Released On: September 26, 2017 (NA) Genre: Third-Person Shooter Reviewed On: PS4 Also Available On: N/A
Developer: Tamsoft, Honey Parade Games Publisher: Marvelous USA Publishing MSRP: $49.99 USD / $66.99 CAD (Digital)
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is the latest entry into what Marvelous has coined their “busty brawler” series, and while this game completely overwrites the formula of previous entries, fans of the series will feel right at home with the Shinobi of Hanzo & Gessen Academy, as well as the Homoru Crimson Squad. Over 30 characters from the previous Senran Kagura games make their appearance in Peach Beach Splash to battle it out in a sacred water gun tournament which has been held by ninjas since ancient times. Or so the story goes. In case you were wondering what the highly-skilled and deadly Shinobi were doing playing around on the beach, Peach Beach Splash is pitched to them as an opportunity to hone their skills, although even the announcer seems to have a hard time selling this.
I wasn’t sure what to think the first time I loaded up Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. I’ve only dabbled into previous entries in the series, as fighting games have never been my forte, but the complete overwrite of the formula from previous entries — including from the rhythm-based Bon Appetit — had me intrigued. The series has always been know for its risque over-the-top nature, and the fun in the sun super-soaker battle royale is no caveat. While the game transforms the blade-wielding Shinobi into water gun touting combatants, the fast-paced combat and fan service of the Senran Kagura series returns in full.
It is never safe when a series strays away from its comfort zone and attempts to break into a completely different genre. We’ve seen this happen many times with varying results, but I’m happy to say that for the most part it works for Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. The transition has retained everything that longtime fans come back for, namely the characters and their attire (or lack thereof), and has benefited the series with a new lighthearted take on the 3rd-person arena shooter.
I should probably state before we get much further here that Senran Kagura as a series is very much dedicated to servicing it’s fans, so to speak. The series can easily be considered one of the most ecchi games on the market, and this is often something that turns many people away from the series before they give it an opportunity. While I can’t disagree with someone choosing to stay away from Senran Kagura because of it’s overt sexual nature, I can’t write off a game entirely because of this fact. for the purpose of this review I find it important to look beneath the busty veneer and judge Peach Beach Splash mostly on it’s merits as a game.
It just needs to be said that it’s a game with a lot of attention on scantily clad women. What Senran Kagura has in spades however is self-awareness, which I think in many ways separates it from others games which over-sexualize women; even though this game very clearly does that. The game knows that it’s over-the-top and ridiculous, and at points I’m fairly certain that it delights in putting you into situations that would make your Grandmother blush. This does not change that some people are going to be instantly turned off of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash because of this fact. It’s just important to note that beneath it’s voluptuous exterior, there is a fair bit of content.
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash, coined PBS by the in game announcer, is separated into several game types all of which share a very similar feel. Combatants wield various types of water guns, from traditional assault rifle style super-soakers and RPWBs (Rocket-Propelled Water Balloons), to the nozzle from your shower. Each weapon has two modes, allowing you to switch your sniper to a close range weapon, or to start lobbing bouncy water balloons at your enemies with the grenade launcher. You recharge your water reserves by pumping the handle to increase pressure to your water pack, which also allows you to use that built-up pressure to skyrocket through the air and perform quick maneuvers and dodges on the ground, as well as providing your ammo stores. Lesson Number 1 in PBS is to learn how to conserve and replenish your water tank. Though the girls weren’t allowed to use their Shinobi skills in PBS, each comes equipped with their quintessential weaponry from the series for up close and personal melee attacks which can deal serious damage.
Before going into any of the game types, you have to prepare your Shinobi warrior for combat. You pick your characters purely based on their appearances; each character can be outfitted with the same variety of weapons, pets, and card abilities. While I was initially a little disappointed that the Shinobi don’t have their own special skills apart from their signature melee weapon, it allows fans of the series as well as newcomers to pick a character and just run with them.
After you’ve made your way through the dressing room (and hopefully found its exit) exploring the absolute wealth of costumes available for the 30+ characters, it’s time to gear up. You pick one weapon, three Pets, and six Companion Skill cards to take with you into battle. Your Pets and Companion cards take over for the Shinobi skills of previous entries, and offer a wide-ranging variety of bonuses. Pets hang by your side for 20-60 seconds, and provide support fire typically with an elemental bonus. Companion Skill cards on the other hand have an immediate use, which can be healing, buffing, or an area of attack effect to clear enemy Shinobi from your personal space. Companion cards also feature all of the characters from the game in various combat poses, and are sure to entice the avid collectors among us to go after entire sets.
There is a single-player story mode for each of the five groups of girls aptly named Single Splash, which is comprised of an assortment of different game types which pit you against AI opponents. You begin by fighting against waves of fairly weak AI clones, and then eventually move your way up to facing against actual NPC opponents in the various arenas. These culminate in some pretty ridiculous boss battles, including one where you’re fighting a giant massage machine and trying your damnedest to stay out of its reach. Each round gives you the chance to unlock Booster Packs which give you additional weapons, Pets, and Companion cards. You can continue single-player missions with Paradise Road, a more comical journey into the personal stories of many of the characters. These feature several missions where you only take in one character, instead of your usual team of five ninjas. You can also test your mettle in the V-Road Challenge, which allows you to create your own team and battle through four gauntlets for even higher quality Booster Packs, or take on the scantily clad horde with some friends in Survival Mode.
The team-based PvP multiplayer is where I wanted to sink the majority of my time into the game, but even during my two weeks of gameplay I consistently found it hard to stand up to the players who I was facing off against, at least when I was able to get into a match. I had some difficulty getting into both Public and Ranked Multiplayer games around 50% of the time that I tried, but it appeared to mostly be an issue related to a lack of people playing online. There are both Public and Ranked battles, but in the Public rooms there is no balancing between the characters, Companion Skills, or upgrades, so you can end up playing against people who have been grinding levels to get the best cards, and have used their spare cards to upgrade their Shinobi to destructive potential. I managed to have several games of PvP which were a little more balanced thanks to some high-leveled players on my team, but even after doing my own grind I was not getting the right cards to allow me to upgrade it got a little defeating.
That being said, when I was able to match up against people who were more or less my level, I had a fantastic time. One of the things that impressed me the most about the several arenas was that a couple of them were based off previous entries in the series; my personal favorite was the Bon Appetit kitchen. Rocketing around from the stovetop to the prep area, making sure to conserve enough water to lay soaking wet waste to my enemies, and conserving my Companion Skills to execute at the perfect time to get back on track or provide some team support. The only issue was that these moments for me felt pretty few and far between me getting knocked around the arena and losing my swimsuit every 30 seconds.
Oh, have I not mentioned this part yet? Enter the Kunekune Finisher, the excitingly embarrassing way to end every combat with either an NPC or real opponent. Once you’ve managed to knock someone down, you can approach them tap square to start a mini-game which has you take aim at either your opponent’s face or part of her swimsuit, in an attempt to blast it off and score “extra points.” These is easily the most risque features of the game, and I imagine are meant to provide a combination of embarrassment for the defeated, and fan service for the defeater. Don’t worry; well-placed lens flares make sure to cover up any nudity, although this is about as ecchi as it gets.
While I undoubtedly had a bunch of silly fun playing Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash, the game types all play out in the style of a third-person arena shooter, regardless of if you are playing any of the the single-player modes, or the PvP multiplayer. Even though there is in essence a lot of things to do in Peach Beach Splash, after extended playthroughs I found myself feeling like there was a lack of variety to the overall mechanics and style of the game. The boss battles, as well as both the Survival and the Multiplayer modes, provide a slight variation to the formulas, but it does get fairly repetitive. I found I enjoyed Peach Beach Splash the most in 2-3 hour bursts.
While the formula for Peach Beach Splash may have shifted dramatically from previous entries, what hasn’t changed is the high-octane gameplay that we’ve come to expect from Senran Kagura. The gameplay in Peach Beach Splash is simply put: fun. It’s an over-the-top shooter, and the high-flying watergun hijinks will undoubtedly have fans of the series entertained in brief spurts, but it may not be varied enough to hold gamers’ attention for the long haul. While the overtly ecchi nature of the series didn’t bother me, new players to the series may be turned away by that fact.
Overall I really enjoyed my time with Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash, and if you’re looking for a new fast-paced arena shooter and aren’t bothered by the fan service that the series brings in spades, this is a game for you. Trophy hunters will undoubtedly be hooked on the grind to obtain every rare Companion card and Pet, and upgrade their Shinobi to take on the other schools in the age-old tradition of Peach Beach Splash.
Final Score: 7/10
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is silly fun with some over-the-top fan service, but the gameplay got repetitive after a while.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.