Senran Kagura Burst ReviewJoe Shaffer
Perhaps you've peeked at a few screenshots of Senran Kagura Burst. I'm sure the first thing that caught your attention was the abundance of female characters with enormous bosoms, most of which can be seen either engaging in chatter or clutching deadly weapons. You might have also spied images depicting their clothing in tatters, or witnessed one of the girls changing into her shinobi uniform--an event in which Burst's characters typically stick out their fannies and thrust their chests into the camera. At that point you might ask the inevitable question: is Senran Kagura Burst one of those games? I can only imagine that some of you are currently leaning in, drool dripping from your mouths, waiting in anticipation for the answer.
And the answer is: yes, Burst is most certainly a beat 'em up.
I've noticed that brawlers have been making something of a comeback of late. I used to love walking into an arcade and spotting a brawler I hadn't previously played, so you'd think I'd be in hog heaven these days with the genre slowly returning. Honestly, though, I'm actually not all that thrilled with modern brawlers, and Burst is no exception. I will say that there are some challenging scenes that involve beating time limits or struggling to stay alive amidst seas of pissed off schoolgirls. Unfortunately, most of Burst's stages involve spamming basic attacks without much consideration for your position or your surroundings. Several blows can send any opponents unfortunate enough to be caught in the flurry into the air. With the press of a button, you can instantly leap to their airborne position and recommence the mass butt-beating completely unabated. Eventually, you and your foes will hit the ground, where you can start the process anew.
...and again, for 140 missions that span two separate campaigns. I will say that the opposition does become a little more ruthless in the latter stages, but that can be easily remedied by grinding for experience (read: mashing buttons in simpler stages ad nauseam). Yup, Burst utilizes RPG elements that essentially remove the challenge factor from the game's beat 'em up elements.
It was truly difficult for me to write the scathing words above, mostly because I don't entirely hate Burst. It's a bit of a disappointment, where beat 'em ups are concerned, but where the game succeeds is in its charming cast of characters.
...and no, I'm not referring to the game's opulence of massive, giggling breasts, either. The characters are actually quite adorable and have very good chemistry. It's also refreshing to have a protagonist like Asuka (leader of the "good" shinobi, called Hanzo), who eventually questions and ponders the ramifications of her course in life, rather than having an overly eager main character who's incredibly sure of herself. Another pair of girls, Yagyu and Hibari, have a peculiar relationship. Yagyu at first seems to be a solemn and quiet girl who at times comes off as antisocial. The truth is that she's obsessed with Hibari, an overly sweet klutz with self-esteem issues. The two may not sound like an ideal pairing, but their interactions throughout the Hanzo campaign are often touching.
In contrast, there's a rival entourage who are the diametric opposite of Asuka's girls, a group of shinobi-in-training called Heboji. What I enjoy most about the Heboji team is how human they are, which is surprising when you realize that they're referred to as the "evil" shinobi. Plenty of games have humanized villainous groups, but few have made their sinister factions as cute and charming as the Heboji team is. Homura is precisely the kind of "evil" protagonist she should be: she's driven, hardheaded, blunt, and shockingly compassionate at times. There's also Yomi, a former homeless girl whose passionate about the lower class. And yes, she's 100% "evil" as well.
Burst's perks don't stop with its narrative, though. Visually, it's a splendid title highlighted by gorgeous graphics, excellent 3D, flashy animation, and wonderfully rendered character models. I could probably gab further about how beautiful certain environments look, or rave about the extravagant effects that come with character transformation sequences, or how the voice work and soundtrack are pretty killer, but I'm pretty sure I know what some gamers are looking for in the game's visuals: tatas. Yes, there's a lot of giggling. Yes, there are some skimpy outfits. No, there's no in-game nudity (but you know Rule 34...). No, the "sexual" elements don't really do anything for me, but some folks are into that sort of thing. Whatever, I don't judge.
Although Senran Kagura Burst has some alluring elements, it's not a terribly entertaining beat 'em up. As a fan of arcade brawlers like Final Fight and Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, I found Burst to be a bit of a letdown. Mostly, this is because the game is an overlong, mindless button masher from start to finish. Sure, the game has its strong points and the developer's aim wasn't to deliver anything more than bouncing boobs and adequate brawling, but they still could have included a more engaging beat 'em up gameplay to go with the wealth of shaking jugs.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.