Games based on fan service are a strange bunch, and SENRAN KAGURA Peach Beach Splash is no different in that regard. But it’s really rather good.
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Publisher: XSEED Games,
Marvelous USA, Inc.
Release Date: 8 Mar, 2018
SENRAN KAGURA Peach Beach Splash is the latest in the popular anime game and TV series, developed by Tamsoft.
I’ve missed out on Senran Kagura in the past. I’ve had a couple of games wishlisted on Steam, but I’ve never taken the plunge and actually bought any, or had a chance to play around with them. From what I can gather, though, the series features schools of young female ninjas (shinobi), who in typical anime fashion are mostly generously proportioned.
While I believe most of the more recent games in the series include at least some fan service, that seems to be the main objective of Peach Beach Splash (PBS). To this end it takes an approach similar to the Dead or Alive (DoA) franchise, plucking the girls out of their normal fight-filled environments, slipping them into somewhat-revealing beachwear, and having some fun with them.
You take control of the nubile ninjas as you guide them through the PBS tournament, cleaning up your opponents with a plethora of water guns and strange abilities, seeking to win the grand prize at the end: anything you want!
PBS’s presentation is excellent.
The game is played from an easy-to-manoeuvre third-person camera and rendered lovingly in full 3D with cartoon-like cel-shading. While the lovely ninja girls aren’t modelled and textured with the same sort of realism as you’d see in a DoA game, PBS‘s anime influence has been wonderfully converted to three dimensions again. The game’s distinct anime flavour doesn’t lend itself well to ultra-realistic lighting, shadows, and reflective water effects. Instead you play in a 3D anime world, and it looks rather nice, though the world/arena objects, water, and graphics are a tiny bit disappointing.
“More fan service!” the announcer (and revered ninja master) yells at one point, and he isn’t left wanting. The bikini-clad jiggle and bounce is relentless, as are the endless innuendo and shameless flirting. There’s even one Gessen School scene early on where the girls all try to squeeze one another’s generous mammaries, as practice for squeezing a water-gun trigger, of course!
The script is very well written and portrays the initial confusion of the crazy game-show like environment exceptionally well, though some of the story arcs can get a bit boring. I have no idea whether the English subtitles closely match the original Japanese, but I’m not sure that it matters. I’ve caught myself cackling loudly at some of the dialogue and I’m not familiar with the characters at all. For longer-term fans of the series these parts must be hilarious.
Sound is great, too, with full Japanese voice overs for all characters, appropriate and well-produced sound effects, and music straight out of an anime fairground. The theme song is outrageous! Unlockables include character voice selection and music, as well as the rather impressive line up of costumes, accessories, art, and movies.
The interface is a little confusing at first — there are just so many options and unlockables! — but it’s very pretty and lively and easy to use once you get the hang of it. The flow of the game is also a bit interrupted by the frequent short loading screens, some of which are only shown for a second or two; fewer longer loads would be better, I think.
There are a few graphical options, too, but the game doesn’t give you too much control over the details. Performance has been excellent on my 1070 GTX with everything turned up.
PBS‘s basic gameplay is relatively typical of an arena shooter, with a couple of differences to the norm: the camera is from a third-person perspective rather than first, and the weapons are all water based. I’d quite like to see a first-person option included (VR would be great, too!), but alas there is none. The water-based weapons make less of a difference than you might at first think; though there’s a good range of weapon types and each has two fire modes, ultimately there’s little effect on the basic gameplay. You have hit points, respawns, and KOs, the latter of which is termed a “squirmy finish”, in which you’re given a short time to try to shoot off your opponent’s swimsuit. Gotta love that fan service.
Controls are tight and the auto-aim option makes playing with a gamepad a joy rather than a chore, which is unsurprising given the game’s Playstation roots. Keyboard and mouse are playable, too, I think, but I confess I haven’t tried to work out the menu navigation keys; I’ve just stuck with a controller instead.
Your character has unlimited ammunition in the form of water tanks, which are emptied by doing water-jet-powered jumps and dashes as well as at varying speeds by each of the different weapons. When they run out you hold a button to reload and off you go again. Secondary weapons are replaced here with three special-powered cards which are dealt at random from your small card deck. These can heal you, increase your stats or decrease your opponents’, do special attacks, or a number of other effects. These are based on a slot recharge mechanic and offer opportunity for customising your play style, changing up the basic shooting mechanics. Unfortunately, though, although there are a large number of individual cards, many of them have duplicate effects; the actual range of abilities is quite small.
Ultimately the game is a series of arena battles in different situations. These are wrapped up into multiple difficulty levels across story mode (four teams with 10 missions each), a number of side missions, and a challenge mode, with three multiplayer modes as well. The stories in the story and side mission are not exactly riveting, but they give the missions a bit of a personal touch, and are a great excuse for more scripted cut scenes and fan service.
Interwoven through all of this are countless unlockable extras: characters, outfits, gun types, ability cards, art, videos, … the list goes on and on. Extra cards can be used to ‘level up’ characters, weapons, and cards in the main game, making them more effective. Some extras also have to be purchased in the in-game shop — staffed by the girls, of course — using currency earned through completing missions. Steam Achievements and Trading Cards are included, too.
Finally, there are some mini games: dress up, diorama, and intimacy. The first lets you pick one of the girls and put her in any of the many swimsuits and other outfits and accessories available, or which you’ve unlocked, often including underwear type and colour, of course! Your chosen outfit is then worn by that character in all of the other game modes and cut scenes. This mode includes the one serious bug I’ve found: a CTD whenever you try to remove all accessories from a character. Diorama then lets you pick up to five characters and pose them in a number of different poses — for even more titillating screen shots than the other game modes provide — and intimacy allows you to grope the girl of your choice, potentially getting her interested enough for you to be able to kiss.
Upcoming DLC will include familiar characters from the DoA and Neptunia series, which will no doubt add even more fan service to what is already an impressive line up.
As my first Senran Kagura game, Peach Beach Splash was probably not the best choice, but it’s full of laughter and enjoyment even for someone who doesn’t know the series well. The underlying gameplay is solid enough, but all of the window dressing is SO good that the core game almost seems like an afterthought by comparison.
If you’re a fan, definitely pick it up. Even if you’re not, pick it up anyway. It’s very nearly a fan-service masterpiece.