Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash Review (PS4)

Most folks will probably look at Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash as merely fanservice anime trash and that’s a shame as it’s actually a lot more than that. It is a surprisingly solid third-person multiplayer shooter with a wonderfully innovative and addictive upgrade system that is a total blast to play. There’s tons of ridiculous gravity defying bouncy fanservice too, of course, but that’s just the icing on the already delicious gameplay cake. I get it that some people won’t like it due to the fanservice, and that’s fine, but fans of the franchise and cheesecake anime in general will find a lot to love about Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. Continue reading our full PS4 review for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: XSEED, Marvelous
  • Developer: Tamsoft
  • ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
  • Genre: Shooter
  • Pros: Fanservice, duh; great gameplay mechanics; fascinating upgrade / loadout system; tons of content; nice presentation
  • Cons: Ridiculous amounts of DLC already; fanservice spoils the pacing now and then; bad subtitles font
  • MSRP: $50
The story in Peach Beach Splash is about a mysterious power that transports all of the Senran Kagura girls to a tropical island where they are asked to participate in an ancient ritual – a water gun combat tournament. Sounds dumb? Of course it does! But that is honestly the strength of the Senran Kagura franchise overall. The franchise started as a serious tale about rival ninja schools but it has turned into a much more light hearted, silly, and fun excuse to show fanservice and just be nonsensical. There is still ultimately a greater deep dark evil they’re all fighting, but the focus is generally on fun and games. I’m a fan.

Peach Beach Splash is loaded to the brim with content for both single player and online multiplayer. The story mode takes place over four arcs – one for each school’s set of main characters – and beating all four unlocks an additional arc that ties everything together. There is also a series of side story episodes you can play through that focus on particularly silly stuff. And there is a V-Road Tournament mode where you play through increasingly tough opponents with no story at all. Beating the story modes and tournaments unlocks additional characters, outfits, accessories, and more. There are also practice and free play modes that you can set up and play however you want. And, of course, you can also play the game online against human opponents too.

Playing all of the modes earns you in-game currency and card packs. Currency can be used in the in-game shop to buy new outfits, hairstyles, and accessories as well as artwork and other stuff. The card packs are the most interesting part of Peach Beach Splash, though, because they are the core of the game’s upgrade and loadout system. Before each match you can equip your girl with a set of cards to determine their different abilities. You have to equip a weapon card – water gun versions of pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers, gatling guns, and more –, pet cards that are sort of like little familiars that help you fight, and ability cards that give you shields, replenish your health, shoot out powerful projectiles, or activate buffs / debuffs. There are a couple hundred cards to discover, which means there is an almost limitless amount of customization options to make your character, and entire team, play exactly how you want. It is really a smartly designed and well-executed system overall.

Check out our Senran Kagura: Estival Versus PS4 review

You can also upgrade the cards in your deck through another unique system. Any new cards you find are permanently available (they don’t go away when you use them) while duplicate cards can be spent to upgrade the cards you already have. Card upgrades are not character specific so you don’t have to upgrade everything separately for each individual character (which would take freaking forever since there are dozens). Upgrading cards has a noticeable impact so it is a very rewarding system that keeps you motivated to play and collect more cards because it actually makes a big difference. This upgrade system also carries over to online play, which means you had better have a fully maxed out deck because everyone you play against is probably going to be crazy powerful.

The actual gameplay in Peach Beach Splash is remarkably mechanically sound. It is a fast-paced third-person-shooter that, despite the wildly different subject matter and intended audiences, feels remarkably like Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare or Splatoon. It is relatively relaxed and laid back and just fun instead of being super serious like most other shooters. PBS also has some fantastic movement options such as a water-assisted rocket jump and a super speed run that allow you to get around the arenas fairly quickly. The movement options feel really good and stringing together jumps and dashes and reloading in mid air and flying around and doing all sorts of crazy stuff is just awesome. You’d never expect it looking from the outside in, but Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash actually has great gameplay.

Since this is a Senran Kagura game I suppose I should also talk about the fanservice. You should be able to look at screenshots or videos and tell if you like the aesthetic or not, but it’s a game full of generously endowed cute anime girls of all shapes and sizes running around in swimsuits blasting each other with water. Their bouncing breasts defy the laws of physics and it is all totally over the top and gratuitous and ridiculous. You can also dress all of the characters up in a ton of different swimsuits and other outfits, change their hair, and give them all sorts of accessories. I like it.

I don’t like certain aspects of it, though; as some things are just so unnecessarily lewd and humiliating that it is sort of hard to watch. For example, when a main character gets knocked out in battle you can run over and do a “Squirmy Finish” where you shoot them in the face or butt or boobs with a water gun until you blast their clothes off. This has a gameplay benefit, as it recharges your power meters faster and is even necessary in certain gameplay modes (like Kill Confirmed in COD), but it is so over the top and embarrassing that it isn’t even fun to watch. Before you even do a Squirmy Finish, right at the moment when a character is knocked out, the camera zooms in to a close up slo-mo “Oh I’m so embarrassed” shot of the girl that is just stupid. These features spoil the pacing of the game a bit, too, because it is constantly stopping mid-battle to show you something lewd. The game is already sexy and fanservic-y enough. Squirmy Finishes and gratuitous slo-mo are just unnecessary. Oh, and you can also grope the girls in the dressing room like playing with Mario’s face at the beginning of Super Mario 64. Yeah.

I have a couple of other complaints as well. First, the font used during story cutscenes is awful. It’s too small to comfortably read and the color is too light so it blends into the background. Come on, get your fonts right! My second complaint is that there is a ridiculous amount of DLC for the game already out with even more planned. I do feel like there is plenty of content in the game already to justify the $50 asking price, but having hundreds of dollars of DLC immediately after launch is kind of nuts.

The presentation in Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is quite nice overall. The game has kind of a soft look to it and there isn’t a huge amount of detail in the environments, but it looks good. The girls look fantastic as well and the animation is nice. Sound wise the game features only Japanese language audio, which is fine, and the sound effects are solid. The soundtrack is also pretty great and full of catchy pop / rock tunes that matches the action well.

All in all, Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a very enjoyable third-person multiplayer shooter that fans of the franchise, and anyone else looking for a laid back new shooter and won’t mind the fanservice, will have a great time with. It looks great, plays great, has tons of content for both solo and online play, and is just a solid package overall. For anime fans, Senran Kagura fans, and fanservice aficionados – Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is worth a look. Buy it. 
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.