Tamsoft return to the series roots with a remastering of the very first game which arrived on the 3DS back in 2011. Now with updated visuals and some extra gameplay quirks, Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal makes its mark on PS4 and PC.
In a nutshell, Burst tells the origin stories of the two ninja schools for girls, that’s the
Hanzō Academy and Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy. Players select either school at the start of the game where the Hanzo option is set aside for beginners and the Hebijo for advanced players. It doesn’t really matter which you choose however, the Hebijo school offers increased challenge. In each school players assume the role of the five students throughout a story campaign set over five chapters. The story presents itself via text, speech and animated scenes. Additional free missions unlock as well as the option to replay each mission with different characters and an increase or reduction in difficulty. To top things off, players choose from two styles of play (which level up with gained experience or item) with a tougher frantic option set aside for accomplished combatants.
Missions comprise of standard hack-and-slash gameplay against plentiful dumb opponents in boxed in maps. Players can move around the 3D space but generally little deviation from the set path the game wants you to take. Interestingly as part of the story, players face off against other members of the school in deadly one-on-on bouts. These challenge the player to learn the basic combos and attacks, but also special moves and countering system.
As with the original release the girl AI opposition transforms into their ninja form once a set amount of health depletes. This grants them a replenished health bar and additional special attacks. It’s quite frustrating and predictable, drawing out fights longer than they need. In the 3DS version at least with correct timing it’s possible to counter this. However, transformation boosting works both ways and is a valid tactic if (on tougher settings) your character takes a bit of a beating and needs a top up. Levelling up during bouts also refills the health bar which comes in handy in tougher fights.
During the transformation, players view a neat (skippable) mini-cutscene showcasing the girl changing her outfit, with close-ups of jiggling butts and boobs. It’s tongue-in-cheek Japanese humour which might not sit well with all western audiences. Any parent for example watching a teenager playing might believe the colourful graphics appear “kiddie” and suitable viewing. However, the transformation scenes could create an unwelcome reaction from conservative parents.
Aside from the story, free and training missions, players dress up the girls in unlockable outfits, accessories and uniforms. A dressing room option allows interaction and posing with each character – including diorama options for group shots. It’s a great option for customising the girls looks to your liking and with new skin tone options means tanned skin tone is featured (as seen in Estival Versus). Playing dress up is standard fare for the Senran Kagura games and here is no different.
In terms of visuals and audio, the anime style translates well on PS4 and PC with bold colours and smooth 60 fps gameplay. The PC version hosts more options to tinker with but allows for 4K resolutions which look great. The only real negative here is the camera and lock-on making for jarring moments at times. The general overhaul is improved greatly from the 3DS original despite retaining simple enemy models at times and brings the game’s visuals up to par with the recent Estival Versus.
Audio is in Japanese with English subtitles and overflows with character, funny dialogue and potential tear jerking moments. It’s all good here wrapped up in pleasant tunes to fight alongside. Despite the language barrier, it’s quite easy to fathom each of the girls distinct personality thanks to the excellent script.
Players take on 41 missions for each school during the story and then several free missions. Coupled with three levels of difficulty, hidden scroll to find and replay with different characters racks up the hours. However, those who want to skip the story could complete the campaign quite quickly especially if accomplished using the frantic mode option. Here it’s possible to beat each mission in under a minute – do the math. That said, the story is a big part of the experience and skipping it on a first play would mean missing out on a large part of the game.
So, is Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal worth a look in especially with newer titles which offer more characters and spin-off gameplay (looking at Bon-Appetite and Peach Beach Splash)? Yes, if you’re a fan wishing to relive the handheld glory on the big screen, and wish to own a complete collection (assume the next game in the series converts as well). It is light on characters though which might bother some players expecting more content especially given the £35 price tag. All in, this is fun game to play predominantly for fans of the series. As an introduction to the characters and the premise of the two schools it’s also pretty neat. However, if curiosity gets the better of you as a newcomer then one of the other games Shinovi or Estival Versus offers more content and a cheaper price of entry.