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Senran Kagura Burst

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: Jan. 22, 2019 (US), Jan. 18, 2019 (EU)


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PS4 Review - 'Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal'

by Cody Medellin on June 4, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal is all about girl power in this over-the-top side-scrolling action game.

Buy Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal

If you're a Senran Kagura fan on the PlayStation systems, then you're familiar with the story and gameplay. You play as one of the many different shinobi representing either the Hanzo Academy or the Crimson Squad outcasts, with each girl having a unique weapon and attack, despite controlling exactly the same way. All of your battles are done in small arenas that mix in the large brawling style of the Musou series while also throwing in some combo-heavy Devil May Cry flair to make things exciting. They're titles that are middle-of-the-road fare for critics but have gained a decently sized cult following among fans. The series originally started on the Nintendo 3DS, where the game took on the form of a 2.5D brawler in the same vein as Double Dragon. The latest game in the series, Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal, isn't so much a sequel as it is a remake of that original 3DS game, only brought up to familiar PS4 standards.

Although Japan has moved into the modern era, there is still a need for shinobi to carry out the dirty work of those willing to employ their services. With the deeds of the shinobi starting to get out of control, the government has stepped in to make sure that their talents are put to good use. The Hanzo Academy exists to train young shinobi in the arts, so their skills can be used to maintain justice in the world. Meanwhile, the Hebijo Academy trains other shinobi to be mercenaries who use their skills for nefarious activities.

Burst Re:Newal is the first game in the series, so the story serves as the starting point for getting to know the main characters. Traits like Asuka's constant desire to get stronger and be the best shinobi are all on display with the same fervor as before. While the tropes are all here, the surprising thing for newcomers is how the story shifts in character focus and tone. You might have one level where two of the shinobi agree to have a duel over the ownership of a plush doll, but the next may deal with Asuka wondering whether or not she should start up a romantic relationship with a nervous baseball player. Serious moments are often mixed in with silly ones, as if you're playing through a game that's trying to condense the important moments of an anime series, but you'll feel that this is handled well enough, just like it was in the first PS4 entry, Senran Kagura Estival Versus.

As in other titles in the series, your first task is to select which school story you want to play. From there, you'll get into the game, where you'll notice that the experience is wildly different from before. Instead of sticking with the classic beat-'em-up style of the 3DS version, Burst Re:Newal opts to go with the combat system that has been used in the other games. That means using a combo system as flashy as Bayonetta, where you can juggle people in the air or dash from opponent to opponent while busting out combos that require specific patterns of the light and heavy attack buttons. Power up your meter just enough, and you can unleash a burst attack, which more powerful versions of your normal moves and ends with a super powerful and flashy move once the meter has been drained. The transformation to shinobi mode is also here, which grants you access to powerful techniques and refills your health meter.

One change is that the fights don't all take place in one giant arena. Instead, much like the brawler game on the 3DS, this version has you moving from section to section and then fighting in enclosed rooms until every enemy is defeated. A few levels contain secret fights that are more difficult than some of the boss fights. Those additions were no doubt to make up for the lack of items and co-op moves in combat ā€” elements that have been introduced to the series since the original game. For those who appreciate a challenge, you can still start a level in your stripped-down shinobi form, so you can attack harder at the expense of a very weakened defense. You can also replay every completed level with a different character, so the fights can feel a little different.

While the combat still feels as easy to get into, it still suffers from the same issues as the previous entries. Once you get next to a wall, the camera seems to zoom in long enough for you to lose your bearings. Get to a place where there are lots of tall objects, like trees, and the objects don't reach a transparent state fast enough. The fighting also varies wildly in difficulty, depending on the situation. Normal fights go by without much fuss due to enemies either standing around or running into other objects. Some enemies attack with a regular cadence, but that doesn't happen too often. Meanwhile, one-on-one fights require some skill and deft dodging, making them much more challenging. The final fight swings the difficulty pendulum so far that it can feel unfair.

Beyond the campaign, every feature in the original 3DS version is also present here. You have a gallery for checking out any of the movies, music, and pictures you've purchased in the in-game shop. There's a changing room that allows you to equip any shinobi with a myriad of accessories or change outfits. Since the original didn't have a multiplayer mode, neither does this title. While that seems like a big omission since the other entries in the series have it, it was probably the right decision to not include it here, since it was always difficult to find anyone playing online in those games.

The presentation matches up with Estival Versus quite well. The character models match the anime aesthetic, and the lack of jagged lines is impressive since other games still lack anti-aliasing features. The environments also look rather nice, with the lack of variety being the one thing hurting the look since the same locales are used too often for the levels. The game always maintains a solid 60fps no matter how many characters or effects are on-screen, and that unwavering frame rate is a good thing. Sound-wise, the cast remains as excellent as ever, while the music maintains the same scattershot variety as before. The changes from action-packed to whimsical to a little dramatic happens plenty of times throughout the game, but the score always matches the tone of the scene, so the shifts don't seem too sudden or unwarranted.

Your enjoyment of Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal is going to be dependent on how much you value the lore of the series. As this contains both the early wacky adventures and introspections of each of the shinobi, fans of the characters will love the treatment. Otherwise, the combat holds up, even without the use of items and combo moves. Although the other modes are filler, the presentation looks and sounds excellent. If you're a fan of the series but didn't play this game on the 3DS, Burst Re:Newal is worth checking out.

Score: 7.5/10

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