Senran Kagura was born on the 3DS, and it’s returning to its roots in Deep Crimson the latest in Kenichiro Takaki’s ninja hack-’n-slash series. Fortunately, time away from home has only made the series better.
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson isn’t at all unlike the rest of the series as far as its campaign is concerned. There’s an interesting enough story in place that will leave you wishing the anime the series spawned was a bit better. As it is though, missions consist of smashing the hell out of tons of enemy shinobi in an attempt to save the world from the threat of the Yōma, a group of demons.
The campaign offers a fair amount of content to get through, and once you’ve cleared a mission you can play it again as any of the girls, as opposed to the one assigned to that specific mission your first time.
Missions are mostly of the beat-everything-until-dead variety, but boss fights in mixed in at the end of every chapter and are pretty fun. The level of challenge feels right and as with the rest of the series, combat is an absolute blast. Senran Kagura is still the only series that seems to nail that feeling of being a badass ninja just right.
If you know me, you know how much of an advocate I am for co-op experiences. I enjoyed the features on offer in Shinovi Versus on the Vita, but having co-op is an excellent addition. Many missions in Deep Crimson’s campaign see your character teamed up with an A.I. partner, but this is—to the best of my knowledge, mind you—the first game in the series that has allowed players to tackle the campaign missions with a friend.
Adding a friend in to the already chaotic battles kicks things up in a substantiative way. After playing Senran Kagura like this, I really don’t want to go back.
Wait, what? Is this 2015? Is this a video game we’re talking about? Yes, I’m praising a game for including a male character. Senran Kagura’s always been about the ladies, but this time it’s the fellas getting some representation.
The thing that makes the new male character, Mursame, so special is that he’s not special. Mursame is every bit as sexualized as the rest of the cast; that means clothes tearing and suggestive poses abound, and while that’s not my thing, I respect the hell out of the decision on Takaki’s part.
If you pick up a physical copy of Deep Crimson, it comes with a two-disc soundtrack collection, and it’s easy to see why XSEED was confident enough to do that. The tracks contained therein have a nice orchestral feel to them, and fit the heavy Japanese influence of the game’s settings and visuals well. It provides the perfect backdrop for Deep Crimson’s story elements.
One of the most interesting new additions in Deep Crimson is Yoma’s Nest, an endurance mode of sorts: it’s a 14-floor, multi-branching path to fight it out against demonic enemies for a chance at loot and experience.
Fortunately, you can quit anytime and take the experience you’ve gathered along with any items you found and start again from any level you’ve unlocked. If you let yourself die, however, you only get a portion of that experience. It’d be nice if the weapons you unlocked had any effect beyond being aesthetically different, but the Senran Kagura games have always prided themselves on customization.
It wouldn’t be a Senran Kagura game without being able to customize your appearance, right? Fortunately all the tools you’d expect to have are back in Deep Crimson. Unfortunately, they haven’t really changed or evolved much at all.
That’s not a really bad thing, but I’d like to see the customization features improved on in future iterations of the series. Placing and moving accessories is still possible, but the UI around is kind of a chore. It would have been nice to see these assigned to the 3DS’ touchscreen.
If you’ve played and enjoyed a Senran Kagura game in the past, Deep Crimson only adds to the existing formula in ways old fans are sure to like. If you haven’t, Deep Crimson’s co-op is a great reason to start. If you don’t like the series, you probably won’t find anything new here, but I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve told friends who have written it off: Underneath all the fanservice and jiggling boobs, there’s an amazingly competent action game that’s fun to play and has a likable plot. In the last two years, Senran Kagura has gone from something I was shy about playing, to something I openly enjoy and await new iterations of. It’s worth your time and I can’t recommend it enough.
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Steve Bowling is an aspiring freelance journalist and critic. When he’s not busy losing his composure during interviews, he writes about games, anime and other things that pique his interest. You can following him on Twitter at @SteveBTAY or read his other articles here.