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Game Info:

SENRAN KAGURA Burst Re:Newal
Developed By: Tamsoft
Published By: XSEED Games/Marvelous USA
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Available On: Windows, PS4
Genre: Action Beat 'em Up
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: M for Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
MSRP: $39.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you XSEED Games for sending us this game to review!

Games where sexual content is explored in the context of a relationship, or the various forms of relationships, have been exploding onto the gaming scene for the last several years. This is not one of those games. This one is more like 'I have pretty girls that beat stuff up, and their clothes come off in the process'. There is most definitely a solid action game in here, that is inexorably linked to large-breasted women whose clothes come off during battle.

SENRAN KAGURA Burst Re:Newal is the story of high-school students who are secretly shinobi-in-training. There are two rival schools: the Hanzo National Academy, where their best train as good shinobi, or the Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy, where they train as evil shinobi. It seems almost all shinobi are girls, though there are male shinobi mentioned (the Hanzo instructor is one). This is a remake of the original 3DS game, along with extra content. It is made in the style of the latest entries in the series, using fully 3D environments and battles, rather than the 2.5D fights of the original.

These shinobi-in-training are learning from their masters what it means to be a shinobi, and the risks involved in doing so. In order to use their strongest powers, they need to keep their secret ninja scrolls on their body at all times, which is used to humorous effect, as the girls tell each other (and the player) where they keep theirs. Some in the cleavage, others in the panties... you get the idea. Titillation of this kind, where various aspects of the female form are used as either a joke or by drawing attention to it, is a constant companion in SENRAN KAGURA.

SENRAN KAGURA Burst Re:Newal
Highlights:

Strong Points: Entertaining beat 'em up; nice music, graphics, and voices; a good amount of levels; serviceable story
Weak Points: Each level is fairly short, and is somewhat repetitive; narrative sections progress too fast and change the page automatically before you are ready
Moral Warnings: Animated violence, as you kick, punch, slash, and otherwise attack your opponents to defeat them in battle; most opponents are humans; foul language, including 'b*st*rd', 'b*tch', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', '*ss', 'p*ss*d off', 't*ts', 'sh*t', and 'f*ck'; the difference between good and evil is blurred; a few spirit enemies; sexual themes and nudity galore, with nudity being a clear and intended byproduct of the combat; each girl in the all-female cast is provocatively dressed in some fashion, including extremely large breasts, complete with jiggle physics; during combat, looking up the girl's skirts is easy, and clothes are often shredded and torn off, or optionally, you can just start the battle in a swimsuit/underwear for an offensive boost at the cost of defense; when you perform a Shinobi Transformation, each girl is undressed and redressed in a provocative way right before your eyes, with the camera lingering on the behind and breasts; several girls have at least a voyeuristic attraction to other girls, have conversations stating as much, and in some cases emotional attractions as well; the PC version includes an 'Intimacy Mode' that was censored from the PS4 version last minute, that allows you to push, slap, and rub the girls all over their bodies, and eliciting responses generally asking you to stop (but there is no in-game reason to do so)

Through a combination of narratives on a backdrop and rendered cutscenes, you learn about the characters and their various struggles. Cutscenes are fully voiced in Japanese, which is nice. The strange thing I found is that while reading the narrative sections, often the text would scroll by quickly, and change the page long before all but the fastest readers could follow along. I had to force myself to read quickly rather than process each word as I normally do in order to have any hope of reading it all. (It's also really hard to take notes in situations like that.)

The action itself is actually pretty fun, with each character having a weak and strong attack, jump and dash buttons, a guard, and some other actions which makes combat somewhat unique. There is a limit break, which can be used to throw enemies away from you, lock-on functionality, and two things somewhat unique to this game (or series). The first is Burst mode, where you can pummel enemies quickly until a meter runs out (you charge it by attacking enemies). At the end it does a powerful attack, which you can activate early by pressing the button again. The other main special button is the 'Shinobi Transformation' button.

Shinobi Transformations is one of the headline features of this game series, I suppose. As your character takes damage, you can choose to activate the Shinobi Transformation, which fully restores your health, as well as unlocks some extra powerful attacks. You can't activate it right away, since you need at least a full shinobi meter first, but it doesn't take very long for it to unlock if you need it. Once activated, your character loses all of her clothes, and in a white light, has all new clothes, underwear and up, drawn on her right before your eyes, while making sure to swing the camera up to highlight her legs, bottom, and breasts in perhaps the most alluring way possible without actually showing anything that would exceed the 'M' rating. (There are no nipples, and no crotch shots.) The extra attacks, activated by pressing the Shinobi Transformation button along with the weak or strong attack buttons, are quite handy, though. There is also an optional Frantic mode, where you sacrifice defense for attack, but are wearing underwear the whole level. (This has to be chosen at the beginning of a level.)

The action itself is very combo-heavy, and in many ways is kind of like a Dynasty Warriors-lite. You are typically surrounded by anywhere from a handful to dozens of enemies at a time, and it's your job to clear them out while taking as little damage as you can. Most levels end with a boss battle, which can actually be pretty challenging. It is here that you really need to learn how to guard/parry, as well as dodge, as some attacks can be quite debilitating. If you get stuck, you can change the difficulty before starting every level, and I found easy to be very simple, as most enemies rarely guarded or counterattacked, while on normal that happens regularly.

Many levels hide secret scrolls somewhere, usually in breakable boxes. You also earn in-game money for each mission you play, even if you fail. You also gain experience for the character you used, and they do gain levels. It's not well explained what those levels get you, but I would imagine more health and/or damage. You can spend in-game money on accessories (clothing) of various kinds, unlockable artwork (often found via secret scrolls) and other similar things in the shop, accessible between levels. You can also save/load, manage settings, and things like that there. There is also a dressing room.

The main purpose of the dressing room is presumably to try out the outfits you unlocked. On the PC version, there is also an 'Intimacy Mode', where you can rub your virtual hands on them, slap them, or pull on them in various ways. This includes fully operational breast physics. The girls clearly do not like what you are doing most of the time, but they can't do much other than complain about it. This mode was planned for the PS4 version, but was removed last minute due to a demand from Sony. Apparently previous games had a similar mode, and this was the first time Sony's new censorship policies impacted the series. In my opinion, it's not much of a loss.

Outside of the obviously sexualized high-school girls, there are plenty of jokes that are sexual in nature as well. At least one girl has a thing for feeling up others, another seems to have feelings for one of the others, and so on. And, of course, every possible shot of a female naked, outside of 'showing it all' is done, including lights where the nipples and crotch would be if you defeat certain enemies. Even regular enemies shed their clothes before they are defeated.

SENRAN KAGURA Burst Re:Newal
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 56%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 5/10
Sexual Content - 0/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

In other areas, there is animated violence, against mostly human opponents, where you punch, kick, slash, or otherwise attack them until they are defeated. They disappear with a poof. There is significant foul language, including 'b*st*rd', 'b*tch', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', '*ss', 'p*ss*d off', 't*ts', 'sh*t', and 'f*ck'. There is typical martial arts mysticism, as well as spirits, and a few references to oni/demons. The differences between good and evil are a bit blurred as well.

The PC version runs great, and works on most PCs with a decent graphics card. It does work on my GPD Win 2 at around 20-30 frames per second, what I might consider barely playable. It should work fine on anything more powerful. The sound, music, and voice acting are all well done, and the graphics look nice, though not overly detailed. Certainly good enough.

SENRAN KAGURA Burst Re:Newal is an entertaining beat 'em up that is unfortunately buried in inappropriate sexual exploitation and innuendo that is impossible to avoid. I do enjoy the beat 'em up action, and I'm sure I would enjoy a game that isn't so in-your-face with its fanservice. After all, it does have quite a bit of content, with over eighty levels (even if each one is pretty short) and a storyline and characters that I came to appreciate, and apparently are popular enough to spawn multiple other games, and even an anime series. While I certainly can't deny some positive aspects to this game, I would encourage beat 'em up fans to find other games more appropriate.

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Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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