Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is stuffed full of fanservice and adds much needed variety to the series but it still spends too much time focused on the T&A. The FingerGuns Review;
Fanservice. Content created specifically for the gratuitous titillation of a viewer has existed since the dawn of entertainment. For some, fanservice is only something that can be delivered to existing fans of a show/game/comic/etc, giving them exactly what they desire as a payoff for sticking with it. To others, fanservice is any anime character in a bikini that they’ll protect until their dying breath. It’s a personal preference on where you draw the line on it and how you use the term – but here’s where I’m at. Kenichiro Takaki, the series creator of Senran Kagura has always been forthright about the fact that these games, while always under the guise of something else, are designed to excite and titillate. Unfortunately, the cast of Senran Kagura doesn’t float my boat. Peach Beach Splash is the third Senran Kagura game I’ve reviewed (the other 2 being Shinovi Versus & Bon Appétit!) and the fourth game I’ve played (Estival Versus being the other) and I’m afraid to say that I just don’t find the cast of characters attractive. I’m not offended by the partial nudity and can laugh along with the genuinely funny lines of dialogue but as a means of excitement and titillation, it falls entirely flat for me. There’s no judgment here if you do find these fictional characters attractive – I had a crush on Lara Croft when I was 11 and tried the fake “Nude Lara” cheat countless times to no avail – but the ladies of Senran Kagura do nothing for me now.
That being said, Peach Beach Splash is the most Fanservice-y fanservice game I’ve ever played. It has a fun, light hearted plot, even compared to the rest of the Senran Kagura series that offers very little pretense as to what it’s really about – a huge wet t-shirt competition. The trainee Shinobi lasses from the Gessen Girls’ Academy, Hanzō National Academy, Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy & The Crimson Squad have all been magically transported (sans their clothes) to Peach Beach in order to compete in a time honoured Shinobi water gun tournament (because of course they have). All their secret ninja arts skills are banned during the contest and the lady who’s handiest with a water pistol and wins the PBS crown will win whatever they desire. As a window dressing to oodles of boobs and ass, this feels like the least exploitative of any Senran Kagura game I’ve played to date. The fictional ladies in this game seem to be in it for the enjoyment and it’s at least less bizarre than clothes exploding off of bodies when they want to power up.
The game play of Peach Beach Splash is equal parts familiar and fresh. It’s a Third Person Shooter which is a first for the series but is built in a way which will be familiar to fans. The same speed and agility that’s on display in Shinovi & Estival is replicated here but rather than employing the Dynasty Warriors-esque melee with vast crowds of enemies, it’s focused on ranged attacks. There are a number of different types of water gun that can be employed in battle, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses – dual pistols are fast firing but need reloading (by holding square to pump more water into the gun) regularly, the Gatling gun carries lots of water which means it needs to be reloaded less often but takes longer to reload, the grenade launcher does heavy damage but has a short range and the water balloons it fires have a downward arc as they travel, the water bottle rocket launcher does massive damage but it takes an age to refill with water, etc. On top of this is a meta card collection game with which you can upgrade characters, weapons and pets. There’s a plethora of fine details to the play which make the battles deeper and more than it might appear.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Senran Kagura game without eroticism leveraged into every possible nook and/or crannie and Peach Beach Splash is rammed full of it. The game is about women, often with enormous breasts that bounce around with a mind of their own, shooting each other with water pistols – so you’d expect some partial nudity but the game goes further. Defeat a main character foe (so, not a grunt) and they fall to the floor, often in a compromising position. Get close enough to a downed enemy and you can enter a “Squirmy Finish” in which you can concentrate your fire on your targets breast, buttocks, crotch or face with the aim to knock off a piece of clothing. The traditional glowing orb of light that has always been used by the Senran Kagura series protects the finer details of the targets genitalia and their relative modesty. Outside of the game play, there is an “Intimacy Mode”. Here you get up close and personal with one of the SK women and fire water at them or grope their boobs. The women don’t seem to particularly enjoy being yanked at and shot with water but if performed correctly, this mode can lead to a kiss. Yes, this did feel as weird to play as I imagine it was for you to read. As in almost every other Senran Kagura game, you can also play dress up in Peach Beach Splash. Here you can make some pretty… interesting costumes.
The issue with all of this imposed eroticism is that if, like me, you have absolutely no attraction to the anime characters in the game, it does little more than break up the fluidity of the play. Getting into your flow, kicking some serious arse and then having to stop to watch 3 videos of women falling to the floor is little more than irritating if that angle doesn’t appeal to you. All of the work to make the game play feel responsive and nuanced is tossed away in an attempt to titillate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again for Peach Beach Splash – having 5 second cut scenes trigger regularly in the middle of a battle in a series that prides itself on the speed of the combat is counterintuitive. If they will insist on the short videos of someone falling over, It’d be so much more effective to move the videos to the end of a match so that they don’t interrupt the action.
Thankfully, half of the game’s narratives are rather entertaining. The Crimson Squad’s story arc in Peach Beach Splash is one of the most raucously fun and humours in the entire Senran Kagura series and the Hanzō plot, featuring the new character Ayame, has a few touching moments. On the other hand, the over arching story and many of the other sub plots are cringe worthy. It’s also worth mentioning that for the first time with a Senran Kagura game, I feel like I missed out on some of the content by not speaking Japanese. Conversations between characters take place during the battles and the subtitles are ran across the bottom of the screen; these are very difficult to read in the heat of the moment.
For the dedicated Otaku’s, self professed Weeaboo’s, anime fans and red blooded booby admirers, I imagine Peach Beach Splash is a revelation and offers much needed variety of play to the series. It takes what Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 started and spins it with lewdness like only Senran Kagura can. While the game’s theme, framing and determination to tease me with “almost boobs” does very little for me personally, I can certainly appreciate the effort Marvelous, Kenichiro Takaki and Honey Parade have put into it. Visually, it’s only second to Estival and it has a very catchy soundtrack that has a number of ear worms that you might find yourself humming along to. There’s also quite a lot of content here across single and multiplayer. It’s just a shame that once again, the titillation takes precedence over providing a truly enjoyable game experience by sabotaging the flow and pace with cutscenes.
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is launching on the PS4 (review version) in Europe and Australia on the 22nd of September.
Disclaimer: We received a copy of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash from the publishers in order to complete this review. Please see our review policy for more info.