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  • Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal (PS4)

    April 7th, 2018GamespotUncategorized

    As much as we tend to complain about the flurry of remakes or remasters hitting shelves these days, we shouldn't deny their legitimate role, which is to have more people discover past gaming experiences in the best possible way. If you were to ask producer Kenichirô Takaki the point of Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal he'd be pretty clear: the series became really popular worldwide with Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus on PSVita. As such, a lot of current Senran Kagura fans, having never played the 3DS version, don't know the starting point of the main story.

    This remake sends us back to the time when there were only two rival schools: Hanzô and Hebijo. The story is set in the modern world, where those two academies are among the rare ones to still train ninjas. But they don't do so for the same purpose. Hebijo, sponsored by corporations and unscrupulous politicians, sends its shinobi to do dirty work like sabotage or murder. To prevent that, the state-run academy of Hanzô secretly trains rightful ninjas in order to stop them. Good versus Evil, a very classic setting for a game that is everything but typical. With such a serious storyline you could almost come to forget that Senran Kagura is all about large breasted young women fighting each other in flimsy clothing. 

    Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal brings back the good old times when Marvelous was making an effort with the narrative, which hasn't been the case since Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus. Even six or seven years later there's no denying that the original storyline still makes an impression. The narrative tells the background of every character in a very detailed way, including with oftentimes dark and fairly serious parts, transcending the initial Manichaeism with talent. Throughout the large volume of text, Marvelous' title tackles difficult subjects such as revenge and exclusion, even within a globally light and humorous tone. The clever writing regularly inserts small bits of suspense and tension. Both styles get along surprisingly well. The music equally deserves praise since not only does this remake include the excellent original soundtrack in better quality, but also features sumptuous new tracks and remixes.

    As much as the story still feels actual in essence, storytelling has certainly seen better days. Here we should remember that in Senran Kagura we used to read a lot. The remake keeps the huge visual novel part of the original (it's pretty common to have 15 minutes of reading for only two or three minutes of actual gameplay!). The problem is that Marvelous merely embedded the kilometers of text on still screens as they are. Despite the timid introduction of 3D cutscenes, there isn't a full reworking in the way the story is told. The remake could at least have had extra pictures to give the player some added value, but here you have to make do with the old ones. That said, the original illustrations are still quite a sight today.

    The story mode does feel overlong, however. Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal has you progressing through two parallel timelines - Hanzô's and Hebijo's - each composed of five chapters with lots of small missions within them. A lot of those ending up being redundant; the story mode would have been better if it had been compressed a bit. A certain number of anecdotes without significant importance in the story could have been removed altogether to improve the density of the narrative.

    While the remake can be seen as not entirely up to expectations on the whole, it does upgrade the experience in the final chapter. On both Asuka's and Homura's side, a lot of effort has been made to offer an impressive conclusion to the game. That includes a heated battle between the two leaders, a considerably more dreadful Orochi, lots of surprises, and outstanding direction in Homura's last mission. Here the remake truly fulfills its purpose of surpassing the original and achieving true renewal.

    This newest entry reuses the gameplay of Senran Kagura Estival Versus, that is to say very fast action and combos mixing the circle and triangle buttons. Ikaruga's moves, for example, are quicker than anything I've seen in an action-RPG before. As usual, it's very exhilarating gameplay. The game can pit you against multiples enemies or a rival girl in sometimes long duels. As in former Senran Kagura games, you need to aim for aerial combos in order to take the advantage, even more so now since enemies counter very quickly while on the ground. Yet again, combo variety increases when you level up your characters, allowing you to chain a large number of attacks in the end. Special attacks are also taken from Estival Versus. No surprises there but these are sometimes spectacular moves, like when Homura transforms and draws her famous seventh katana.

    The big addition in terms of gameplay is called Burst. Taking or dealing damage fills a Burst gauge, which later allows you to unleash a large and powerful attack that's likely to wipe out all enemies on the screen. Needless to say that it becomes a big trump card, especially against bosses with lots of HP. Ending the fight with a Burst attack is also the way to fully strip your opponent in this game and get a lovely finish move. The other gameplay tweak concerns parrying. You can now foresee enemy attacks, which appear as a yellow or purple zone that indicates the range and type of move about to happen. This makes parrying at lot easier to perform, and this makes the action more dynamic and enjoyable. The only real drawback is the camera, as getting to close to stage borders often blinds you completely for a second.

    Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal has three difficulty levels, but they're somewhat horribly balanced. Normal mode is piece of cake most of the time, giving the awkward impression of a second easy mode. So you might decide to shift to hard mode to experience a little challenge, but it's so difficult that it's likely to hamper your progression through the game. Unfortunately this lack of balancing impacts most battles, except the very end of the game, which contains a few exciting and very demanding fights in terms of endurance and skill.

    With this title, Marvelous wanted to deliver more than a simple remake. It allows you to follow two more storylines, consisting of ten mini chapters each, telling the past of Gessen Academy and Shin Hebijo school (those two groups having been featured for the first time in Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus)Those two additional stories are of uneven interest. Gessen's scenario had virtually no important reveal, whereas Shin Hebijo's is perfectly linked with Shinobi Versus. Among other valuable story parts, you come to know more about Ryôki's fate. At first, those two scenarios are playable only with Yumi and Miyabi respectively, but Marvelous has progressively made Gessen's and Shin Hebijo's eight remaining characters available through free DLC (for a limited time). That's more reason to enjoy the long list of side missions, which in total amount to nearly as much content as the main story missions.

    Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal recycles 90% of the graphical assets of Estival Versus. These graphics have aged a bit since Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash (which somehow made better use of the power of the PS4) but still remain a pleasure to see. Animations, as well as the framerate, never falter. But the cherry on the cake is the entirely redesigned main menu, where you can observe the characters making hilarious gestures in the classroom.

    By taking bits from the original and rehashing lots of elements from Senran Kagura Estival Versus, Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal fails to fully renew the starting point of the series. However, extra content and a few attractive features might make it worthwhile if you're a long-time fan of the series. For newer addicts who never played Senran Kagura on Nintendo's handheld, this title is perfect to complete your knowledge of the series. Now here's hoping that Senran Kagura 7EVEN will bring about a new narrative cycle and more innovation. DLC and mini-games are cool, but producer Takaki shouldn't make people wait for a proper new entry indefinitely...

    Reviewed based on a Japanese version of the game. Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal has not yet been announced for Western markets.

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