Senran Kagura is not for everyone. That’s kind of like saying that chewing tobacco is not for everyone. Yes, there are people who love chewing tobacco and they learn about where to get it and how to enjoy it but they will never try to evangelise their interest because they know that it does them more harm than good. So now we have Senran Kagura Estival Versus, the fourth English localisation of this series that is definitely the chewing tobacco of video games. Enjoyable when you are working through it but you cannot deny that it is somehow bad for you.
Estival Versus is a sequel to Shinovi Versus and other than the deliberate misspelling of their titles, Estival Versus has improved on nearly every basic aspect of the previous game. Said game plays very much like Sengoku Basara, only before you can defeat an opponent you will eventually knock at least some of their clothes off. In Estival Versus this means everybody, even random mooks, will lose their shirts when you hack at them enough in this game. Sadly, in order to do this you will have to manage the camera that has not decided whether it wants to have collision detection activated or not.
But a Senran Kagura game is not just about the fighting, it is also about fan service. In case you hadn’t noticed from the last paragraph, hit any character enough times with the right attacks and you can knock their costume off and I mean completely off. Finish a named character off with a strong attack after you have shredded up their clothes enough and that character will be stripped completely nude with nothing but mysterious lens flairs to hide parts that you cannot show on a console game. It’s disgusting, really, but unlike other games with this kind of titillation, Senran Kagura is not trying to be anything else; anyone who buys Estival Versus knows exactly what kind of game they are getting, so simply calling it exploitative crap is redundant as that is what all Senran Kagura games aspire to be.
So what is there to complain about? Well, Estival Versus has become much more sensible with its costume mechanics with all characters now being able to wear any kind of clothes at any point in their transformation. Rather than previous games that arbitrarily divided costumes into pre and post transformation sections you can now dress the entire cast up however you like and for the most part you can play as the whole cast right away, the only thing you need to unlock are missions. But despite all that effort they still cannot find a way around this:
Do you see that? If I have chosen to dress a character in the festival happi that comes with its own visible underwear why would I want to see the regular briefs underneath it in some bizarre double undergarment hell? But, okay, this is a fan service game that must pander to as many different perversions as possible, even ones that make no sense, so I should just buy underwear from the costume shop that would be hidden by the costume right? Sadly that is not so simple as the costume shop doesn’t let you preview new costumes before buying them this means ages of grinding for currency or reloading for you to even see if you have such garments unlocked.
Apart from the poorly implemented shop and the still too powerful projectile characters there is a lot to like about Estival Versus. The story is built to give the characters the opportunity to be silly and goof off and the brief periods of seriousness are much more spaced out and skip-able than in the previous games. It is easily the first game in the series that lets you have fun without weighing you down too much with having to unlock everything and wade though tedious x-rated Shonen Jump drama.
Certainly the most fun Senran Kagura game available in English but there are too many other games that do not come with Estival Versus' negatives to warrant recommending it, unless you really want the video game equivalent of watching a raunchy anime while it is still censored for TV.