Not long ago, localization of the lascivious Senran Kagura franchise would be nearly inconceivable. But gradually, stateside sensibilities have changed, spurring a trickle of Japan’s more salacious titles. Beyond the moe-istic merriment in games such as Abiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed and Monster Monpiece, the Senran Kagura series has steadily carved a successful niche- led up a squad of sultry, female shinobi. For those who haven’t missed the previously released 3DS or PS Vita titles, know the each game elevates straightforward gameplay mechanics with a persistent procession of leering bra and panty shots as well as a jovial amount of jiggle.
For better or worse, Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! does little to upend this formula. At its core the title pits players against other ninja in a carnal-minded cook off, with each culinarian losing an article of clothing if their course is underwhelming. Although Bon Appétit! certainly isn’t high-brow, like it’s gastronomic creations, it’s light, frothy, and largely enjoyable- especially if consumed in small amounts.
Although players may select from Story, Arcade, and Free Play, differences between each play mode aren’t substantial. The ten-character story campaign offers an emaciated premise centering on the persistently pervy Master Hanzo’s decision to host an Iron Chef-style tournament, with the contest winner earning a ninja scroll capable of granting a character a single wish. In execution, the plotline allows Bon Appétit! to deliver a multiple-course banquet of double entendres, bawdy puns, and suggestive images of uncut futomaki rolls. While the dialog might be a bit too spicy for some people’s tastes, credit should be given to XSEED’s localization team for striking a precarious balance between titillation and tastelessness. Pleasingly, Senran Kagura shirks the prototypical lecherous male lead, allowing women to be the sexual aggressors.
Arcade Mode dispenses with the large disposable storyline, permitting players to select a character that will face off against six other shinobi. Although Bon Appétit! lacks any kind of off- and online contests between competitors, completion of Arcade allows players to upload their score to the Honor Roll, an net-based leaderboard. Free Mode allows gamers to create an impromptu match-up between the game’s current collection of characters; the twelve empty spots on the roster are purportedly filled with Shinovi Versus’ as well as a forthcoming DLC release. Considering Bon Appétit’s fifteen dollar MRSP, the indication of downloadable content isn’t too problematic, as long as the price remains reasonable.
Regardless of which mode is selected, Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit’s play remains the same, with rhythm-based mechanics serving as the underpinning for the culinary competitions. Utilizing two horizontal lanes, the title sends a succession of face button and directional pad icons, which slide toward the left side of the screen. While the game’s two lower difficulty levels allow for some temporal leeway when entering in the commands, the highest setting will certainly test the precision of rhythm-game devotees. No matter what level of challenge is selected, the game does it’s best to distract players with the camera spinning around each steadily disrobing character, leering on each character’s erogenous zones.
Undoubtedly the developers at Meteorise, are having a bit of puckish fun. During the final clothes-cleaving interlude, the moment of maximum exhibition flawlessly coincides with the reappearance of command prompts, testing the concentration of players. Even when the match is decided and the appeal is appropriated from the loser, there’s no real nudity, just playful chibi avatars and light flares to offer a modicum of modesty. The dirtiest Bon Appétit ever descents to is a post-win segment where the underdog is covered with confectionary condiments, with the analog sticks and gyroscopic function of the PS Vita altering the ogling perspective.
Although Bon Appétit! is a visual feast, the game’s soundtrack can feel more like a trip to a low budget buffet. Sure, there’s a few vocalized tracks, but the majority of the title’s songs are an eccentric hodge-podge of waltzes, generic J-pop, and circus music. Undoubtedly, Senran Kagura’s ninjas deserve something quirkier that songs that use Mendelssohn’s Wedding March as the main refrain. On the upside, every accomplished note is accompanied by the soothing sound of a tsuzumi drum sample.
Beyond the benefit of a maiden drizzled in chocolate syrup and whipped cream, success in Bon Appétit! mode’s extends a large selection of unlockables. Beyond a bevy of alterative costumes, gamers can also choose what type of undergarments their characters wear, as well as hair styles, and accessories like cat ears, bunny tails, and glasses. Nicely, players are allowed some flexibility when positioning accoutrements, permitting some distinctive looking shinobi.
As a rhythm game, Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! is functional, but hardly distinctive, extending the time button taps and holds that has driven the genre for years. Differentiation comes in the game’s dedication to fan-service, where a cast of amatory anime-style shinobi assemble to produce a confectionery that’s brimming with eye candy. While hardly essential, Bon Appétit! is a tasty desert that otaku might find hard to resist.
Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! was played on the PS Vita with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release date: November 11th, 2014