Going into Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, I really had no idea what to expect. If I were to judge it based solely on the advertisements and screens widely available that seem to focus on the womens’ breasts, I’d have to say it’s barely a game worth mentioning. I’m not huge into fan service like this, and so I typically avoid it, but other things I have learned about the series made me curious to try it out. Would my fears about it being pure fan service and no substance be confirmed, or would Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson actually surprise me?
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson begins with good and evil shinobi crossing swords as the five members of the Hanzo school plan an invasion of the Hebijo school in order to retrieve a stolen scroll that they’ve sworn to protect. After failing to protect this scroll, the Hebijo shinobi decide to go into hiding as they attempt to become strong enough to take down their rivals. Soon, however, a demonic invasion forces the enemies to unite.
The plot is fairly standard, and the game does make concentrated use of it, but honestly, Senran Kagura 2 is more about the characters. Encounters with rival characters typically reveal new facts, with the main focus on these revelations being that the shinobi from each school are really quite similar, despite their upbringings. The revelations will likely be better appreciated by those who have played previous titles in the series, but they also help newcomers, such as myself, appreciate a more unified story, rather than wondering why these facts are important.
Senran Kagura 2 is a brawler, and the story should be interesting enough to get most through the opening segments, which introduces some of the basic elements of gameplay via on-screen hints. The combat system is deeper, however, and you’ll likely need to stop by the game’s training field to understand everything.
The game’s combo system, at its core, is fairly simple. The Y button chains together light attacks, and X chains together heavy attacks. You can utilize different chains depending on which of the characters you are currently utilizing. In addition, you will gain new and more complex chains of inputs, both air and ground-based, as you level up your characters by destroying your foes. Targeting can be a bit iffy at times, but it never really messed me up too badly.
Those reading this and wondering how they’ll be able to remember all of the combos can actually lay those fears to rest, as the bottom screen permanently displays all possible combos for the current character. This is especially convenient as the story will constantly switch playable characters between chapters.
There is another feature, known as Shinobi Transformation, which requires a ninja scroll to utilize as well. This will provide several benefits for your character as you take on the hordes of enemies, such as allowing the use of Secret Ninja Arts, which utilize the ninja-scrolls you’ll collect via the field or simply chaining together combos on your foes.
You also have a ninja arts gauge, which, when filled completely with your ninja scrolls maxed out, allows the use of Frantic mode. This mode has your character stripping to minimal clothing and going all out, ignoring defense and having continuously decreasing health. Your health will regenerate as you defeat enemies, and these drawbacks are also balanced by being granted massive damage, extra speed, infinite Secret Ninja Arts, and not being staggered by the enemy attacks. Frantic Mode ends when the current group of enemies is completely defeated.
Senran Kagura 2 also features pair battles, allowing two characters to brawl at the same time and chain combos together. This introduces more mechanics as you can swap between the characters, thus dodging enemy attacks as you do so, or even combining Secret Ninja Arts to unleash truly devastating attacks. This latter technique requires each character to have at least three ninja scrolls, and if you attempt to utilize it while in Frantic mode, you will be taken out of it. After all, being able to use such a damaging attack an infinite number of times would make things far too easy.
If one of your characters (the other is controlled by AI unless you’re taking advantage of the game’s multiplayer) is defeated, you can run up to your fallen comrade and hit the A button to revive them. Every single time you are forced to do this in a given battle will restore less energy to the character, and if the active character is taken out, you will be greeted by the Game Over screen. As a result, you may wish to get into the habit of swapping between characters when one gets low on the higher difficulty settings.
In the previous paragraph, I mentioned the multiplayer aspect. Senran Kagura 2 allows for either local or online co-operative multiplayer, allowing you to join a friend in the story or even the new Yoma’s Nest mode. Local will require both players to own the game, and playing online is fairly standard; You create an open room and wait for somebody to join. You can set the desired level of opponent as well as the mission, or just join an already open room. You will also be able to place a password on your room, ensuring that a random stranger won’t wander in when you want to play with your buddy.
You’ll be able to communicate with your partner in the lobby via pre-set sentences, but while in battle there aren’t any quick phrases or voice chat available. This can make chaining things together with your friend quite difficult.
The frame-rate while online appeared to be as steady as it does when playing with the AI controlled teammate, which is fluid and stable while you are in 2D mode. In 3D mode, it’s mostly ok, but there are some minor dips when things get too hectic. It also takes a noticeable hit in the ninja room (basically the game’s immersive take on a main menu) while in 3D.
The Yoma’s Nest mode we mentioned earlier pits you in solo or pair (with AI or via online or local co-op) in a dungeon with 14 floors, each boasting a higher difficulty and increasing number of possible rooms than the last. As you clear out certain rooms, you can earn unlockable weapons that can be equipped on your characters. These weapons only bring cosmetic changes and actually do not deal out any extra damage, however.
If you die you can also pick up from right after any cleared rooms you have, and Yoma’s Nest can be good for levelling up. That said, in order to retain the most amount of experience, you’ll need to retire before the end. Dying reduces the experience obtained to a very small fraction of what it would otherwise be as well. This leads to an interesting risk vs. reward system as you consider if you should retire or try to take on another area.
The other extra mode, called “Special Mission”, allows you to take on missions with quite specific conditions. One example would be, “Only ground-based attacks deal damage,” and if you manage to clear these missions you’ll be rewarded with some shinobi stones. These stones grant ability or stat bonuses to those who equip them, and three can be equipped at once to a character and combined for the best effect, adding more depth to the gameplay.
In terms of fan service, those who are offended by it can actually adjust it via in-game settings.
Finally, there are quite a few optional elements. These include a complete bestiary, StreetPass integration, game stats, audio, picture, and even video galleries that unlock as the game continues. You’ll also be able to customize the shinobi with a variety of different outfits and accessories.
I honestly went in, not expecting much aside from fan service. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be greeted by a fairly competent brawler. I do wish that the targeting and story were better, as currently the game does nothing to revolutionize anything enough to make it a go-to game for the genre.
That said, to judge Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson as a game that is all about fan service with no gameplay to back it up is to do it a disservice. It is not perfect by any means, and quite a few aspects could stand to be improved, but it is a decent, if fairly average game.
Of course, you may want to add a half star to a star to the final score if you enjoy fan service much more than I do.
Final score: 3.5/5