Oh boy, Senran Kagura is back with another fantastically unashamed title. Our favorite female shinobi are donning their swimsuits, grabbing water guns, and making each other wet. I can’t think of a better scenario for the series’ first shooter, Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash.
Just like in Estival Versus, things begin with the girls from four shinobi schools getting warped to an isolated island. Mysterious hosts of a NewTube channel (who are clearly teachers from the games) announce that no one can leave until the Peach Beach Splash tournament is finished. It’s overly simple, but hey, how many people are really playing Peach Beach Splash for the plot?
Getting my priorities straight, I headed for the dressing room as soon as possible. You’re able to customise each girl’s swimsuits and accessories, and I probably spent longer doing this than I should admit. Fewer outfits are available than usual, but it’s still great seeing playable creations in-game and during cutscenes. Oh, you can also pose the girls in a crazy amount of positions, and blast them with water while watching them squirm, because fan service, I guess.
Once my girls were in suitable outfits, it was time for the campaign. The 10 missions per school each have their own little story as the teams fight their way to victory. While easily skippable, you’ve got to appreciate the large dose of overt humor throughout. Characters are so full of friendly banter you just kind of forgive the proud pervert and S&M sisters. Fans of the series will also prick up their ears at the mention of certain girls preparing to graduate, and a looming threat on the horizon that’s clearly a setup for a future title.
Story snippets appear before and after every stage of gameplay. Here, you play in a team of 5 girls. Just pick the one you want to control, and the rest become pretty capable NPCs. You’ve got 3 lives before a game over, and need to take down all enemies in a stage before that happens.
There’s nothing too complicated going on here. Shoot at enemies to knock them out, or use a melee attack to swat anyone who gets too close. Jetpack jump, speedy dash, or shoot-and-dodge to quickly find cover, and don’t forget about special abilities. It’s super simple and easy to pick up, so no one’s going to have any problems with the difficulty.
Each mission takes place in one of the games wonderful stages. There’s a decent amount of variety, here, from fighting on a pirate ship to the set of Bon Appétit. Enemies also keep things fresh with basic grunts including robotic dolphins pelting you with water, and girls trying to whack you with floaters. Then there are the more challenging rival teams, who have as many tricks up their sleeves as you do. The end of each story also has a unique amusing boss fight, to finish things up on a high note.
Now, the usual deal in Senran Kagura is for each girl to have a unique weapon and playstyle to match. In Peach Beach Splash, you’re stuck with 10 weapons, which can be equipped by any of the 30 girls at your disposal. I was sad to lose the amount of variety from past titles. Yet, having characters play the same way means that you’re never pitched against an overpowered character. Everything comes down to having skill with your chosen combo of items.
Weapons all have slightly different ways of shooting, from streams of water to quick pulses. You’ll soon pick a small collection of favorites (mine being the dual pistols, rocket launcher, and hose). It sounds patronizing, but they automatically come with an auto-aim, although this can be turned off. I actually found myself sticking to this standard form of attack for the most part. Since enemies can dart around at an impressive speed, it seemed silly to turn down aiming assistance.
In a rather Splatoon vibe, most actions use up a hefty amount of water from your limited supply of tanks. Not only your weapon, but that awesome dash and jetpack must be used with careful timing. Stopping to refill really leaves you open to attack. So it may be time to let loose with a special ability while getting behind cover.
Each match won rewards you with a pack of cards filled with weapons, pets, and skills. There are around 1000 of these, offering attack cards, stat boosts, ways to hinder enemies, and interesting extras, such as invisibility and shield barriers. Each girl on a team gets three pet cards and 6 skill cards to take into battle. I love that not only my chosen girl but the whole team can be customised to my preferences. Choose carefully, and your cards will soon outclass your water gun, for better or worse.
To stop them from being too overpowered, only three cards are available at a time. Each one also has a cool-down period which gets longer the more powerful the card is. There are ways of getting time to go by faster, however. The fan favorite is humiliating fallen opponents by ripping their clothes off with water from a rubber duck. It’s kind of brutal, but hey, you can use more skills now, so onwards to the next victim – I mean enemy.
My issue with the card system is that collecting already obtained cards is the only way of getting experience points. You get 10 cards per stage played, and the points from these have to be shared between the girls, weapons, and every single card you want to use. Now, getting doubles of rare cards do award more experience points, but rare cards are exactly that. Rare. Playing on harder difficulties does increase your chances of getting better cards. However, the AI is quick to punish an under-leveled team, so you’re forced to grind for experience first.
To be fair, Peach Beach Splash does provide a number of different ways to get your hands on more cards. It’ll actually take you quite a while before having to consider repeating stages. For single players, there’s a tournament mode where you have to win a number of challenges in a row with your chosen team of girls. There are also a decent number of extra mini-stories, called Paradise Episodes, with five stages each. Often pitching you against strong enemies by yourself, they really test your abilities, with no hiding behind teammates allowed.
For something a bit different, there are a couple of online multiplayer modes. I can’t give any comments as to how well these work, as I wasn’t able to find anyone on the servers to play with (a problem of having a game before launch). Not only are there 3 vs 3 and 5 vs 5 ranking matches available, but an interesting looking survival mode for up to 6 players. I’ll definitely be popping on when other players are around to test my skills.
How much you get out of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is completely dependent on what you’re looking for. Much of the game is a pretty standard experience for a shooter and, even with multiplayer, I can’t imagine it’s going to be taking part in any big tournaments. That being said, even with some leveling annoyances, everything is always fun and there’s plenty of fan service to keep you distracted.
This review is based off a PlayStation 4 copy of the game, which we were provided with by XSeed.
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash adds some fun to the shooter genre while dishing out bucket loads of fan service.