Back in 2013, the first Senran Kagura game made its way to the U.S. in the form of Senran Kagura Burst. It was a 2D side-scrolling action game for the 3DS featuring female shinobi fighting groups of enemies. Around five years later, that title has been reworked into a 3D action game for the PS4. The gameplay is different, but it offers gamers a chance to see where the series started if they missed out on the original.
Senran Kagura Burst Re: Newal, which I’ll refer to as just Senran Kagura to shorten the title a bit, revolves around a group of female friends who are training to become master shinobi. At Hanzo Academy, most of the students go through daily school routines, but there are a select few who secretly attend shinobi classes in hidden areas at the academy. These special students steer clear of the rest of the students so they don’t get curious and start asking questions. After all, shinobi tend to work in the shadows and practice stealth.
The girls that you play as from Hanzo Academy are Asuka, Ikaruga, Katsuragi, Yagyu, and Hibari. Each girl has their own weapon of choice and fighting style. Asuka wields dual katanas to slice through her enemies, Ikaruga stands tall with a long-sword that can cut down her foes, Katsuragi wears metal boots that allow her to deliver powerful kicks and send balls of energy at foes, Yagyu shreds enemies with an umbrella that also fires dark spears, and Hibari flails wildly while accompanied by a stuffed rabbit creature. Combat is simple in that you only have two attack buttons, a dash, a block, and some special moves, but everyone feels unique.
That being said, you’ll most likely find your favorite and least favorite characters to play as quickly. For me, Katsuragi was my favorite to fight as. Asuka, Ikaruga, and Yagyu are fun to smack down enemies with, but Katsuragi just felt better. Something about her using only her feet and delivering intense blows with style drew me to her. Hibari on the other hand, I found to be less useful. I was hoping she’d grow on me, but she feels weaker and not as useful as the other girls. I find that aspect interesting because that’s how she sees herself in the story, so it seems like her fighting style mimics that. She’s adorable and cares about her friends, but I didn’t really like the levels where I had to play as her.
Besides the basics of attack, block, and dash, you also have access to the shinobi transformation. As you do damage, a yellow meter will fill up, and once it fills, a yellow diamond appears under the bar, allowing the bar to fill up again. This caps at three diamonds and a full bar, which is pretty useful. If you have at least one diamond, press L1 and you transform into your shinobi form, so to speak. This transformation is permanent, increases your attack, and allows you to use either of the girl’s special attacks. Pressing L1 and square consumes one diamond to perform your level one special, while pressing L1 and triangle consumes two diamonds to perform your level two special. There’s also a blue meter on the side that fills from dealing damage, and filling it allows you to use your burst. Pressing L2 activates burst, boosting your attack and speed until the bar drains. When the bar fully empties, you perform a special burst attack, or if you want to activate it early, you can press L2 again. This can do a good chunk of damage.
The story is split up into two sides, each with five chapters. One follows the girls at the Hanzo Academy as mentioned above, while the other follows the girls from Hebijo. The missions of each chapter follow a pattern of story-telling, mission setup, and combat. Some missions have a lot of story told through text and images or 3D scenes, while others are short and sweet. The gameplay is reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors; you run around fighting groups of enemies on your way to a specified goal. There are nowhere near as many enemies as that franchise, but the comparison works to a degree. The levels are also pretty short, but it’s nice that they don’t drag on too long. The combat does get repetitive relatively quickly, but if you enjoy a scaled down version of Dynasty Warriors type combat, then you might be happy.
Besides the story, there are also free missions that you unlock as you play through the story chapters. These are essentially the equivalent of side missions, which are a nice break from the main plot. Like many games, you earn money from missions; this money can be used to buy things from the shop such as clothing, accessories, music, images, and videos. The latter three are purely to be enjoyed by the player by looking at their collections. If you want to have fun with the first two, then go to the dressing room. This is where you can alter what each girl wears while you play. You can decide their pre-transformation and post-transformation outfit and accessories. I didn’t care about costumes at first, but after buying some stuff from the shop, I couldn’t help but dress them up. For example, I had Yagyu transform into a pirate outfit, while Ikaruga wore a military uniform.
The game itself is actually a decent length, which will vary depending on how you play, what difficulty to play at, and whether or not you skip the story sections. As a reference, I played around five or six hours before beating the Hanzo Academy story missions on normal. That’s not counting any free missions or the Hebijo story. The soundtrack fits the tone of the game, and even though the voices are only in Japanese, the voice acting seems well done. Don’t worry, there are subtitles and text to go with the vocals. Oh, and there’s plenty of gratuitous skin being shown, although it does censor to a degree.
All in all, Senran Kagura has a wonderful mix of cuteness, charm, and plenty of fan-service. It doesn’t strive to do anything that hasn’t been done before, but it isn’t bad by any means. It offers solid yet repetitive gameplay, a cast of quirky yet endearing characters, and a story that does just enough to make you remember the gist of it. Senran Kagura Burst Re: Newal is a nice introduction into the series for anyone that missed the original when it released in 2013. If you’re looking for a decent game that lets you kick some butt as female shinobi, then this might be worth checking out.
Senran Kagura Burst: ReNewal
Senran Kagura Burst Re: Newal is an interesting remake of a 3DS game from 2013. The combat and visuals have been overhauled to fit the times, but there's nothing ground-breaking. The cute yet tough girls are a treat to play as, even though combat can get repetitive.