So it’s time for my bi-annual talking about Senran Kagura, I refuse to capitalise the entire name. At some point when I know a new one is coming out I can guess a number of elements of the game, Asuka and the other ninja school girls will be jiggling their way across my screen in a way that originally I was kind of creeped by but now I’m desensitised to, I can also assume that their clothes get torn when they lose and finally I know that the story is going to be bat poop weird. But one thing I can never predict is the genre of the game. I have played and completed 5 or so of these games now, I haven’t even completed that many Call of Duty’s. We’ve had standard brawlers, the bread and butter of the series, there was the team arena shooter with water pistols, the cooking game and last year we had the ‘lets stop with this pretence’ game of Reflections that was all about massaging the girls in various costumes and scenarios. Well damn, I wish I could say I called it when I say the latest is a pinball game but nope, didn’t have a clue.
For the uninitiated Senran Kagura is a series that supposedly has lots of spin offs but to be honest I’m confused as to what’s cannon and what isn’t at this point. The core concept is rival ninja schools that teach teenage girls to murder. The characters remain the same throughout the majority of the series and tick off pretty much every anime trope you could require; brave hero, ditsy big boobed girl, deadpan straight girl, head in the clouds dreamer and everything else you could want. It’s sad to say but you’re basically being given a car showroom of women each game to pick your ‘type’ and then enjoy some jiggle physics.
As reductive as that is that isn’t to say there isn’t a story in Peach Ball, there is, but it may be the weirdest justification for the genre change I’ve seen yet. Peach Beach Splash had a weird reality TV show thing running through it and Reflextions was all a day dream but strap in because we’re hopping on the crazy train for Peach Ball.
There’s a fighting tournament at an arcade, one of the women working their creates an elixir that turns people into animals. One of the students mistakes the elixir, that was left on a shelf in a bathroom, for a bottle of hand soap and then starts to turn into a dog, she then licks and touches other girls turning them into a bear, a tanooki, a cat and a bunny. They all then scatter to the winds forgetting their human selves. They are one by one brought back to the arcade where the owner has turned a pinball machine into some sort of Glade Plugin that emits the antidote but to get the furries into prime cure zone you must beat them at pinball.
So that’s the plot of Senran Kagura Peach Ball.
It’s delivered through Japanese voiced visual novel style with some animation to show off the jiggles. Now I realise this seems like I’ve been dunking on the game for the past 4 paragraphs but the honest truth is that I love this. The simple fact that I’ve been watching what is essentially the most eclectic anthology series where only characters remain but setting and plot doesn’t is wonderful. We don’t trash Blackadder for the same foibles.
When we hit the game-play however we do hit some problems. On the most part the actual pinball moment to moment plays well, you have a choice between heavy and light balls and the physics feel mostly right, but with just two tables to play on, with just day/evening/night modes to change the aesthetics, it is quite easy to get into a bit of a routine with them. I’ve never really been someone to chase high scores and when i’m the only person on my Switch playing this it does mean that I’m competing with myself. The elements of the tables are fun and there’s rails and pits as you would expect to find in any table after the 70’s.
‘But Ruaidhri’ I hear you cry, ‘how do they make pinball sexy and/or unsettling?’. Well it’s simple, in the centre of each table is one of the ladies you’re trying to save, you must complete objects that fill the right of the screen, like hit this item 3 times, and you’ll weaken her. Once weakened you need to smack the ball into her to trigger a Sexy Challenge (their words not mine). On a new mini-game table you must complete a challenge like hit a mini ice cream van or spinning parasols. Once you have hit it enough you get a cut-scene showing ice cream falling over your lady of choice. It’s exactly as it sounds.
Do a couple of these challenges and you get a Super Sexy Challenge (again not my words) and this time you’re in the end game. The ladies chest or butt of the lady is set to get pummelled by a multi-ball onslaught. You build up a point multiplier each time the balls bounce off their ladies skin and then the final challenge is using the Joy-Cons to rhythmically slap the chest or butt to keep the score multiplier in the 10x zone. This all then climaxes with a final animation showing the animal personal falling away leaving an undressed ninja school attendee prone trying to hide.
As with every Senran Kagura game you will earn money and items for the always unashamedly creepy diorama room where you can dress up your ladies, put props in their hands or wherever and you and just swivel a camera round to your hearts content. I always use this to produce what closest resembles a Jack the Ripper crime scene but that probably says more about me than the game.
I feel every one of these Senran Kagura reviews has to have the same context thrown in. You know what you’re getting into with these games, if you’re into anime and I’d say just on the fun side of the line of pervy then you’re going to get enjoyment out of this. Thankfully, like every time i review a Senran game, my wife sat in on my play time and even she was enjoying the show. It’s a spectacle, it’s fun and it’s something you don’t want anyone to see you play lest they know you well already. The story is crazy, the game-play is fine, nothing special but as a whole package, like the other games, it really is something you should play just to see what it is.