While we should admittedly be ashamed of this fact, there are many fans of the Senren Kagura series in the Hardcore Gamer office. The franchise has evolved its battle system, going from being rather simple to frenetic and packed with options, the girls are likable and full of personality, and the cheesecake factor is written in such a way that it feels like the girls are all in on the joke and having just as much fun as the player. What should feel like a dirty little secret shame based on its infamous fan service is actually…well, no. I still wouldn’t play one of these in front of my mother. But my feminist wife laughs just as hard as I do at the hijinks on display and I feel that gives me a hall pass. So when the chance to try out the latest entry in the series at E3, I had to jump at it.
At the off, Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash is not a brawler like the rest of the series. Instead, it is a third person shooter with heavy competitive elements. Imagine a water gun based Vanquish, and your close to the mark of how the momentum and combat feels. There are thirty different playable characters packed into the game, but they all play the same by design. This means that each character can boost slide across the ground, use a jet pack to attack from above, and roll and dodge with the best of them, meaning that players can stick with their favorite ninja girl and not feel like they are handicapping themselves. This isn’t to say there is no customization. There are numerous weapons available, such as shot guns, sniper rifles and machine guns to take into battle. Also included are skill cards to be deployed in battle. These are mapped to the direction pad and allow things like homing shots, more powerful blasts, and more.
The deployable skills do need to be charged up before they can be used on the field of battle, and the quickest way to earn that charge is found in the returning humiliation system. When a member of the opposing team is defeated, she will fall and a pink circle will appear around her. Approaching the fallen foe and pressing square initiates a close up mode where the player can direct a heavy stream of water at a strategic location of the girl’s anatomy. In classic Senran Fashion, this will cause an article of clothing to fall off. Now, one would think that, since the booth was set up right by the entrance of the West Hall at the convention center and the screen for this game was facing the door, they might disable the saucier parts of the proceedings. One would be terribly mistaken in that assumption, as amused cries of “WTF!” were heard rather often behind me from passersby. Hey, the convention is meant for folks 17 and older. At least the naughtier bits were covered in a white cloud per the series standard.
The cards are an important part of the structure of Peach Beach Splash. This game loaded with more than eight hundred cards to collect, unlocking characters, weapons, and skills, with blind packs awarded at the end of matches. Each card comes in varying degrees of effectiveness, denoted by stars at the top. It is possible to get doubles, but these are automatically exchanged with currency that will allow the player to level up the cards, making the skills, guns, and girls earned more powerful. With the generosity that card packs were awarded during the demo, and the vast amount of cards to collect, this system seems like it will add a highly addictive replay value to the proceedings. Character appearance customization will also come into play with the returning Dressing Room feature.
The demo available at the show was not story based. Instead, it was a single player simulation of what multiplayer battles will play like. If this is an accurate representation, the final game is going to be extremely nuts. As I played, girls were flying in and out of cover, jet packing around, and decimating each other with abandon. The battles are fast paced and insane, having a feel of barely controlled chaos that requires quick thinking and reflexes, as well as smart use of the nooks and crannies that pepper the map. In short, it’s fun, which is what is most important for this series.
While what was being shown off was focused on giving the player a feel for the multiplayer, Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash is considered a mainline series entry and will feature a full fledged story. Publisher XSEED was tight lipped about what it will entail, but they did divulge a few tidbits. After the vacation that turned out not to be a vacation that the ladies had to endure in Senran Kagura Estival Versus, the group retires to another beach in hopes to have a real respite from all the fighting. Since they are competitive by nature, the past time of choice became water gun fights. Admittedly, this isn’t much to go on….
Despite the departure from the combat that helped put the series on the map, Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash is looking to hit the tone and general sense of lighthearted bemusement that gives these games their charm. With the heavy amount of customization available, the promise of a continuation of the ninjas’ stories and the fast paced combat, this title is sure to please existing fans as well as bring in new players interested in a shooter that isn’t grim and bloody. While it doesn’t have a release date yet, it will be coming later this year for PlayStation 4 in digital form. There will also be a physical version that will contain the soundtrack, an artbook and a boatload of bonus DLC.