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Senran Kagura: Estival Versus Review – Let The Festival Begin!

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It’s been five years since Senran Kagura’s inception by big boob producer Kenichiro Takaki. After three mainline games and several spinoffs, the series has finally made the jump to consoles with the latest iteration. Despite it being the second in the musou “Versus” line of games, Estival Versus will likely serve as the jumping point for many newcomers to the series, with all of the previous games being made exclusively for handhelds. Will it be enough to win over new fans to the series, or will Estival Versus only satisfy the most loyal of followers?

The game takes place shortly after the events of Shinovi Versus, with the Hebijo students Ryona and Ryobi finding their long deceased older sister taking part in a ritual of sorts. After attempting to reunite with her, they get transported to a mysterious tropical island. Not too long after, the remaining cast get transported to the island as well.

Out of all the games in the main series, Estival Versus has the weakest plot. The biggest problem it suffers from is a lack of focus, with the main story only really advancing toward the very end of the game. Because of this, a lot of the main campaign might feel like filler, with the game jumping from one cast of characters to another without any real connection. Another narrative problem is that some characters don’t get as much screen time as others.

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In Shinovi Versus, each school had their own campaign, meaning each cast got an equal amount of screen time, with none of them having to fight over it. In this game, however, they opted to go the route that Deep Crimson went and have one giant narrative with a whopping 25 characters. It worked much better in Deep Crimson simply because the cast of characters was much smaller. Estival Versus has twice as many characters, so trying to give every character their time to shine proves to be quite difficult.

Despite those flaws, the characters are still the same ones that fans grew to like in the previous games, and Estival Versus just adds more interactions between them. The banter between them is incredibly enjoyable, and it always put a smile on my face whenever they got into various shenanigans.  It was also refreshing to see a good chunk of the game focus on the two newer squads, Gessen and the new Hebijo girls. Seeing as how they only had one other game under their belt, the character development both teams get really does help flesh them out.

Estival Versus is by far the best-looking and best-running out of all the Senran Kagura games, which doesn’t come as a big surprise, since it runs on superior hardware. However, it isn’t perfect. While the game does run at 60 FPS most of the time, the framerate will drop severely whenever there is an exceptionally high number of enemies on screen.

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Fortunately, this doesn’t last very long once you clear out a few enemies. Speaking of enemies, their AI is quite poor when it comes to pathfinding. While they’ll offer a decent enough challenge in combat, having them follow you anywhere proves more of a chore than anything, as enemies will often get stuck on walls or other obstructions.

At its core, Estival Versus plays much like its predecessor, with some minor tweaks and some odd design choices. Characters in the game follow a basic archetype. You have your well-rounded characters, your speedy ones, your heavy hitters, and your projectile based ones. That being said, the cast is diverse enough where they all play very differently from one another.

Each character has their own pros and cons, and with the huge roster to go with, you won’t have trouble finding someone you’ll like. That being said, the characters are not well balanced, with some of them being way more powerful than others. Speed-based characters are by far the best in the game, with projectile characters being the weakest ones overall.

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Combat remains largely untouched from the last game, with your usual light and heavy attacks followed up by aerial raves to keep the enemy juggled in the air for the longest time possible. Shinobi transformations also haven’t been changed, with each character getting 2 special attacks and an ultimate attack at a specific level.  The only real thing that’s been changed in regards to the special attacks is their presentation, in that the animations are done in real-time instead of in a cinematic, which makes combat flow much better.

The most noticeable combat change is how the strip mechanic works. Instead of the regional stripping mechanic in Shinovi Versus, it’s been streamlined so that all clothing gets torn equally regardless of the attack used. This makes it so you’ll be able to completely strip your opponent without the need of using an ultimate attack. The presentation for the mechanic has also changed, where instead of showing a cinematic like in Shinovi Versus, the stripping is done as the opponent is launched.

They also added special finishers, which are essentially stage-exclusive strip downs. Most stages will have a sign post with an exclamation point, and if you defeat your opponent near one of them, all their clothes will tear off and a special cinematic will play. These can range from getting caught in a volleyball net to getting stuck in a cherry blossom tree. There’s a surprising amount of them to be found throughout the game, and if you aren’t actively looking to activate them, you’ll more than likely miss a few of them.

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Some minor additions they added to the game in order to change things up a little are bombshells and dual aerial raves. Bombshells are the only item that can be used throughout the game and come in a bunch of varieties, being simple as poison, ice and electric bombs, to some outlandish ones like a bombshell that summons a pilotable mech.

Dual aerial raves essentially allow you (provided you’re teamed up with another character) to do a follow-up to an aerial rave where you proceed to do a team combo, allowing for more damage. This mechanic sadly doesn’t see much use, as more often than not you won’t have an NPC ally during missions.

Character side missions make a return from Shinovi Versus, however this time they have to be unlocked. Throughout each mission you’ll notice two kinds of barriers, red ones and purple ones. The red ones show up during enemy encounters and will go away once you defeat them all. The purple barriers are always present during a mission and essentially act as an invisible wall, preventing you from going to certain areas.

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Some of the festival platforms are located in areas behind these purple walls. As it turns out you have to find the specific area in which the purple barrier isn’t in place, go through it, destroy the platform, and exit the same way you came. This is poorly designed for a couple of reasons. For starters, it makes having to 100% each mission much longer than it needs to be, especially with more obtuse level design which makes finding the accessible areas more difficult.

Lastly, the AI is not smart enough to follow you, so you’ll find them constantly trying to run at you in order to fight.  It’s made worse when some of them do reach where you are and you miss them, you’ll have to backtrack to places you might have been in order to finally dispatch them. If the purple barriers weren’t in place, it would make finding the platforms less of a hassle.

Character customization makes a return, only this time with the added benefits of having swimsuits. Right off the bat you have access to all of the main uniforms, casual attire, transformed forms and bathing suits, with each one getting five variants. On top of that, you’ll unlock more costumes, hairstyles, and accessories as you play the game, meaning you’ll have tons of fun customizing your characters before you delve into the DLC.

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One minor complaint I have with the customization is, oddly enough, with the option of underwear. In order to get more underwear, you have to play a lottery of sorts with the option of using either the in game currency or by purchasing a special token for one dollar. While you can unlock all the underwear by simply using the in game currency (I did so in Shinovi Versus), the payoff is quite weak as all of them are simply different variants of the existing casts lingerie and not new designs like in Shinovi Versus.

Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is a solid entry in the series, but not without its flaws. Long-time fans will most certainly enjoy this title, as it keeps what made the previous games so enjoyable for them, while keeping the incredibly charming and likable characters intact.

As for other players, if you take issue with characters with big bosoms, this game revels in bouncy breasts. If you can get behind the game’s presentation and are looking for a solid musou with a likable cast, this game might be able to scratch that itch.

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Senran Kagura: Estival Versus was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a retail copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 7.5

The Good:

  • Large and diverse cast of playable characters
  • Fast paced and satisfying gameplay
  • Interactions between characters are charming and likable

The Bad:

  • Weird design choices (festival platforms being behind barriers)
  • Some technical problems (poor AI, frame drops)
  • Overall, the story lacks focus
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About

Writer at Niche Gamer. Passionate for video game journalism, and more than glad to be a part of it. I also write DOTA 2 stuff.



58 comments
  1. Audie Bakerson
    Audie Bakerson
    April 5, 2016 at 10:57 am

    When I first encountered some of the hidden festival platforms, I thought I was SUPPOSED to use projectile attacks that pierce through the barriers to destroy them (particularly as the first time I saw one was in a Mirai stage, and she is one of the characters with them).

  2. Chocolate ISISCream
    Chocolate ISISCream
    April 5, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Still finishing up SV before starting estival but hearing you say that it went the deep crimson route for story mode is a shame, especially with all those characters. I was really glad to see SV’s story mode match burst’s after seeing what Crimson did (except I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a continuation of Deep Crimson) and I thought EV would follow suit. Good thing they’ve restored the same combat system though, with enhancements instead of using Crimson’s battle system. I really disliked that one.

  3. Dewey Defeats Truman
    Dewey Defeats Truman
    April 5, 2016 at 11:21 am

    That complaint about the purple barriers is spot on, I get it’s for exploration but it really drags levels out in the worst way.

    Also I personally have problems with the character customization feeling limited but that’s just because I don’t personally like most of the costumes. I haven’t even beaten the game so there’s probably a good few more to go for me and I’ll admit there is a decent amount of variety, it’s just not the kind I’d personally prefer I guess.

    Either way the game is a fun way to just zone out for a while. At first it bugged me how the game felt like it barely had any plot but after a while I got used to it, to the point that when the plot started picking up it felt really jarring and out of place.

  4. alterku
    alterku
    April 5, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Sounds like I should maybe hold off until a sale, considering the weak dollar for us canucks. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. deadeye
    deadeye
    April 5, 2016 at 11:26 am

    I gave this one a try. I played SV and was overall unimpressed and frustrated by the gameplay, and I felt this game didn’t really do much to improve.

    I mean, I guess not every action game needs to be DMC3/4 levels of perfection, but it feels like a half-assed musou. And musou is pretty much where my bar is for “just barely competent” in action games.

  6. Nin
    Nin
    April 5, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I liked Deep Crimson’s battle system, but yeah, it was radically different without guard and the limit break. Aerial rave is a lot less useful too. Placed WAY more focus on avoiding getting hit and reading enemy moves then the other games. I guess it makes the game more ninja like, but early missions are hellish because you have to adapt.

  7. ashikenshin
    ashikenshin
    April 5, 2016 at 11:50 am

    I’m liking it so far. Didn’t know it was a sequel to SV. I still need to finish that. I don’t know why SV feels more like a chore. I like it but the story is less engaging than burst’s.

  8. Demetirus
    Demetirus
    April 5, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I am a pretty big fan of SV and was waiting to play my copy of EV until I finally got the platinum trophy in SV so reviews like this help prepare me for what I’m getting into! Much appreciated!

  9. Malcolm_Ecks
    Malcolm_Ecks
    April 5, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    SV is more like doing trial runs of levels for collectibles gameplay wise. Very repetitive.

  10. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 5, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    I mostly agree with the review.

    I found the game really enjoyable and the gameplay was improved from Shinovi. The wall attacks an the double aerial raves are quite flashy and feel right in place in a shinobi game. As mentioned in the review the clothes destroying mechanics have really improved especially the special finishers and the team special finishers.

    I agree that the story wasn’t very focused and I think that the Gessen bits and Sayuri stole the show. I didn’t care too much about Ryoki. I really hope we get some yoma fights for the next game.

    The Girls’ Heart stories were very humorous my favourite being Ikaruga’s followed by Katsuragi’s. It was a strange design choice locking them behind the festival platforms. If people are new to the characters the easiest way to know their personalities is to play those missions. This is why newcomers to the series may be slightly confused.

    The online modes are very creative and the survival one is quite challenging – you will need a competent team to beat it and receive some exclusive items as a reward.

    One final thing that needs to be mentioned is the cross save between PS4 and Vita. It allows for a much quicker progress and a double platinum.

    https://usercontent1.hubstatic.com/10904952.png https://usercontent1.hubstatic.com/10904952.png

  11. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 5, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    The 4 stories in Shinovi Versus are not fully cannon. Estival Versus takes elements from each school’s plot and combines it to do one central plot. In my opinion you don’t really have to know all their stories – the Gessen and Hebijo ones should be sufficient.

  12. sanic
    sanic
    April 5, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I liked hunting for platforms but it did cause me to have to hunt down dumb AI stuck in corners, also the story focus was on them making their peace with the dead shinobi.
    I’d complain about how weak some of the girls heart missions were, I mean one was about eating food impolitely and wastefully, that was retarded.

    Agree with the review overall but ryona wants to be a tampura udon.

  13. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 5, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Ryona was on a Culinary quest ever since Bon Apetit.

  14. sanic
    sanic
    April 5, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Yes she discusses that in her story.

  15. Chocolate ISISCream
    Chocolate ISISCream
    April 5, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Never really thought about it that way you described it as more “ninja like”, and that makes sense. I just had a lot of fun gathering 20 enemies and juggling them all at the same time in Burst. I guess I was a bit harsh (I’ll back peddle and say I disliked it, not “really” disliked it) but for SV I was relieved to see that it played more like Burst with its gathering and juggling.

  16. ashikenshin
    ashikenshin
    April 5, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    oh, Ok so I will try to finish those. I have finished Gessen, need to get off my butt and do Hebijo. Thx.

  17. Swadian Knight
    Swadian Knight
    April 5, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    male feminists in a nutshell

  18. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 5, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    No worries. Those are the most plot related stories, but I’d say that the Hanzo one has some pretty great character moments.

  19. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 5, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    They do have the “one good man” syndrome, but I doubt they’ll get anything in the end.

  20. Michael Richardson
    Michael Richardson
    April 5, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    It’s a fun game, but it has one really glaring problem: there is WAY too much end lag for basic character movements like jumping, heavy attacks, and some weak attacks now. You used to be able to jump or dash cancel out of this lag in Shinovi Versus, allowing you to zip across the stage pretty much as quickly as you wanted, but now you have a mandatory second or two pause after a lot of basic actions. And this problem is hugely magnified for the slow characters, who become no fun to play whatsoever. I love the big cast and ridiculous humor, but the changes they made to the game that made it less responsive are killing my interest in it.

  21. Kev Lew
    Kev Lew
    April 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    sure they will get something, they will get shunned and or accused of a crime.

  22. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Are you playing it on the Vita or the PS4? I did notice some more lag in the Vita version.

  23. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 5, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    It is the ultimate irony, but still unjust.

  24. Dr. Roswell. W
    Dr. Roswell. W
    April 5, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    ..Wow, she is a trooper.

  25. Barmont
    Barmont
    April 5, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    I’m playing everyday since launch on my Vita. The main story can be boring sometimes (really seems like a filler), but now I’m searching for the festival platforms and finishing each girl’s episode, and I’m having a lot of fun.
    It’s my first Senran Kagura.

  26. Michael Richardson
    Michael Richardson
    April 5, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    PS4. The framerate is great, but the uncancelable character animation lag is awful.

  27. Kiryu
    Kiryu
    April 5, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Yozakura fan here,she’s the best waifu.

  28. Dewey Defeats Truman
    Dewey Defeats Truman
    April 5, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    *Renka, Homura and Ayame

  29. ScarredBushido
    ScarredBushido
    April 5, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    I love this game. I was very surprised at how good it was.

  30. Guin
    Guin
    April 5, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    A 7.5 is already a pretty good score unless you’re some jaded wannabe elitist who only must play games that are 10/10

  31. TiamatNM
    TiamatNM
    April 5, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    This one might have the worst gameplay in the series honestly. Dash canceling is too limited and makes the game feel slow. Even ignoring dash cancel limitation the game feels slow. Why are Kat’s kicks so damn slow? She feels like hanabi or yomi unless you go frantic.

  32. Kiryu
    Kiryu
    April 5, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    I think the Nichegamer community knows this,we are not IGN.
    I’m okay with the review overall,it’s fair and well written.

  33. Luka
    Luka
    April 5, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    “Weird design choices (festival platforms being behind barriers)”

    you can get to these by going around 100% of the time…easilly

  34. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 5, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Yumi, Ikaruga and Hikage for me.

  35. Spaceloaf
    Spaceloaf
    April 5, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    I agree. I got this as sort of a “palate cleanser” before Dark Souls 3. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing (I’ve played Samurai Warriors so I know the deal with musou), but the gameplay is really poor even for musou.

    The levels are all basically the same, there is almost no variety in enemies, and the fighting against the other girls is really shallow. This is an incredibly lazy game where they just dumped existing assets into arenas with no thought to gameplay mechanics or balancing.

    I don’t hate it, but I think 7.5 is too high a rating. This is close to the level of DOAX3 in lazy design.

  36. Spaceloaf
    Spaceloaf
    April 5, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    That doesn’t make it a good design choice. Why put the barriers there at all?

  37. Dewey Defeats Truman
    Dewey Defeats Truman
    April 5, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    7 ain’t a bad score at all. I mean, I guess it is by most reviewer’s standards, but then I think most reviewers aren’t worth my time so I guess it evens out.

    Life isn’t worth living if you only play 9’s and 10’s. You need those 6’s and 7’s to balance things out. You can’t appreciate a good game if you don’t have some context for what an okay (or even an outright bad) game is.

  38. Kiryu
    Kiryu
    April 6, 2016 at 2:16 am

    And most of the times those 9’s and 10’s are mediocre to average games,overhyped and mostly paid reviews.

  39. Luka
    Luka
    April 6, 2016 at 3:52 am

    Makes sense considering breaking these platforms means winning/ taking out another team. It also unlocks hearts. You are asking why it isnt 110% easy when the game is easy enough.

  40. Spaceloaf
    Spaceloaf
    April 6, 2016 at 7:23 am

    No it doesn’t. If you don’t want a player to go somewhere, you design the level such that it logically has blockages. You don’t put up invisible walls like it’s 1995. It’s bad design plain and simple.

  41. Luka
    Luka
    April 6, 2016 at 8:53 am

    walls aren’t entirely invisible they are there to tell you to go around
    like the other only way to go that doesn’t take a genius to figure out.
    90% of the time it the opposite way from the where the compass is pointing
    you have played the game right? Plenty of other things to complain about on this title IMO but not this.

  42. LostGryphon
    LostGryphon
    April 6, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Pre-ordered it. Playing it. Enjoying it.

    I agree with most of the gripes, aside from the invisible wall thing, as that was present in SV and it’s not enough of a hindrance for me to care, since they’re easy to circumvent and they’re there to make ya work at bit to get the festival platforms.

    Characters and their interactions/dialogue/VOs are still grade A entertainment.

    Combat is more refined than in SV, but some characters feel…slow? Like Kat, for instance. She klonks around with those bigass battle boots of hers and I’m a bit torn on it. On the one hand, they make her feel meatier, like her attacks have a lot more heft to ’em than previously. On the other? She just feels heavy. Kinda like a counterpart (which she is, so I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense) to Yozakura.

    Mirai, while I love her as a character, is still the most annoying to play as while my old favorites, Homura, Ikaruga, and Hikage. handle quite well.

    Digging the story so far too. Some genuinely endearing emotional moments and plenty of comedy.

    The Vita version is pretty damned nice and I haven’t really had any slow downs…plus, touch controls! And it looks better than SV to boot.

    Solid 8-8.5 for me.

  43. Demetirus
    Demetirus
    April 6, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    You have excellent taste, friend!

  44. Demetirus
    Demetirus
    April 6, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I’ll agree Yumi is pretty cool… (d’ohhohoho) and I definitely enjoyed playing through the Gessen storyline and her personal story in SV. Absolutely can see that one.

  45. Demetirus
    Demetirus
    April 6, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve got my eye on Ayame, but where I haven’t played her at all and have only *ahem* interacted with her in the Store in SV I can’t say much about her.

  46. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 6, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    She’s very chill. In fact while I play as her I listen to “Ice, ice baby”.

  47. Demetirus
    Demetirus
    April 6, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    I can only imagine she’d give us an icey stare for these puns. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.

  48. Kiryu
    Kiryu
    April 6, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks.

  49. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 6, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    You could say she’d give us the cold shoulder.

  50. Demetirus
    Demetirus
    April 6, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    A cold reception if nothing else.

  51. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 6, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Expected from such an ice queen like her.

  52. Demetirus
    Demetirus
    April 6, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    I’m not so sure that she’s completely frigid, though.

  53. Dewey Defeats Truman
    Dewey Defeats Truman
    April 6, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    She’s pretty fun. Basically imagine Katsuragi but actually fun to play as.

  54. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 6, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    What killed ze dinosaurs? ZE ICE AGE!

    Sorry I started getting Batman and Robin flashbacks.

  55. Nin
    Nin
    April 6, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Yozakura, Hikage, and Renka for me. Kagura if you count DLC characters.

  56. Demetirus
    Demetirus
    April 7, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Oh no. Batman and Robin. I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean to dig up your past trauma and trigger you like that. I think there’s a safe space around here somewhere…. In fact, now that you’ve mentioned it, I think I’m triggered too.

  57. Bong-chan
    Bong-chan
    June 17, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I actually didn’t mind the choices they made with locations of the platforms. It game me a reason to go back to missions after achieving A rank.