7.5
Our overall verdict "bronze"

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Pulled into a parallel dimension where the spirits of dead Shinobi live, Ryobi and Ryoni come face to face with their beloved and dearly departed sister. But it’s not just them. Girls from four Shinobi academies are brought together to face their dead loved ones and each other in a battle of strength and fighting prowess. Unsheathe your swords, unbutton your blouses and get ready to skewer and flash each other. Senran Kagura Estival Versus is a saucy fighting game that’s not only worth a giggle but is also a surprisingly fine fighter.

In Senran Kagura Estival Versus you will be facing off against either your Shinobi sisters or hordes of enemies. Fights are sometimes one-on-one, two-on-two or one or two against a wave of vicious foes in a Dynasty or Hyrule Warriors style. Don’t expect Link to show up at any point though. The poor lad would probably go blind. As you wear your opponents down you also de-robe them, and they can do the same to you. Dresses tear, jeans rip, bras pop open and if you’re unfortunate enough to die in the middle of a frenzy transformation you could end up completely starkers. Yes, there are boobs everywhere. Big ones that defy gravity. If you can make your peace with that, you’ve got a very nice fighter to look forward to.

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The game eases you into the world at a good pace, teaching you the basics as the early missions play out. You’ll learn about basic attacks and aerial attacks. As the game goes on it will teach you how to use objects, run up walls to attack from above and how to transform. Transforming into your Shinobi form allows the character to use their warrior abilities and it is accompanied by a short cut scene that involves producing a sacred scroll from somewhere naughty and transforming into a different outfit. In more desperate times, particularly if you’ve got a timer running low, your character can choose to enter Frenzy Mode where she will strip down to only the essentials and become much more powerful but at a great cost to defence.

The key to succeeding in Estival Versus is the combo. Different techniques don’t take long to learn, but putting them together is a bit of an art form. What you may initially mistake as a silly button-basher is actually rather deep, and even on the easy difficulty setting if you don’t take the time to learn and practice you’re going to feel like you’re only scraping by. Know your enemies and know your own powers because that’s when Estival Versus comes alive.

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Missions initially play through in a story mode. The game is essentially part battle ‘em up part visual novel. Between each battle will be a piece of the story told from the different perspectives of each academy and each girl. It’s a great roster of characters and fighters, each with their own look and personality. Voices are in Japanese and on the whole they’re pretty good, although one character’s constant “oooooh” got on my nerves after a while. No other complaints, though. The story is intriguing and engaging, pushing the game along rather than merely filling in gaps between fights.

Once a battle stage has been cleared with the character specific to that setting, the stage unlocks for freeplay at any time with any character of your choice. Great for levelling up or just practicing with a single character to learn their moves and restrictions. Each character feels remarkably different, each with their own skillsets, advantages and disadvantages, and the fun part is trying them all out to see which ones fit your playstyle best. Sometimes the attraction towards a character will be pretty much instant. Can’t go wrong with the gal carrying a sword so big Cloud Strife would blush.

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If you want to get to know the girls even better, I suggest you visit their dressing room. Accessible from the main menu, the Dressing Room allows you to dress the characters in different outfits, choose different accessories, hair styles, lingerie, facial expression and poses. When you’re done with that you can view each character close up and with the help of the Vita’s touchscreen you can, erm, touch them. Certain body parts can be manipulated, skirts can be lifted and each girl can then be given a light spanking. This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of green tea, but fans of this clothes-removing genre should be pleased. You also have access to the Shop where you can buy further items for the characters with currency earned in-game.

Performance on the PS4 and PS Vita is spot on with no issues. It always amazes me how much the Vita can handle and Senran Kagura Estival Versus is certainly asking a lot as it’s really quite image and cut-scene heavy. The Vita copes in glorious style, however, with no framerate dips or glitches. It’s a beautiful game and as naughty as some of the transformation and clothes-tearing scenes are, it’s all very impressive.

Conclusion

While a game that centres on the undressing of young ladies isn’t going to be for everyone, fans of the genre and the series should be delighted. Battles are big and beautiful with intricate combos that feel good once you can smoothly pull them off. Supporting the action is a worthy visual novel with a story that’s as intriguing as it is amusing. If you can get past the boobs (figuratively) Senran Kagura Estival Versus is a great hack and slash battle ‘em up.

S J Hollis Rating – 7.5/10

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S J Hollis

S J Hollis has been a keen gamer since the Atari 2600. She freely admits she thought E.T. was a good game but would like to stress her tastes have since dramatically improved. She is also an author, a morning person and thinks Elf ears are sexy. Follow her on twitter @SJHollis_