Senran Kagura Burst is a ripe with conflict. Not just the variety you’ve come to expect from a brawler, but as whole it’s a body of work that has me wondering just what it’s trying to say.
If it were as simple as “it’s that boob game”, one could jump to the logical conclusion that Burst is a pandering mess. However, it is not that cut and dry.
Burst is fun. Burst is well written. Burst is self aware. Does this mean I can get over the countless crotch shots, impossible breast physics, and upskirts that would make a toilet cam blush? I’m not sure if I even know yet, but I’m having an interesting time finding out.
Burst’s combat is pretty simple, the Y button is a weak attack, and X is strong. Different combinations yield different results, as one would expect. Variety comes from the playable cast, each girl plays different, and her stats are just as distinct. These girls are practicing shinobis, taking lessons in a specialized (and secret) portion of an everyday high school. The game’s structure has you taking on side-missions where playing as any character is possible, with the story missions locking you to a particular girl. The reasoning behind these missions may differ (and are always funny and interesting), but the process is the same; take out a gaggle of thugs as quickly as possible.
These battles move incredibly fast, as you’re able to zip around the enemies very quickly, attacking as you go. The skirmishes are so quick, in fact, that it becomes difficult to tell when you’re receiving damage. But when you do, eventually it’s made very clear just how damaged you’ve become. The events pause as a cinematic shows your chesty champion’s clothes explode, revealing her body and underoos more and more as the battle rages on. This shameless display takes away from its purpose; when the meter that displays the condition of your clothing is empty, you become more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. It’s a unique system that keeps the combat interesting. If you’re glutton for punishment (and discomfort), you can begin each mission in ‘frantic’ mode. Here your ninja sheds her clothing, making her much stronger but her defense dips in turn.
As I mentioned, the story that strings you along this adventure is quite interesting. It doesn’t shy away from its sexuality, or rather hide from it as others have (such as no one reacting to the grotesque asset’s of Dragon Crown‘s cast). Characters acknowledge the breasts they possess, as well as the pair others are adorned with. When a character’s valued scroll goes missing, she’s told she should have held it tighter between her breasts. Another character is referred to as ‘juggs’ by an adversary. While the visuals attempt to titillate, the story and dialogue are pretty light hearted, nudging and winking along the way. There are even some rather sad moments, as a character struggles with the knowledge of a boy confessing his love to her. More than anything, it’s about a group of young women accepting a life that demands a lot from them, and while they may lose out on a lot, they have each other. And that’s only half the story (the game is divided into two, one portion is played as the ‘good’ shinobi, the other as the ‘bad’)!
Of course, for as fun as the story is, I still have to contend with its exploitation of high schoolers. I’m not put off, but I certainly don’t think it adds to the experience. XSeed’s localization is an interesting one, with games more under the microscope than ever, was there any concern over finding an audience? While any publicity is good publicity, I don’t think anyone means to upset another. In the case of Senran Kagura Burst, its release is about putting out a niche game for a niche audience. I knew what I was getting into when I bought it, and I’ve enjoyed the product. I think a case can be made for someone who is offended by its content, and I’d respect that opinion.
Like I said, it’s a messy situation. I could just enjoy a game without pondering its consequences, but this kind of critical thinking is important. I’m glad that we’re not just blindly accepting every bit of entertainment thrown at us.