some fanservice thrown in, but even then there are far better games you could choose.