Senran Kagura: Estival Versus

Year: 2016
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Review Date: 11/13/16
Rating: **

I love a good female ninja fighting game, but sadly this isn't one. Four female ninja clans are brought to a mysterious island in order to appease the spirits of the dead by beating the crap out of each other. Naturally, all of the characters are young high school girls with ridiculously enormous breasts, who wear extremely revealing clothing. The brazenly sexist and fetishistic presentation is hilariously offensive, and is something that could only come out of Japan. Half of the game is spent in long-winded dialog sessions where the girls talk about boobs and other lustful desires, while the other half involves battling large groups of enemies in the style of "Dynasty Warriors."

Apart from the game's perverse preoccupation with gigantic breasts (there's even an entity known as The Boob Goddess), the character design is fun and flirty, and the voice acting is very good. There are more than 20 characters to choose from, which offers a wide variety of options, personalities, and styles, but they all fall into the standard anime stereotypes. There's no male influence in the game at all, so even though the presentation is laughably sexist, there are no masculine threats to undermine the characters' validity. This allows the interplay between characters to be more innocent and playful, and any romantic undercurrents are of an "overly enthusiastic girlfriend" variety. Girls just want to have fun, which includes grabbing other girls' boobs. The music is excellent and the graphics are attractive and colorful. The controls are tight and responsive, and combat boils down to stringing together long combos of weak hits, strong hits, blocks, parries, counters, and special moves. The number of moves, modes, and power meters is overwhelming, and it's impossible to keep everything straight - especially when you're surrounded by dozens of enemies who are pounding on you from all directions. Much like "Dynasty Warriors," the combat is repetitive and dull, and the difficulty ramps up extremely quickly after you complete the tutorial missions. Not surprisingly, the game tries to spice things up by including magical girl transformation sequences and opponents who lose their clothing as they're defeated.

Another fetishistic aspect of the game is the dressing room, where you can purchase various costumes and accessories, and play dress-up with any of the characters. Then you can ogle them to your heart's content from any camera angle that you want. However, the outfits are expensive and the only way to earn credits is by fighting, so you'll have to fight A LOT in order to obtain a substantial wardrobe.

Unfortunately, the game is simply no fun to play. The mechanics are way too complicated, and unless your sole motivation is to see unrealistically animated breasts and shredded clothing, there's no compelling reason to play. I could put up with all of the gratuitous sexuality and goofy innuendo if the game design were geared more towards casual play, but it's clearly intended to be difficult so that you have to work really hard at making any progress. Boobs don't come easy. As a result, I gave up after a couple of hours due to a combination of boredom and frustration. Perhaps boobs are enough to motivate a 13-year old boy, but I prefer a more balanced experience.