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Published January 30, 2019

At this stage it’s quite apparent that the only times I ever use the NSFW in the title is when I’m talking about the latest release for Senran Kagura, the series that if you live with your parents you should never risk playing as it will raise a lot of questions, thankfully I live with my wife and she happily sat through my multiple play throughs of Senran Kagura Reflexions so to be honest I’m relatively safe. Upfront it should go without saying, the Senran Kagura series is fan service in the anime sense, it’s a lot of boobs being shown and talked about and a lot of underwear being shown. But amazingly, much like the other Senran Kagura games, that isn’t all the game has to offer, there is actually solid brawler underneath.

A re-release of the 2014 3ds 2.5d Senran Kagura Burst this game drags the original platform brawler onto the home consoles with a fully realised 3rd person action brawler. Telling the story of two different ninja academies, the ever good and great Hanzo Academy and the dark nefarious Hebijo Academy. Across your couple dozen hours with the game you’ll be treated some quite meaty ninja tales, but you’ll also be given 10 minute text based side stories, with japanese voice over, about the first love of Asuka, the lead heroine. It’s this juxtoposition of high flying good vs evil mixed with heartfelt story telling and boobs that really is why i’m consistently fascinated by the Senran Kagura series. It’s like a game designed by committee but the outcome was actually kinda of awesome.

To be incredibly reductive the gameplay boils down to Dynasty Warriors crossed with Final Fight / Streets of Rage but with school girls in underwear, and I’d love to say it’s more than that but with the waves of cookie cutter grunt enemies barely charging you and rarely attacking it’s hard not to just see them as the most simple of Dynasty Warriors AI. That’s not to say combat isn’t fun, the boss battles range from quick and messy one on one combats that are all out flashy brawls to slow and drawn out tactical combats whilst you block, parry and counter your way to a technical victory. A key selling point for some, and morbid fascination for others, is that with each hefty strike you or the enemy take clothing rips and eventually leaves the character in their underwear. If you really want to deep dive into the creepiness you can choose your underwear of choice in the menus.

At the start of each level you’re offered the chance to go ‘Frantic’. When activated you must use your PS4 touchpad to slide off the characters clothes meaning she has less defence but a stronger attack in the coming level. The opening few hours of the game were actually incredibly easy meaning I was relying on this to increase my end of level score and XP gain from each run. After a while however it became clear that I needed to keep my ladies dressed or I was going to get my arse handed to me. Combat is fast and frantic as you try to cut everyone down as quickly as you can, combo counters fly up and and in Devil May Cry style you must tactically launch enemies to get a breather whilst you combo in mid air before plummeting back to earth sword first. Each character you play as have different play styles from the fast and slashy Asuka with her twin swords to the kicky Katsuragi. Each also have their own special moves which require meters to fill from attacks. It would be easy to dismiss Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal as a button mashy game, and don’t get me wrong it could easily be played that way, but you’d be doing the game and yourself a disservice. There is a depth to the game that isn’t immediately apparent, once you start unlocking styles in the menus and learning the deeper cuts of the game it really can feel rewarding and look badass as you get those high combos.

As well as the main game there’s the series staple of the diorama and dressing rooms. Dress your characters and pose them however you want to get a trophy that you hope no one will ever notice you have. Apart from some new clothes and backgrounds there isn’t really anything here you haven’t seen in previous titles in the series, it’s a nice extra if you have a purpose for it.

I’ve always been impressed by the graphics in the Senran Kagura games, they capture the style of anime so wonderfully in 3D and minus some hair clipping problems if you decide to customise the characters, there really aren’t any issues, the frame rate remains high and whilst the locations and enemies are a bit plain, the style of the game and the world shines through. Voice over is limited to Japanese so get ready to tap your way through some subtitles or hit Triangle for auto-next. As for the soundtrack, well, imagine any anime soundtrack and that’s exactly what’s here.

Much like the other Senran Kagura games you don’t need to be a fan of the genre or the series to ‘get it’, what you really need to be a fan of is anime. The somewhat questionable representation of women, the combination of violence and silliness and the ability to have an entire chapter dedicated to two characters fighting over a plush bear can all be justified and accepted under the guise of ‘anime’. Whilst not the hard genre swerve I’ve come to expect from Senran Kagura recently with it’s cooking rhythm games and super soaker arena shooters, Burst Re:Newal continues the fine tradition of a) having an annoying name and b) being a really solid game that is built around the concept of having fun.