The Senran Kagura videogame series has been around for a few years now, amassing a fan base all over the world. Its popularity has seen the series spawn various manga adaptations, along with an anime TV series – there has even been a spin-off game that involved cooking. There is something about the Senran Kagura series that makes it quite popular. I suppose it could be one of two things; either the slightly above average side scrolling beat ‘em up action or the fact that gameplay involves stripping down female ninjas to their underwear. For the most part I’m guessing it’s the latter, though fortunately that isn’t all there is to Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson; it still manages to be a pretty decent game.
The narrative follows on from the game’s predecessor, ‘Senran Kagura Burst’; two rival Shinobi Academies, Hanzo and Hebijo, are locked in battle – the Hanzo Academy are considered the good guys and the Hebijo Academy the villains. Whilst the rivalry of the Shinobi Academies is a continued theme with Senran Kagura, Deep Crimson expands upon this with a greater threat; Dougen, the evil boss of the Hebijo Academy, is attempting to use the power of Youma to summon evil demons to cause chaos in Japan. This is a threat to both Academies, requiring them to put their differences aside and work together to stop Dougen.
The story never really gets too exciting; it’s full of clichés that don’t develop into anything too captivating. That being said, it’ll certainly keep you entertained throughout the roughly ten hour campaign, especially with the conversations you witness between characters; though incredibly bizarre (one character isn’t shy to share her love for bean sprouts, another for her big breasts) they’re usually very entertaining to read. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, something especially evident in these character interactions, and that’s both good and bad depending on what you are looking for with the game. Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson isn’t for fans of a strong narrative so if your looking for a rich, in-depth story which fully explores character’s relationships then it isn’t for you. On the other hand if you want something that’s a bit of fun and humorous then you’ll enjoy what it has to offer.
The main story mode of the game sees you controlling one of ten different characters as they work through bite-size style missions. The beat ‘em up nature of the game means there’ll be plenty of enemies to defeat along the way, be it rival shinobi or the demons that have been summoned.
The fighting is decent with each character controlling differently; there’s a clear sense of individuality with the characters and you’ll have established a favourite to control by the end. Whilst it plays well though it’s all very basic, your main abilities being light attacks, heavy attacks or jumping. There is no dodging or blocking in the game so if you get stuck in an enemy combo it’s just a case of waiting it out until you’re free to attack again.
After connecting with a certain amount of attacks you gain access to stronger ‘scroll’ moves – powerful, signature moves that are performed by holding the shoulder button as you attack. These are much more powerful and can get you out of a few tricky situations. Whilst they don’t add a lot extra to diversify the combat, they will at least spare you from the constant button-mashing of light or heavy attacks.
Despite the simplicity of it all the fighting does have enjoyable elements; I particularly found trying to rack up as high a combo as possible very enjoyable, my personal best close to 700 hits. You can also level up your characters. For the most part this didn’t seem to matter too much as the leveling up from playing the story was adequate – some of the later stages will require a bit of grinding if you’re going to succeed though, the bosses in particular hitting a big difficulty spike.
New to Deep Crimson are the pair battles that allow you to complete missions with a partner. These missions introduce an extra combo system that allows you to perform joint attacks and give instructions to your partner. Whilst not available in every mission, it’s a neat little feature that spices up combat. You’re able to swap between characters on the fly too; pretty useful if one of your characters is down to low health. Most importantly though is that pair battles can be played multiplayer – scrolling beat ‘em ups have always had an affinity with multiplayer so it’s great you’re able to enjoy it with a friend, or even a stranger online.
You’ll get through levels fairly quickly in the game; on average a level lasts between two to five minutes. It’s always a linear path through the level and there’s no real objectives aside from defeat any enemies in your path. The level designs are basic too, not offering much character or variety. In fact, some stage designs are repeated in different missions in the game. There’s not a shortage of story missions in the game so it’s not a surprise that levels repeat, it just seems a little lazy – especially when they are so short.
Despite the main levels feeling the same, they do typically end in a more entertaining boss battle. Whilst these boss fights are normally a straight forward battle against one of your rival shinobi, there are a few exceptions where you fight against huge demons. These are the most entertaining battles in the game – they require a bit more thinking by player, something that is missing throughout the standard missions. The demons are well designed and a bit more creative with their attack patterns. Be warned though; some are extremely bizarre – one boss battle has you battling a giant demon’s pair of detached breasts. It’s utterly insane, but it all adds to Deep Crimson’s crazy entertainment.
Besides the main story mode the game also offers extra challenges: the ‘Yoma’s Nest’ challenge mode and special missions.
‘Yoma’s Nest’ sees you working down a pyramid of levels, each level offering different challenges that get progressively more difficult. They’re fairly simple but entertaining, especially since you’re able to work through them solo or as a team.
The special missions have a bit more variety, having you complete special requirements in order to complete the mission. There is plenty of variety; some have you using only aerial attacks whilst others have you destroying as many objects as possible. It really adds variety to the gameplay and forces you to play differently to the norm, so they’re an enjoyable diversion.
There is plenty of content to unlock with the game – there are outfits, music, illustrations and videos. You also unlock additional characters upon completion of the main story. The developers certainly weren’t lazy with content, so there’s plenty for you to do in the game.
The aesthetics are a slightly mixed bag, although never bad by any means. The character models are especially great – almost looking direct out of an anime. The cartoon style looks fantastic on the 3DS and along with being animated fluidly, are some of the best graphics I’ve seen on the platform. The same can be said for the illustrations in the story sequences; a lot of work has clearly gone into developing the strong graphic style.
Unfortunately the levels are just bland. There seems to be no creativity with their design; no level feels truly unique or unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s a shame, especially considering the high standard of the graphic design in other areas of the game.
Deep Crimson’s sound design is fantastic with heavy guitar riffs playing along the background, along with more peaceful tunes in some of the narrative driven parts of the game. It’s mostly hectic and entertaining though, the composers doing a really good job. The Japanese voice overs for the characters are appreciated, offering a more authentic experience. Some may be slightly disappointed there isn’t an English option though.
Whilst it’s been touched upon earlier in the review, I feel it’s necessary to speak about the more obscene areas of the game. A core element of the gameplay in the Senran Kagura series is the revealing of women’s bodies – attacks often end in clothing getting torn with flesh on show. Fortunately, it really isn’t as bad as it sounds; there is never full nudity in the game and nothing even borderlines on pornographic. The game almost seems to be making fun of it self at times; there are plenty of perverse comments made by characters in the game and the size of characters breasts feels somewhat exaggerated (the physics are insane too; I’m surprised some of the character haven’t given themselves black eyes). It’s either the developers poking fun at themselves, or that they consider their target audience teenage boys. Either way, it doesn’t take anything away from the game and if it’s something you can’t look past then the Senran Kagura series isn’t for you. It’s just a shame that it’s on a portable console; you probably won’t want to be seen playing the game in public…
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson knows what it is; a simple, side scrolling beat ‘em up with slightly perverse elements. It doesn’t try to hide from that fact, often making fun of itself. Besides that though is a game that has a lot going for it with its often fantastic graphics, its exciting soundtrack and bizarrely entertaining interactions between characters. Unfortunately the poor level design and often uninspired combat stops it being more than above average. Whilst the pros do outweigh the cons, the cons are enough to not be able to recommend Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson as a must buy game. If you’re a fan of the series and what it offers though, pick it up now – you’ll have a great time.
– Great character designs and graphics
– Plenty of content in the game
– Entertaining interactions between characters
– Uninspired level design
– Combat is very simple, at times boring
– Not enough variety
Format Review: Nintendo 3DS