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access_time July 21, 2019 at 6:00 AM in Nintendo by Daniel Ladiano

Review | Senran Kagura: Peach Ball

The Senran Kagura franchise has been around for a while, spanning over multiple games and even a couple of anime series. Its scantily clad cast of bodacious female ninjas has enticed many over the years, besides the hand-to-hand ninja action, of course. While the series is primarily focuses on fighting, its newest spin-off Senran Kagura: Peach Ball attempt to cross the ecchi-infused franchise with pinball of all things. Yes, the combination of those two ideas seem as far-fetched as it can possibly get, and yet, it somehow works.

Peach Ball features a story mode that is definitely ludicrous as far as Senran Kagura usually is. Haruka, an employee of the Honey Arcade, hosts a fighting game tournament for the lead ladies to participate. When one of the girls, Ryona, goes to the restroom before the final match, she accidentally confuses one of Homura’s crazy potions with liquid soap. That potion known as Beastall turns those who touch it into an animal. More accurately, in this game’s case, a busty ninja girl wearing a skimpy animal suit. Things go awry when Ryona licks her colleagues and change them into animals as well, and if they aren’t reverted back, they might transform into an animal completely. Thankfully, Haruka has a spherical object known as the Peach Ball that can be used to release a special aroma that can bring our heroines back to normal.

The plot is definitely nonsensical and silly, but at least the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. More often than not the girls will make fun of each other, trying to poorly mimic the sounds of the animals they are supposed to represent. Some of the dialogue can be crass, especially from the amorous Ryona, who constantly demandamess attention. The only problems are the occasional wall of text without any characters or stills shown on screen. While it is a budget title, it is a shame that the game doesn’t fully feature its 3D character models to tell the story since they do the job well.

Story Mode lets players choose one of the five heroines: Asuka, Yumi, Yomi, Ryona and Murasaki. Each girl has her own story path that ultimately results in saving all the girls from their hypnotic trance. To do that they must use the aforementioned Peach Ball in a crazy gigantic pinball table. It’s here in which the girl must be purified at the center of it. Despite this outlandish concept, at its core, the game is a traditional pinball affair.

The goal is to bounce the ball through various bumpers and objects and score as many points as possible. Each of the two available boards have a variety of different objectives to complete that are displayed on the right. While it may be obstructive at first, paying attention to those objectives isn’t necessary as simply playing through the game should reward players automatically. Those objectives can include hitting a certain location multiple times or reaching a specific score.

As aforementioned, there are only two boards in the game, which is rather lackluster. “Peach Land” is the standout of the two, offering a radiant theme park aesthetic with many eventful attractions to trigger. One of them is a spinning tea cup ride that if the ball bounces off enough times can make the girl in the center collapse, allowing players to earn more points by bumping her. “Spooky Shinobi Park” on the other hand, feels a lot smaller in comparison, not to mention very similar in structure. Thankfully, each board has three different variations depending on time of day or season respectively. The different mini-games and objectives keep each playthrough fresh despite the meager board selection.

The controls of the game are extremely simple. The L and R (or ZR and ZL) triggers will use the flippers, with B occasionally using an item. Those may include special bonuses like activating ball return in case it sinks in the middle. The game also encourages players to tilt the board either using motion via the joycons or analog sticks. Not only it’ll change the ball’s trajectory, but will also surprise the girl in the center and make her change positions.

This is where the meat of point earning comes into play. While hitting the basic bumpers will earn a decent amount of points, bumping the ball against the girl is where the bulk of the score will come from. If players use it to bump the girl’s “special” parts, the score will increase immensely. Using the tilt function to have the ball behind the girl and keep it bouncing is the key of scoring a lot of points.

There are also a variety of mini games to spice up the pinball action. If the letters of PEACH are lit next to the bottom flippers, “fairies” will appear on the board. They’ll need to be hit on time in order to receive a heart token that knocks the girl down. There’s also “Fever Time” that multiplies the score for a limited amount of time. Doing this can even reach “Super” mode if a certain threshold is reached.

The main attractions are the “Sexy Challenges”. Above the mission objectives is a three-segmented bar, signifying how much players have scored thus far. Each time a segment is full, the girl must be bumped in order to fall into a tent to trigger a challenge. They usually involve hitting toys repeatedly, like rubber ducks or a moving ice cream truck. Completing the challenge involves said toy affecting the girl in ridiculous ways, such as dowsing her with water or smearing her with ice cream. This mostly plays for laughs rather than being exploitive, as most of the reactions don’t show the girls suffering from the comedic shenanigans. The last sexy challenge involves using two peach balls to hit either the girl’s chest or butt to score points. All the challenges, like the game, are relatively easy, but the key is to achieve S ranks to achieve a high score.

Besides the story mode, there’s also free mode that allows to play the board without the confines of the story. Playing either mode will net coins to use in the shop, though story mode will unlock more items for purchase. Items can include different hairstyles, outfits or accessories for the girls to wear, or even music tracks or pictures. While on one hand the shop doesn’t offer any items that are incredibly valuable, the game itself is fun enough to play multiple times that earning currency is second nature.

Senran Kagura: Peach Ball is a game that has no right to be fun, seeming cheesy and lewd at best. However, despite its raunchy subject matter, the pinball mechanics, even if not as precise, are genuinely fun. While the game is perfect for a quick pick-up and play session, I do wish there was more content to unlock and more boards to play on. It’s unfortunate since the foundation set here is definitely enjoyable. It may as well be the best spin-off title the series has so far. If you aren’t uncomfortable when it comes to the subject matter, maybe you will also enjoy this bumpy ride.

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10

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