On Netflix in the UK there is an anime called High School of the Dead. It’s a cartoon about a zombie apocalypse hitting Japan and how a bunch of school kids deal with the first week or so of the virus taking over. It features blood, guts, a really fascinating story and boobs, lots of boobs. About 5 minutes into the first episode I realised that this may be something my girlfriend could enjoy if the overtly sexual nature of it doesn’t get in the way. I had that moment, where two worlds collide, like how some people keep there work life and home life separate. I wanted to watch this series with her and try to see if she could continue to get into anime, after enjoying Attack on Titan, but would the boobs and school girls get in the way? Well thankfully that was briefly commented on but then ignored as the series got its hooks in her. With Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson I had a similar fear, I’ll often talk about the games I’m looking at for Pixel Bedlam, but with jiggle physics and school girls would this be the point my girlfriend would need to talk to me? Thankfully not, but playing the game I still spent a lot of time wondering about the ‘nature’ of the game, well, I wondered about it when I wasn’t giggling like a 14 year old boy.
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is an anime brawler for the 3DS, Think of the corridor walking of Streets of Rage or Golden Axe mixed with the balls out craziness and high combo numbers of Dynasty Warriors. The game sees you play as a number of ninjas in training as they go out and fight their evil ninja counterparts. There seems to be some sort of world balance here, a Yin and Yang of both light and dark ninjas each looking to take control of the school and potentially the world. Within a few levels I had already lost what the overall plot of the game was, mainly because of the mechanics of the game but also with each level focussing on one girl and her nemesis I was more interested in some of those relationships than the story at large.
The game spends a lot of time in the traditional Japanese genre of Visual Novel with the girls spouting mounds of dialogue in their native Japanese tongue with English subtitles for us uneducated westerners. When you’re not watching these mini soap operas play out you’re treated to gameplay that although simple on the surface is painfully addictive and can, if you let it, draw you into trying to master each characters play style.
Each girl you play as has different weapons, combos, and insane special moves. As the player you’ll mainly be using your 3DS’ face buttons, A to Jump, X and Y to attack in various strengths and finally, the most important button, a grappling button on B that lets you zip to the enemy you’re pointing at in the 3D environment. Each girl has their own speciality from dual wielding swords to umbrellas and a weird rabbit that may be a cuddly toy or may be something more sinister. At the end of each level you’ll face a hard as nails boss and for a number of them the only way I was able to get by was spamming the grappling line button followed by a ground smash and special move. The bosses are traditionally your nemesis and before and after each fight you’re given a bit of exposition about who you’re fighting any why victory is wanted by either party. The difference between the before and after dialogues is the amount of clothing each character is wearing.
I’ve gone 600 words before mentioning this, and to be honest, I’m actually a little proud of myself for being so restrained. There is a health bar for every character, but for a quicker way of knowing whether you’re winning your brightly coloured and super fast match is to ask yourself a simply question “Do I hope no one is looking over my shoulder?”. With each big chunk of health lost clothing gets torn and disappears. A weird saving grace is that you can justify it slightly by saying these girls are wearing bikinis under their already somewhat missing clothing. It’s not unusual, with my lack of tact and skill, for both the boss and my character to be bouncing around in their swimsuits at the end of every fight. The weird thing is, it’s not as bad as you think. Sure, the jiggle physics make it awkward but much like High School of the Dead, if you can look past the girls bouncing around, making occasionally suggestive comments and being dressed like their about to hit up a beach in Ibiza on their first holiday away from their parents, it’s not that bad.
There’s easy ways to justify the clothing, be it a Japanese game, the fact that tongues are firmly placed in cheeks or even the fact that the game is really fun and it could be worse. This game shouldn’t be looked at for its portrayal of women, or rather its depiction of women (girls). This is not the game to stick your flag in for or against female representation in games. There are games that do better, and games that do worse. From screenshots, trailers, and hell, even this review, you know if this is going to be a sticking point for you.
When all is said and done Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is a great and fun anime game. Sure you won’t be playing it on a bus or at you desk at work during your lunch break, but with its short 5-10 minute levels you can get a lot out enjoyment out of the breakneck speeds and chaos of this button mashing combo fighter. Just don’t go into the photo studio mode, that….that is just too much.