Thanks to XSEED Games for the review code
Title: Senran Kagura Burst Renewal
System: Steam (PC)
Release Date: 01/22/2019
In this remake of the very first Senran Kagura title, you take control of characters from two rival schools, as they set out to defeat evil ninja threats! Previously on SFG, we covered Reflexions, a game that was very uh, not good. So, how does this mainline game play? Well, considering the length of time it took me to get around to writing this, maybe that’s the first hint…
Originally, Senran Kagura Burst was a 3DS belt scroller, so this game is quite a step up from that debut title, taking the gameplay away from the belt scroller perspective and into a 3D arena for Warriors-style gameplay. Thus, while it is a remake, the entire game got a genre shift in the process. You have decent looking stages with a variety of enemies and rival ninja characters to take on, but as is the usual with these sorts of games everything starts to look samey and basic real, real quick. The game does throw in a VN-esque cutscene with text on static images occasionally to detail more plot, which I feel worked better than most of the pre-stage scenes that used 3D models.
Inbetween stages at least you get to interact with one of the two ninja schools you chose for the campaign, allowing you to do other modes with the girls on each of them including some rather stupid ones. Yes, if you liked the insanity that was Senran Kagura Reflexions, some of that sort of “humor” is present in this hub, with some content even exclusive to this Steam version.
Nothing gets AO by any means, but it does become laughably obvious that a ton of the budget and effort of this game was put into these silly modes than the core experience, and I honestly am unsure how to feel about that. Needless to say, if you don’t care for that stuff then this will get old real quick, but is thankfully optional for the most part.
As for the music, nothing here really clicks one way or the other outside of a couple of high-energy stage themes here and there. Most of the other parts of the score went in one ear, out the other, with the voice clips coming off as more attention grabbing and repetitive, since you’ll be hearing a lot of them as you hack and slash throughout the many stages and many waves of enemies. Nothing more to note here, really.
Senran Kagura Burst Renewal, as noted above is a Warriors style game, and that means you pick a character and enter stages to clear certain objectives, usually revolving around you running in a condensed arena and beating the shit out of enemies. You have a light attack, a strong attack, and meters to fill to give you a special ability, and shocker, using the Shinobi Transformation from said special ability rips the clothes off your character in comical fashion.
Having played on both my laptop and Steam Deck, the game managed to run decently on both, and this PC port does come with a decent amount of visual options, and even can be made to run at 60FPS on the Steam Deck, which feels great. Of course, this is a bigger battery drain for that platform, and to be blunt, 30FPS doesn’t really feel like that much of a downgrade, so pick the options that feel best for your computer. Regardless, you’ll be doing a lot of hacking and slashing, but with little of the fun or depth that a Warriors game provides.
See, not only do you have the Hanzo school, but also the Hebijo school, and each has their own campaign, with Hebijo being the harder of the two. I alternated between them, and yeah, Hanzo definitely feels like a much more easygoing campaign, but even on the harder school, this game quickly becomes apparent in just how dull the gameplay loop is: Each school’s tale is broken up into chapters, and they consist of their own set of stages. Sometimes they revolve around a silly plot where one of the girls has to prove themselves against a horde of enemies, while other times it leads to them dueling one another or the rival school in a focused, one on one battle. Whichever the case, nothing really is able to be taken seriously, and the game seems very self aware of that.
Luckily each character does play differently and has their own techniques to take advantage of, with Ikaruga being the girl I gravitated the most toward due to her longer weapon, and while the story does set you on a default, laughably impossible to lose one star difficulty for the stages, you can up it to three stars and play a much more difficult take on a level if you find the lower difficulty too boring. While I didn’t really enjoy this much at all in the stages focused on hordes of enemies, (since it makes the already boring, longer levels of a chapter even more tedious to go through) I definitely had way more fun turning up the difficulty on the boss stages. Going from an AI that hardly counters your attacks to one that requires that you parry and dodge to take advantage of an opening makes those stages much more exciting, and easily the highlight of the game. Honestly, if more of Renewal were like the boss stages and more focused on singular duels with less repetition, I would definitely have been able to click with it a lot more, since once a boss stage is done and you move onto the next bit of plot, it’s back to more boring, horde enemy stages for a bit before things get exciting.
Eventually, you’ll also upgrade other aspects such as each character’s Yang Mastery, and gaining enough funds to purchase accessories, gallery content, and clothing for the team, so while the story does railroad you on the characters at first (making you play as the characters the mission’s plot demands until you clear it once and replay it by skipping the story), you’ll at least be able to use that repetitiveness to fundraise any silly design stuff you may want to goof off with.
Still, while the gameplay is basic and easy to get into, and has some fun highlights and enjoyable characters, there is another aspect to this game that uh, I definitely see another type of crowd going to this game for more than any of the aspects I mentioned above. Yes, as I noted earlier, you can purchase accessories and other pieces for the girls at the schools, and decorate them as you wish, pre and post transformation. These can be used during the actual stages, so even if you just want to say, give Asuka a green skirt instead of her default one, you can go right on ahead. With plenty of customization options, I can totally see the idea of trying to obtain every last accessory as a tempting option for fans of the series.
Then there’s the intimacy mode. Unlike the last Senran Kagura game I reviewed here, this thankfully isn’t the entire game. Like before, you can mess around with all the playable characters to your liking, and you even get creepy looking hands to do so. It was cut from the PS4 version in the west, and to be brutally honest it wouldn’t be missed by me one bit if that was the case in this Steam version: the whole mode just comes off as weird and a completely pointless addition where that time could have been better spent to enhance the core gameplay, perhaps focusing on more outfits and customization. Still, this is the port to get if causing chaos is your weird thing.
In conclusion, Senran Kagura Burst Renewal is a strange time. For newcomers like myself, the game is an OK starting point that explains a very basic story, even if it ditches the 2.5D belt scroller aspects of the original to become just another Warriors clone. Unfortunately, the gameplay is very repetitive just like those titles, and it doesn’t even have much if any of the fun sort of depth that makes a Warriors title fun to dive into, with only the boss fights being the highlight for me that I actually really enjoyed. It otherwise does the bare minimum essentials with gameplay, runs great on Steam Deck, and seems to be focused more on being horny than adding variety to the core game, which honestly just makes me question why they didn’t do more to shake things up and make the stages between bosses more fun and engaging.
Sure, it’s amusing for a little bit to beat the heck out of goofy enemies with your favorite ninja girl, but after a while that gets old, real old, and poor timing of this release with my 2019 hiatus aside, I honestly feel that even other Warriors clones I’ve played in the past were a lot more engaging and funny, at that. If you’re all in for this cast of characters, you probably already own the game by now, but if you’re like me and just assume this will be a fun ninja game with a lot of stuff to do, well, be prepared for a lot of repetition. I hear Deep Crimson is a much better game, so maybe I’ll give that a spin if it gets a similar remake, hopefully done without as much repetition.
I give Senran Kagura Burst Renewal a 5 out of 10.