Review: Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson

It’s not an easy life, learning to be a shinobi. Picking a weapon to specialize in, learning to wield it effectively in all situations, living a deadly life on the outskirts of society, and constantly fighting one’s rivals keep a girl busy all day, every day. It’s all very dramatic, but at least the bloody path one treads in life brings with it important lessons on the power of friendship, so all things considered it’s a fair trade. Also, shinobi are universally female and come with greater than 90% odds of having huge gelatinous boobs, because endless ranks of generic black-garbed and-hooded men is so 1600s. The modern shinobi gets to display far more in the way of breasts and individuality, although an invasion of demonic yoma hell-bent on world domination seems like the kind of event more suited to her feudal Japan ancestors.

Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is the story of two sets of shinobi rivals, five girls from each of two different schools, and their quest to become worthy of each other while tearing through hundreds of classmates, teachers, yoma, weird puppet-doll things, and giant demon bosses. Shinobi don’t appear to be much for the “sit down and talk it out” method of conflict resolution, instead going for fast-paced combat of clothes-shredding fury. It’s all very fan-service, but thankfully Senran Kagura doesn’t rely too much on it’s wobbly boob fetish to keep the game moving. There’s actually a ton of brawling content in there, and while button-mash-y it’s also good fun.

Each of the ten characters has her own unique weapon and fighting style, although none are so different that it’s hard to switch between them. Y is a light attack, X is heavy, R is dash, and X jumps. String it all together and you’ll dance through the enemies in a flurry of strikes and dodges, although mostly it’s down to hitting the X button a lot. The bottom screen shows a chart of the basic move-set available to the character, divided up between air and ground combos, but once you get the feel for the movement flow it’s easy to switch from character to character without missing a beat. Seeing as you’ll be switching characters mid-fight this is probably for the best.

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One of the new mechanics for Senran Kagura 2 is two-character teams, with the girls joining forces to fight together on the field. The AI controls the second character but you can switch between one and the other with a single button press, using the different attacks of each character to move the combo along. It makes a dynamic battle even more energetic, although if you’ve got a favorite character the switching is more for fun than absolutely required. The girls have individual health bars and clothing states, though, so it’s helpful to keep them balanced.

Clothing is important in Senran Kagura 2. As you take damage clothes get ripped, with both shirt and pants/skirt being able to take two shreddings before you’re reduced to fighting in underwear. You can do the same to enemies as well, though, and when the girls enter the Frantic state they get access to special attacks that not only do extra damage but also destroy the enemy’s outfits. Losing clothes means losing protection, so there’s at least a little bit of cheap justification to strip your enemies down. Plus the grade you earn at level’s end takes into account how many enemies you stripped, and nobody wants a bad grade, right?

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Each level is only a couple of minutes long, perfect for bite-sized gaming on the go, but that doesnt’ mean Senran Kagura 2 is a small game.  The five chapters of the main game are several levels each, and you can drop to a rest area between missions with a huge number of options available.  Each mission can be replayed with the different characters and a harder difficulty level, and there are a number of other options available as well.  Different training modes let you test out the moves, special missions can only be beaten be meeting pre-set requirements, and there’s even a giant pyramid of levels called the Yoma Missions.

The library lets you see character art and replay the story sections, while the dressing room lets you choose outfits for both regular and Frantic mode versions of the characters plus pose them in a photoshoot setting.  There’s a lot of content to play with, nicely balanced between the brawling shinobi battles and pervier fan-service modes.  Senran Kagura is happy with both its identities, and each is fully integrated into the other in a way that makes them impossible to view separately.

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Closing Comments

While there’s a lot of Senran Kagura 2 to explore, with tons of missions both in the main story and secondary modes, its combat engine is fast but shallow.  That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but a little practice sees combat turn into a button-mashing fest as you switch between ground chains, air combos and dive attacks.  Switching characters on-the-fly makes for some good combo action, but you can just as easily keep the chain alive by focusing on positioning and ending most light-attack combos with a heavy attack finish.  Each of the girls has a different weapon and fighting style, ranging from lightning-fast hits to dash-based combos to heavier multi-hit attacks, but they all fit in to roughly the same pattern of attack chains.  As for the fan-service, most of it is over the top enough to be amusing rather than problematic, except for the character of Mirai.  She’s just a little too obviously young to be anything but pure pedo-bait, but on the plus side she has the deepest combat mechanics in the game thanks to three different weapon options.  Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is completely aware of what a silly bit of video game fluff it is, and more than happy to own every bit of its exuberant excesses.