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Published September 13, 2018

Up front I’m going to say that this review is potentially Not Safe For Work! Images whilst not offensive to most will at the very least make your boss question what you’re looking at on your work computer…

Senran Kagura is a series that I’ve become weirdly familiar with during my time running Pixelbedlam. Senran Kagura Reflexions is the fourth game in the series I’ve reviewed here and my understanding of the main characters and tropes are becoming more and more prevalent. This has now reached the point where whilst playing Reflexions with my wife Harriet and friend Beth in the room I was able to explain the over arching plot and recurring characters of the series, something I was honestly surprised by. The reason for this is down to how Senran Kagura works as an IP, what started out as mainly brawlers has been expanding it’s reach to now cover genre’s like “Arena Shooter” in the form of Peach Beach Splash and “Cooking Puzzler Rhythm Game” in the form of Bon Appetite. Really at this point when I see Senran Kagura next I’m going to first think of anime girls getting clothes ripped off and then I’m going to assume it’s a kart racer.

Reflexions finally does away with that annoying ‘game’ feature of the previous titles in the series and goes all out on what I can only really describe as an experience, and my god what an experience this was. All of the games have leaned heavy on the visual novel plot delivery and reflexions does this with reckless abandon. The unfortunate side effect of this transition is that the plot that has been decided on is pure David Lynch abstract surrealist erotica. You’re invited to a class room to meet Asuka, the protagonist of all of the series, the Ryu if you will, and she explains that she wants to feel close to you and to do that you need to give her a hand massage. Reflexions requires many play throughs for a multitude of reasons but the main one being is that on your first run this is just simply confusing. The hand massage, and the following scenarios, actually does a great job of justifying being on the Switch and also a genuine advertisement for the innovative technology inside the Joy Cons. Whilst you pick and finger or a palm to focus on Asuka will show pleasure or uncomfortable at your choice. If you pick a particular finger you’ll then be taken into one of Asuka’s day dreams where she is, I guess, role playing a particular character. On your second play through you’ll be shown a though bubble showing what scenario if you have a particular favourite to experience but on run number one you’ll be kind of bemused by this obscure level select.

At this point I must question the choices of ‘scenes’. Each is a one act play in its own right, needing only the tiniest bit of explanation before you get down to the brunt of the game. They range from a Volleyball player needing a massage post work out to a tutor wanting a rub down for you doing well in your test. The skeeziest comes from the little sister scenario that I guess could be played off as innocent but when anyone over a certain age sees this all play out there’s no other question on the mind other than ‘is this slash fiction? am I playing out the fantasies of fans that wrote in to the producers?’.

Once you’re in and past the porn film levels of exposition you reach the actual game, each character you’re involved with has areas they like to be rubbed and areas they’re not as into, each is represented by a spectrum of colour indicating the levels of pleasure. You must find your area of choice and then using either motion controls or button pressed manipulate the area with rubs, grabs or amazingly slaps. Playing this in a room with two females led me to wonder if I had been doing massages wrong before now, but judging by their wincing faces as Asuka’s chest got slapped I’m guessing I’m not the worst option.

Once a hidden meter reaches it’s limit your then taken to a special mode where Asuka assumes a position and you work your magic on a particular limb with your weapon of choice. If you chose hands you work the thigh, if you chose the spiked roller you work the back of the leg and if you chose the hair brush you rub it on the arm like you’re grooming your horse before the dressage event begins. The mini game here is to not do the massage too hard or too soft and instead keep her pleasure in the middle whilst filling a bar within the time limit. The climax to this is a brief exclamation from Asuka before she collapses in ecstasy from an awesome massage well done. Good job me.

Each run through the game will entail about 5 scenarios, at the end of every scene the colour you achieved with your pre-massage will fill a crystal, the colour of the final crystal will dictate which ending you experience with Asuka and her classroom hand holding massage that she snaps back to between levels. On every completion of the game a locket fills with a piece of a photo and if you finish the game 5 times you’ll be shown a final ‘true’ ending that explains how this, barely, fits into the wider Senran Kagura game series.

The animation work in the game is quite strong considering all the moving parts at play, only minor problems like hair clipping through a face occurs. On each completion you unlock costume pieces and new hair styles for you to dress Asuka in for the following run, or alternatively to play with in the mini-reflexions menu option that does away with any semblance of plot and instead just goes all out on ‘here’s Asuka, put your floating hands to use’. The music is typically anime and fits the world and style well and the voice acting is as strong as ever in this series.

There’s a certain naivety you have to have in mind whilst playing Reflexions, if you think too hard about any one element you’re going to feel, odd. Thankfully playing with a couple of friends in a safe environment knowing what the game is and being an anime fan meant that despite all its issues with tone, and potential decency issues with the little sister scenes, I had a really fun time with Senran Kagura Reflexions. It’s thinly veiled pervy fun, it’s like the vast majority of anime, there’s layers to this game that if you weren’t familiar with Japanese media and manga you may be, rightly in your view, offended. But go in with the right mindset, be an anime fan and be open minded and you can have a blast with this experience on the Switch.