The latest chapter of the Senran Kagura series is finally here, and it’s certainly a peculiar one: gone are blades, shuriken and the usual shinobi powers, replaced by water guns and bikinis.
The premise of the story is rather simplistic, with the girls of the various shinobi schools invited to take part in a mysterious tournament in which they can’t use their powers, but are forced to rely only on water guns to defeat their opponents.
At first sight, it appears to be certainly an approach lending to an even more lighthearted tone than usual, with less of the traditional darker undertones. Yet there are quite a few elements of character progression within the story arcs and additional episodes, giving a glimpse on what might be in store in future games of the series.
While you should not expect massive revelations or complex plot lines, there is just enough story here to satisfy the fans of the series beyond the simple fanservice.
One of the main selling points of the game is that it comes absolutely packed with characters. The rich cast means that most will easily find their favorite ninja waifu, but the game actually encourages you not to commit too much, engaging in some healthy virtual polygamy. You have a whole harem at your disposal, so why not enjoy it?
While the soundtrack is adequate, the Japanese voice overs are definitely enjoyable, with a large degree of variety among the cast, from cool and collected to completely wacky, and a lot of different shades between serious and hyper.
Visuals are within the norm of your average sub-AAA Japanese game, which means that there are no tech miracles to be seen. The character models are definitely pleasant to look at and nicely animated, while the environments leave a bit to be desired. Notably, water isn’t that sexy, which is a bit of an issue considering that the levels include a metric ton of pools beach scenes.
Speaking of “sexy,” this is a Senran Kagura game, so there is a ton of fanservice, and the amount of skin in sight is massive, without mentioning rather overt sexual themes and the over-the-top boob physics. While the game never shows actual nudity, you should probably keep in mind that if the appreciation of female beauty and lots of bouncy curves offend you, this game probably won’t suit your taste.
Senran Kagura is what I like to call a “pretty lewd game,” and it’s absolutely unapologetic about it, which I personally can appreciate.
That being said, it does not fall into the trap that affects many titles of its kind, which often rely simply on the abundant display of T&A to hide very thin gameplay.
The third-person-shooter element of the title is actually very well made. This may be surprising to those who don’t know the fact that Producer Kenichiro Takaki is a rather dedicated shooter game fan, and his love for the genre certainly shines through.
Interestingly, the development team didn’t just imitate the mechanics of popular third-person-shooters, but they added quite a few peculiar elements, turning Peach Beach Splash into a rather unique game.
Let’s start with what some might perceive as bad news: there is a strong aim assist that actually borders into the auto-aim. Basically, as long as your target is within a rather broad reticle, your girl will hit her opponent automatically.
Yet, you can put those rotten tomatoes aside, because it definitely works well with the rest of the game. The challenge in Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash isn’t really hitting stuff, but it’s completely shifted towards mobility and avoiding being hit.
Enemy fire (well… actually it’s water, but you get what I mean) is relatively slow and quite visible, meaning that situational awareness and keeping on the move while maneuvering to put yourself into an advantageous position is key to victory.
The aim assist is justified and validated by the fact that the game is so fast and chaotic that aiming manually would be beyond many players’ reach.
While in most shooters heavy-handed aim assist tends to be annoying because it interferes with your control, in Peach Beach Splash you’ll probably forget it exists soon enough, because you’ll be way too busy tracking other elements –many of which are very fast and require all of your attention.
Speaking of mobility, each girl is equipped by water jets that allow her to dash and even fly for a limited amount of time. That being said, they’re powered by the same water reserve that loads your weapons, which adds an additional tactical layer to the game. You need to carefully balance water consumption between your gun and your jets, and make split-second decisions on when and where to reload. Just mindlessly shooting or dashing around will leave you a sitting duck in no time at all.
There is a sizable variety of guns, from shotguns to sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and gatling cannons. Each weapon has its balance in terms of water consumption, range, power and more, and it’s rather easy to find one that fits your play style. To add further variety, each has two firing modes that provide more flexibility as well.
Further depth is provided by a massive set of cards that you can arrange in decks providing combat pets and special attacks, buffs or effects. Each has a cooldown that needs to expire before it can be reused, and they make battles even more hectic.
As an additional bonus, they come with a metric ton of beautiful illustrations, many of which not very safe work work, of course.
In single player you’ll fight a variety of enemies that range from dummies to anonymous girls, but those are just fodder. The challenge starts to ramp up when you contend against other main Senran Kagura characters. There are also some bosses that are decidedly rather brutal, offering a very enjoyable change of pace.
On top of that, you can select three levels of difficulty for each mission, and things can go south really fast at the highest stage of challenge.
Single player gameplay comes with a story mode including eight arcs (one per faction) with ten missions each. Additionally there is a sizable number of “Paradise Episodes” that are basically side-stories with five missions each.
Lastly, the “V-Road Challenge” mode lets you select your favorite five girls, and compete with them in a series of tournaments.
Multiplayer modes include ranked matches and customizable free matches with a a wide variety of rule sets. There is even a co-op horde mode that lets you face a a series of AI waves alongside other players.
It’s (unsurprisingly) even more hectic than single player, and it can be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it’s hard to judge its longevity at this point, since I struggled to find too many matches pre-release.
The game includes the ability to customize the girls rather deeply, swapping hairstyles, swimsuits and costumes between them, adding a ton of accessories, and generally having fun with creating your perfect ninja waifus, with which you can then enjoy some interaction in the “intimacy” mode. It’s nothing extreme, of course, but it’s definitely advisable to play it out of your boss’ sight.
Senran Kagura: Beach Peach Splash is a light-hearted game, that can be easily accessible by those who aren’t exactly at the top of the food chain in hyper-technical shooters, but still like quite a lot of depth in their games. Since matches are rather brief, it can even be enjoyed in short sittings.
If you want a serious straight-faced, team-based TPS, this probably isn’t the game for you. Yet, if you simply would like to have a lot of fast-paced and exhilarating fun topped by all the eye-candy that can be squeezed into a single Blu-Ray disk, then the new adventure of Marvelous’ ninja waifus can easily fit the bill.