Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson Review (3DS)
Not so much?
If you’re interested in the gameplay and story, you can find better elsewhere. If you’re interested in ogling little anime girls, then you’re not reading this; you already pre-ordered it.
OK let’s open with the elephant in the room. Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson shamelessly objectifies its characters. Schoolgirls, no less – with breast-to-waist ratios that don’t conform to boring old realism or physics – fighting in outfits gleamed from the wet dreams of a 14-year-old. During gameplay clothes are ripped off and the game effectively pauses and zooms in for you to appreciate the wobbly female bits. It’s designed purely to appeal to the sexual gratification of 15-year-old boys, but with a PEGI 16 rating anyone of legal age anticipating this game is provably a terrible person. Deep Crimson follows shinobi students from different schools teaming up against ‘yoma’ demons and villains. The plot is a mess and without so much as a consistent MacGuffin to follow throughout. Text boxes take up a huge amount of time, which is pretty standard for a Japanese anime game, but unlike games that do it right like Phoenix Wright there is no incentive to read it. Each chapter has very little to do with the last, and whatever story you do pick up has zero impact on the gameplay. By the end of the second chapter expect to be skipping all the dialogue as quickly as possible since it will almost certainly be some inconsequential exposition about friendship, backstory or tits.
Almost all of the dialogue is characters outright describing their motivations and personalities, including one (school)girl who characterizes herself as obsessed with breasts, as the designers project themselves into another element of the game. There’s an underlying homosexual tone with the characters but not in any sort of progressive way. Every aspect is designed to accommodate misguided male sexual fantasies, a factor that becomes incredibly uncomfortable when one of the characters is clearly supposed to be a pre-pubescent girl. I don’t care how much they try to make her older by letting her swear or talk about how her breasts aren’t big, that is a 13-year-old girl and the game revels in stripping her down to her underwear. If you’re into that sort of thing then aside from the obvious ‘shame on you’ and ‘I’m calling the police’, you’re in luck! The game boasts smooth looking graphics and giggle physics they’re more than a little proud of. Excellent sound design features clear and well presented actor dialogue and very satisfying Foley effects. Every swing of the sword feels like it’s connecting in your hands. The music is exactly what you can expect from Japan, being 2-parts cringe-worthy and 500-parts stuck in my damn head. I would like to have finished talking about the objectification of the characters but sadly it’s also most of the gameplay. Literally half the development effort was put towards dressing up your characters, making them pose or make faces; none of which makes any difference to gameplay so it can sod off. Luckily there’s still plenty of ogle-time left within the gameplay. Your character starts out in their ‘casual’ outfits, but by pressing L their clothes tear off and they shove a scroll into their cleavage to transform into their combat outfits, also allowing for more special moves. At what point this process came up in their schoolgirl ninja training is a question social services can ask. There are several characters to play as, each with different fighting styles – nothing so varied as the X-Men Legends franchise, but it works. Co-op battles are available if you fancy having your entire screen filled with colourful light shows. You can change your character’s weapons by unlocking them in a survival mode, but they too make bugger all difference so you’d be forgiven for not bothering. There are power ups in the form of Shinobi Stones you can earn by completing ‘special missions’ but nowhere does the game tell you this so I didn’t realise until half way through (unless it was part of the many text boxes I ignored). As bitterly as I hate what the game tries to be, the gameplay is quite fun. There’s something cathartic about racking up huge combos, combining special attacks and working your own strategies of combat with responsive and manoeuvrable characters. Christ, there was actually someone in production of this game dedicated to fun. Not that they thought to keep the camera in a position that allows you to see what’s going on. The enjoyment might not last as soon as you realise that almost every single enemy you find is weak to the tactic of ‘knock them into the air and attack’ and even when skipping through the story it’s still a painfully slow-paced game. But now we’re delving into the realm of subjectivity, and it’s very possible you might enjoy that kind of gameplay. Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is a game that knows exactly what it’s doing. Essentially bringing out Dead or Alive: Beach Volleyball but with the thinly veiled justification of gameplay. If it weren’t for the well-designed gameplay mechanics and sound design, I would take great pleasure in condemning it. As it is, there is enjoyment to be had, but you should genuinely be ashamed of yourself.