Platform: PS4, PC(Steam)
Price: $39,99 USD
Release Date: January 22th, 2019
Originally a title on the Nintendo 3DS, Senran Kagura Burst and its sequels gained a huge following of fans both in Japan and in the West. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the game has been remade for consoles, with a proper budget and a PC port.
Senran Kagura as a series is known for one thing: Big Boobs. It is a widely known story that the game’s producer, Kenichiro Takaki, explicitly made the game in order to see breasts in 3D. He’s also the kind of man that tweets this:
Regrettably, Burst Re:Newal has become notorious for the wrong reasons. Its release date had to be pushed back in order to censor the game to fit Sony’s new censorship policies. This new policy been going for several months and has already impacted many games already. Recently, Takaki himself has claimed that Senran Kagura’s upcoming sequel is now impossible to release, and thus they had to reconsider the entire game.
The plot of Senran Kagura is centered around two rival academies. Hanzo is a shinobi school disguised as a regular high school, dedicated to training “good” ninja that work for the government. Its counterpart is Hebijo, a secret institution for raising “bad” ninja, agents that support activities of the subworld.
Burst Re:Newal has two campaigns with the same story, one from the perspective of the “good” ninja and another from the “evil” ninja academy. Both “good” and “evil” are explicitly employed in the text with quotation marks to express the ambivalence of those ideas. The Yin Yang concept is also frequently brought up in this context, clearly making a point that neither side is actually irredeemably wrong or absolutely righteous.
The game flow is dictated by missions. The plot is told by cutscenes and visual novel segments before and after gameplay for each mission. Rather surprisingly, Burst Re:Newal employs both ADV and NVL for narration, a rather interesting approach that I like.
Missions involve either disposing of a large number of weak enemies or a single opponent, usually a classmate or a rival from the other school. Chaining quick and strong attacks into combos while blocking is the essence of gameplay. The game rewards successful blocks by allowing the player to initiate an aerial chain of attacks. There are also special attacks to abuse.
A central part of gameplay is centered around transforming. After acquiring a very small amount of special gauge, you may perform Shinobi Transformation, changing your appearance and expanding your combo options. It seemed like a shallow mechanic at first because it takes almost no effort to transform during battles, but turns out it’s actually quite a clever mechanic.
Transforming replenishes your HP, meaning that you are basically fighting at a reduced capacity until your opponent beats you up enough to force you to transform. Furthermore, clothes receive damage and become torn as you take damage and combos, while transforming gives you a new suit. Why? So that it can get damaged and ripped off AGAIN. Isn’t it genius?
Burst Re:Newal’s soundtrack has that characteristic touch that you can only obtain from traditional Japanese instruments. If you’ve ever played a game or watched a show about ninjas you probably know what I’m talking about. None of the tracks stood out as particularly good or bad but nonetheless I’ve enjoyed the music. The upbeat tunes in this game help getting immersed on the frantic action
Despite censorship, the game is still irredeemably lewd. The Western PS4 release of the game has had a feature called Intimacy Mode cut. You may Google it if you’d like to see what it looks like, it was nothing special but it’s still censorship.
A piece of side content that was left intact was the Diorama. A feature that allows the player to freely dress and pose characters in any outfit or position they like, the true purpose of this feature leaves little to the imagination.
Currency earned during gameplay can be used to purchase CG images, music, accessories and clothes. Plenty to get busy with.
In the end, it all comes down to the censorship. As a lover of niche Japanese games that often feature controversial themes, I cannot in good consciousness recommend a game that’s been stripped down of features because someone decided that this wasn’t appropriate for western audiences. Sony’s new censorship policies are garbage that should not be abided. On the other end, it’s unfair that a game should get low sales and review scores because of censorship by the platform owner.
My first impression of the game wasn’t good. The first few mission from both sides include fighting hordes of annoying enemies, something that wasn’t particularly fun. Thankfully, it gets much better as soon as you start fighting rivals. Playing at 3 stars difficulty was challenging enough that I got stuck on several missions, having to replay enough times until I had mastered the basics. I went in expecting a boredom fest made just to flash pantsu on screen and instead ended up with a very decent action game.
I believe that the defining factor for whether someone will like Senran Kagura or not are is the cast. They have anime character personalities that fit common anime stereotypes and tropes but nonetheless are still a very likeable bunch. If you’re a fan of these types of character then no doubt you will enjoy Burst Re:Newal.
As a reviewer and as a gamer, my recommendation for this game is: Either import it from Japan or buy it on Steam, both which weren’t censored. Only by doing this we can send the correct message to SCEA: that we will not support them if they continue to censor games.