Look, obviously Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is targeted at a particular kind of audience with its voluptuously top-heavy ninjas, and that is just fine. The developers know their audience. The better question is how well does the game play and does it actually present the material in an effective, interesting fashion? The answer is yes, yes it does.
Related reading: You can also check out Matt’s review of the first game on the Nintendo 3DS here.
The backdrop is a long-running feud between the Hebijo and Hanzo Shinobi academies, each one representing the opposing notions of evil and good. However, the two schools find themselves in the awkward position of having to work together when a greater threat rears his head and starts to command demon armies to do his bidding. The story is actually pretty solid for the brawling genre, though the dialogue can come across somewhat crass, depending on your sensibilities. If you accept it for the tongue-in-cheek humour that the game intended, you will find yourself chuckling more often than not. If you find references to young women’s boobs to be offensive, this probably is not the game for you. The writing itself is not as refined as I’d like though. Whether that is due to localisation issues or just how the content started, I’m not sure, but there are certainly more artful examples of fanservice-heavy games out there.
Mind you, the game’s narrative has nothing on the way it plays. It’s hardly the first game to have damage done to characters result in their clothing ripping off, but it’s certainly the game most famous for it, and arguably the most explicit example of it. Here the girls often wind up in little to nothing and found themselves left in some pretty provocative poses along the way. The girls are also students at academies, and between the school uniforms and the young looking faces, it’s probably just as well the game never makes it explicit how old they are, else the censors would have really taken notice. If you take these elements too seriously or are offended by this kind of content, then Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, again, is simply not going to be for you.
It is a bit of a shame though, because for fans of brawlers, there is a solid title here underneath that potentially questionable content. One of the biggest changes is in theme of teamwork, which extends beyond the two rival academies and includes having two girls on screen together fighting side-by-side. You can switch between characters at the press of a button if you find one more to your liking than the other – and the characters are generally distinctive enough that finding some favourite fighters should not prove difficult. The AI takes over for your partner, though do not go into this expecting much from your comrade. Basically they will help distract some of the opponents on the screen, but they won’t do the heavy lifting for you either. You need to keep an eye on your partner as well, because if either one of the two girls dies, it’s game over.
Related reading: The series has also made its way to the PlayStation Vita. Check out Nick’s review of Shinovi Versus here.
This addition opens up the door for some solid multiplayer as well. The downside is, there is very little in the way of communication between the players, but it sure does make it a good deal easier to progress through the game. It is great that you can hook up via local wireless or through online options, but it would have been nice to see the title offer a download option so you didn’t have to buy two copies to enjoy this aspect of the game with a friend.
Each stage comes in relatively short bursts of action, with swarms of weaker enemies that usually culminate into a larger boss battle. These bite sized bursts of action actually suit the portable nature of the 3DS really well, allowing me to tackle a handful of levels without having to invest in a great deal of time. Even if you forget how to pull off specific moves because you took a bit of a break, the lower screen provides some handy prompts for pulling off combos. Useful since you often wind up changing out characters while you progress through the story.
The combat mostly boils down to quick and heavy attacks with some ninja arts sprinkled in for good measure. On the surface this all seems pretty lightweight, but there is an excellent training mode that can teach you how to get more out of the game. Certainly some button mashing will do the job the majority of the time, but I highly recommend making the effort to understand more complex combination attacks which can take place both in the air and on the ground. This does lend itself to a good deal of potential repetition, but with frequently swapping around who I was using, I kept things pretty fresh. It also helps that there is a progression system that makes the combat more rewarding. In fact, the game itself takes place over five chapters, but there is no reason you cannot go back and replay previously beaten areas if you want to earn some extra experience for your girls.
Related reading: If you’re a fan of Senran Kagura, also consider checking out the anime!
Visually Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson remains very fluid in 2D and only offers some occasional issues when the combat is at its most frantic in the 3D. Character models are fluid and interesting, the environments are suitably colourful and by and large I found myself enjoying the 3D view quite a bit, despite the sporadic technical limitations. For those using a newer 3DS or a circle pad, there is some limited camera control attached to that stick for zooming in and around the action, but the scope remains relatively fixed. The actual animation is excellent and the characters are detailed; fans of Japanese animation will really enjoy this one. And hey, if you’ve got this far through the review then you’re clearly not offended by its material, so let’s go to down here – the half (or three quarters, to be more accurate) exposed bodies look great, and the developers have clearly put a lot of effort into getting those boob physics to fit the humorously sexy tone just perfectly.
Add to this all the unlocks and such that OCD gamers such as myself can really dig into such as galleries and alternate costumes, and Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson provides a good deal of game. Certainly it is aimed squarely at a niche audience, but anyone who can get past that weird cultural quirk that we have in the west where sexytimes are somehow meant to be completely inappropriate in games should find themselves having a grand old time here.
– Nick H.