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Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Action
Publisher: Marvelous (EU), XSEED Games (US)
Developer: Tamsoft
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2015 (US), Aug. 27, 2015 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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3DS Review - 'Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson'

by Brian Dumlao on Sept. 21, 2015 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is a 2.5D side-scrolling brawler/martial arts adventure of the naughty yet very nice Senran Kagura ninja girls.

The Senran Kagura series is all about fan service. Whether it's a classic brawler or rhythm-based cooking, the main crux seems to be delivering basic gameplay with shots of barely clothed butts and bouncing breasts. The approach seems to have worked, as the decidedly unlikely candidate for Western release has gained a dedicated fan base. After two stints on the PS Vita, the series returns to the 3DS with Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson.

It starts off with the five members of the Hanzo school of shinobi planning an invasion of the Hebijo school to retrieve the stolen scroll they're sworn to protect. After failing to protect the stolen goods, the Hebijo shinobi try to hide from their old school while trying to get strong enough to take down their rivals. Soon, both groups have to team up to stop a demonic invasion from ruining Japan.

Despite the stronger plot and the game's concentrated use of it, the title is really about the characters, both allies and rivals. Plenty of encounters with rival characters reveal new facts, and the main focus of these segments is the revelation that the characters are similar despite their upbringing. There are also a few slice of life sections thrown in for good measure, though they are brief compared to the past game. Those who have played the older games will have a better appreciation of the revelations, but at least those who are new to the game can get a more unified story instead of being lost about why the facts are important.

Like the original game, this is a beat-'em-up. Unlike the original title, this is a beat-'em-up more in the vein of Devil May Cry than Double Dragon as it goes for 3-D rooms and environments instead of 2.5-D scrolling levels. You'll still travel from section to section and beat up all sorts of enemies before moving on, but now you'll be able to do so with a good deal of multi-hit combos. You also have the ability to do air combos, as a number of enemies float in the air before dropping down. Special attacks and a dash move are now part of the arsenal, so you can quickly dart to and away from the action.

Aside from the new combat moves that come from the perspective change, you can now play alongside an AI partner. Your partner fights alongside you, and the AI does a great job of killing foes and being helpful in a fight. New special moves are opened up with a partner, and you can revive her anytime she falls, so you aren't permanently at a disadvantage. You can also swap out control from one shinobi to another at any time, giving you a chance to recover in case things get too hectic.

Despite the number of changes made to the fighting, some core elements from the original game remain. The leveling system is still in place, where each level increase equals an increase in health and other stats. There is still a litany of costume pieces to unlock alongside lots of weapons, though they are more cosmetic than functional since you get no bonuses for changing them. Also, the clothing durability function is still present, so taking on lots of hits in a fight will result in your clothes getting shredded up to reveal more skin.

Speaking of fan service, Senran Kagura 2 completely revels in it at almost every opportunity. The act of shredding clothing comes with several angles of the act taking place. Clothing shredding also happens to the many minions you face, though that occurs instantly and is an indicator of whether or not they've been defeated. All of the cut scenes make sure that the breasts jiggle almost uncontrollably when the shinobi even flinch. The dressing room allows you to look at the girls from almost all angles, and even the end of the mission allows you to look at the winning poses from all angles by moving your 3DS. For all of the jiggling and exposure, the amount of undress seems a bit tamer this time around, mostly because the poses aren't as ridiculous as in Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit, and the facial expressions aren't full of shame. Although the game only features two males in the form of the protagonist and the adopted brother of one of the shinobi (gained either by DLC or if you have a save of the first game), they are also stripped and can be viewed from all possible angles.

The gameplay works out fine depending on the situation. When facing the standard assortment of minions, it feels like a Dynasty Warriors game since very few enemies bother to attack. Most of the time, they wait to get hit, and while that can always make you feel like a powerful death machine, it robs the game of some challenge unless you bump up the difficulty. When facing a rival, the game becomes almost impossible for button mashers, as your enemies can dish out high-hit combos just like you, leaving you with little or no opening unless you're playing a co-op level and your partner saves you. You'll depend on your special attacks to take out a good chunk of the damage, but with no block button and no way of locking onto enemies, the camera often leaves your opponent off-screen with arrows that don't accurately show where they are. The only place where this feels balanced is during boss fights against large demons, as they require some strategy.

Like the first title, the rather uneven approach to the gameplay doesn't seem to dampen the fun. The fighting is solid despite missing a few essentials, and even the most basic combos are varied enough that it takes a while before they start to feel old. The stages in every mode are the perfect length for portable play, and each mode gives your character experience, providing the perfect reason to try them all.

Senran Kagura 2 has quite a number of modes, and all of them are rather substantial. The story mode is still the main focus of the game, and it's lengthy since each of the five connected stories spans several chapters each. The story forces you to always play as specific characters per stage, but you'll rotate them so often that the method is for the best anyway. You can replay missions with whichever character you want, and difficulty can be switched at any time, so there's room to experience everything multiple times.

Yoma's Nest is the challenge mode that tasks you, either in solo or co-op, to tackle 14 floors of enemies that increase in number and difficulty. The purpose of this mode is to help gain experience, but it does so with limitations in mind. Quitting early on, for example, guarantees that you'll gain XP, but the number isn't as much as if you keep pressing to the end. However, dying at any point ensures that the XP you gain is tiny no matter how far you make it. It is a nice risk-reward system that encourages you to tackle it only if you're sure of victory.

There's also Special Missions mode, which gives you basic arenas to fight in that only allow certain maneuvers to count. One fight may only have ground attacks count for damage against the enemy, while another may only permit air attacks. Though the missions are challenging due to these restrictions, they dole out big rewards in the form of Shinobi Stones, the only item in the game that affects stats when you equip it. For that reason alone, pursuing them early on is a wise course of action.

Though the series was always a solo experience, Senran Kagura 2 adds multiplayer, so you and a friend can tackle the story missions or Yoma's Nest missions in any order. Local multiplayer is here, as is online multiplayer, and like the solo modes, completing each stage gives you experience for your chosen character. Unfortunately, despite the game having just come out recently, there was no one available during the review period to check out the multiplayer, so the performance is difficult to gauge at this time.

Graphically, the game is a dramatic improvement over its predecessor. Character models are much more detailed, and only a few of the textures suffer from being blurred or pixelated. The jagged lines have been smoothed out, resulting in characters that look very clean from any distance. The animations are smooth, and the special effects that go along with attacks are very nice. The backgrounds are rather well done, even though they are plain, but you get tired of looking at them since the game reuses the same ones. The same goes for the enemies, who generally look the same with only differences in clothing color and weaponry. With a nice color palette being used on every element, this is one of the better-looking games on the system.

From a sound perspective, Senran Kagura 2 performs well. The soundtrack is a good mix of modern and traditional sounds that is pleasant to listen to and fitting for battle. The sound effects hit well, as each move carries some impact. The voices are still in Japanese, but every scene is filled with them. It fits the range of your typical anime in that there's a range of high-pitched and deep voices going on, but nothing sounds too bad.

Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is a game of both improvements and regression. The presentation is much better this time around, and the many modes give it some longevity after the main story mode is done. Though it is still fun, the fluctuation in gameplay difficulty will turn off a number of people, and the lack of some mechanics expected in a 3-D brawler is disappointing. In the end, it really is a game for fans of the series and something of a hard sell for newcomers who can't separate the fan service from the game mechanics.

Score: 7.0/10

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