Step aside Pokémon Pinball and Sonic Spinball — make way for the girls of Senran Kagura. They’re here to bring tongue-in-cheek humor and bouncy physics to the precise art of flicking balls. Yes, Senran Kagura: Peach Ball knows exactly what it’s doing.
In time-honored Senran Kagura tradition, Peach Ball sets the tone with a ridiculous plotline. Haruka has casually whipped up a body-changing concoction while bored at work. Yet, oh dearie me, Ryōna’s used it as hand soap and turned into a dog. Licking her friends only makes matters worse, as the contagious potion animalizes everyone. Haruka’s peach ball holds the cure, but it won’t work unless exposed to enough vibrational force. We’ve got no choice. The only possible solution is to have each girl sit on top of a modified pinball machine, and play until they return to normal.
Following that perfectly ordinary introduction are five short stories, with each focusing on one of the animalized girls looking to save the remaining four. Scenes involve bear Murasaki trying to hibernate and convincing bunny Asuka to get tied-up, with each one earning a headshake of bemusement. Things do start to drag after hearing the same story twice, let alone five times. Not helping matters is only seeing five or six of the large Senran Kagura cast. Why more weren’t invited to liven up the Peach Ball party is beyond me.
Anyway, we’re here for pinball not girls, right? Oh, who am I kidding? Peach Ball‘s boards feature giant busty women who can fall over and be pelted with balls from various angles. To be fair, these tables are really fun. We’ve got Peach Land — a carnival featuring a teacup ride, drop tower, and poppable balloons. Then there’s the haunted Japanese shrine of Spooky Shinobi Park with fewer bells and whistles but the need for more accurate pinball play.
Both boards have so much to discover. Collecting coins can activate mini-games, while hitting all hidden fairies makes a girl ‘more passionate’ after falling over. There’s even a shake mechanic to help slip into those satisfying sweet spots – often between a girl’s thighs. A series of missions give constant objectives to aim for. Most are so simple I finished them without realizing, like going down the left lane. Others require a bit more attention, such as bopping the girl over and over again. Each gives the satisfaction of score boosts, rewards, or my favorite, screen flashing multiplier modes.
What I really like is the structure of each round. Hitting three different point-based objectives activates specific mini-games. The first two are Sexy Challenges, and the third finishes the round off with a Super Sexy Challenge [Ed. note: what a surprise]. Taking place on a tiny pinball table, the mini-games are simply about hitting obstacles as many times as possible within a time limit. What makes them fun is how they end with correlating animations. Just been pelting rubber ducks? Watch them soak the girl with water. Ice-cream truck? Whoopsie, it fell on her chest. How unfortunate.
If the Sexy Challenges are too much for you, I suggest not finding out what the Super Sexy Challenge entails. For those still with me, please enjoy the following image. Bouncing multiple balls against the screen-filling chest or backside of a gasping female ninja. After you’re finished, the now-naked and animal-free woman thanks me for helping them. You’re welcome. I mean, it’s a Senran Kagura game. Thinking logically, it would be weird if that didn’t happen at some point.
Sadly, I’m left feeling frustrated (no, not in the way you’re thinking). For all its cheeky fun, there is very little content. Are two pinball tables really supposed to see me through 25 levels? Not forgetting how the story gets repeated five times or the small number of girls involved. I hesitate to call Peach Ball lazy — perhaps ‘unfinished’ would be a more accurate term. Just look at the table variations of Day, Evening, and Night, different background pictures, and alternatively colored balls. So much detail. Yet none of these have any kind of impact on the actual gameplay.
Extra content can be found in a few places. Peach Ball’s free play mode keeps a game going until all balls have run out – as opposed to finishing with the Super Sexy Challenge. With no set ending, you’ll be able to nab that crazy high score and unlock even more rare items as an added incentive. Extra outfits, backgrounds, music, etc. can then be bought from the shop. These are used for playing dress-up with the girls, touchy-feely fun in the Intimacy Room, and experimenting with suggestive poses in the Diorama. Word to the wise, simply finishing the story won’t afford you everything — you’ll have to play a lot more games to unlock everything. Normally I’d love this, but the gameplay is too repetitive for me to really care.
Sure, Senran Kagura games are well known for their overtly lewd content, and yet, the reason I love them is how much effort unashamedly goes into making their ridiculous concepts work. Senran Kagura: Peach Ball is stupidly impressive; from the fun pinball to a story so dumb it made me smile. But there isn’t enough content. It needs, and indeed deserves, at least double the number of tables and characters to keep that smile from fading.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided to us by XSEED Games.
Even Senran Kagura: Peach Ball's delightfully flirtatious take on pinball can’t make up for a frustrating lack of content.