Outside In: Senran Kagura 2 User Reviews Edition

One step forward, two steps back in the eyes of many Japanese players.

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It’s not midnight here for another two hours, so as far as I’m concerned, the daily dose of trial installments of Outside Ins continues unabated today with an examination of Japanese players’ takes on Senran Kangura 2: Deep Crimson on the 3DS now that it’s been out for a couple weeks. Structurally, everything remains the same as before, so you can expect pie charts and lots of user reviews to divine some sense of a consensus. Still, if you’re just joining us for the first time today, take a look at the first installment here to get a sense of what this series is aiming for, especially the comments section where I address a lot of concerns about conducting research with online customer reviews. Then once you’re done with that, read this other post to properly understand how to make sense of review data from MK2 specifically.

As with before, MK2 reviews are in short supply for this game and they by and large agree with what Amazon users had to say as well, but as always, I’ll make do with what I can, albeit once again without visual representation of that data to avoid making mountains out of small materials of material with which to work. In the meantime, let’s get going and see how well Japanese players liked Senran Kagura 2!

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Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson (Screenshots)
Developed by Tamsoft and published by Marvelous
Released in Japan August 7, 2014

Review Scores

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Famitsu Score: 31/40 (8/8/8/7)
Average Amazon User Review Score (as of August 21, 2014) 3.4/5 stars, 56 reviews total*
Amazon Review Score Breakdown:

  • 5 Stars: 14 reviews
  • 4 Stars: 17 reviews
  • 3 Stars: 9 reviews
  • 2 Stars: 9 revuews
  • 1 Star: 7 reviews

MK2 Ranking and Average Score (as of August 21, 2014): Ranking N/A (insufficient number of posted reviews); 58/100 points, 2 reviews total

*Amazon Japan sells new copies of Senran Kagura 2 in three separate editions. The review averages and star breakdowns have combined the relevant numbers for easier readability.

Realistically speaking, nobody probably expected Senran Kagura 2 to be a critical darling one way or another. The last couple of installments spanning the 3DS and PS Vita have proven to have their merits for those who enjoy its specific offerings and, from the sound of it, this numbered sequel at least tries to follow in those footsteps to a t, adding some logical enhancements and changes to the core gameplay while still being recognizable to those who have come to appreciate the series for what it is. To hear the reviews tell it, though, the developers may not have entirely succeeded in that mission. As such, it’s worth noting that although on Amazon Japan 4 and 5 star reviews outnumber 3 star ones by almost three times, the latter batch in the minority are the ones that have the lion’s share of other customers signaling their agreement, indicating that the overall consensus online between Amazon and the typically more critical MK2 is more similar than different, at least based on what material is currently available.

The Good

There are a handful of new elements that Senran Kagura 2 brings to the table that players generally appreciate. Chief among these well-regarded enhancements are the tag-team system and the ability to switch out weapons for the characters, even if they’re entirely cosmetic in nature. As has routinely been the case, the production values for the game have been widely praised as well, with many noting that especially in the graphics department, the game is a step up from the previous 3DS incarnation. Similarly, many feel that the music is as enjoyable as ever. The fact that there are also new outfits to unlock and check out for the girls is, naturally, something that many are glad to see as well.

The Criticized

A large number of the more significant changes that Senran Kagura 2 introduces, however, are regarded as lacking, if not outright detrimental to the gameplay. For starters, many reviews obsess about the impact of the shift to three-dimensional combat fields, arguing that not enough has been done to ensure that the combat remains as smooth and relaxing as the previous sidescrolling iterations. Indeed, for every attempt to try and accommodate the literal new depth, there are other elements that don’t gel well and actively impede the game from feeling like a particularly cohesive experience. Players might now be able to target individual enemies, for example, but, as twen’s review on MK2 points out, it’s of little use when the camera is fixed and can’t be controlled, making it more than possible to get hit by enemies that can’t be seen well and miss landing your own attacks altogether. Additionally, the controls have been changed up and while it’s seemingly not nearly as problematic as other issues that the game has going on, a number of reviewers agree that it takes time to reacclimate to that aspect of the game after playing previous installments.

The game’s balance is also called into question by many reviewers, particularly with respect to the bosses, who they feel have too much health and are overly powerful all around. According to Amazon’s Satsuki Hisui, boss fights routinely can go so poorly that it’s not uncommon to have to spam Shinobi Tenshins and make liberal use of Desperation mode’s ability to shoot off Secret Ninja Arts indiscriminately to come out on top in one piece. While fights with regular enemies are routinely deemed less troublesome aside from camera issues, a number of players noticed the balance to still be wonky in its own right, specifically pointing out dive attacks as being inordinately effective over other types of normal moves. While the difficulty-related issues in story missions can be addressed at least somewhat by manually selecting a difficulty level, unlike in Burst, character restrictions are present in terms of who can be brought in to tackle missions, which people like Satsuki Hisui argue saps some of the motivation to keep playing the game.

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Pointed critiques have also been lodged at a lot of aspects of the Senran Kagura 2’s narrative elements. Many express problems with the lack of new characters and how the few new ones that show up in the storyline aren’t ever even made playable. Even more aggravating to them is the fact that the only significant unlockable character is series standby Murasame, who can only be garnered either with Burst save data present on the system or by purchasing DLC. In a series where women are ostensibly meant to take the center spotlight, many players question why resources were spent making him playable without adding more girls to the mix. Similar umbrage has has been taken over the lessened emphasis on fights between girls in favor of more ethereal antagonists as well.

At a more fundamental level, in the most popular review on Amazon as of this writing, user uesama feels that the lack of newness pervading much of the story even beyond the cast makes the experience feel stale and as though it’s mostly treading over old territory, a sentiment that isn’t helped by the game’s knack for at times revisiting old plot points from other games. That same review does acknowledge that not everything feels recycled per se, but the combination of old things with what bits that are new are making the series’ actual canon increasingly murky.

Conclusion

Uesama’s remarks toward the end of his review sums up many people’s feelings overall towards Senran Kagura 2 well. “I can’t say for certain, but it feels like the developers looked at the series and emphatically said to themselves, ‘Senran Kagura isn’t just about hot girls! It’s got hot action going for it, too! We have to make sure the actual game bits are up to snuff!’ and then went about making the game with that in mind,” he writes. “That’s not a bad thing to me, but here it comes at the cost of series’ original appeal. These are games about cute girls mixed with relaxing gameplay topped with a little sensual zest on the side. Tamsoft should have worried about clearing that hurdle first and making sure that identity remained intact before getting to work on anything else.” Series fans aren’t calling the game an aggressively bad installment, but nevertheless one that in many regards is a lesser game compared to Burst and Shinovi Versus. It might be a technically better-looking game at least compared to the former and it might have a few appreciated gameplay tweaks here and there, but in the face of Senran Kagura 2’s myriad looming issues, those new perks aren’t enough for a lot of players to put those older games down and permanently pick this new numbered game up.

With four of the five planned trial runs for Outside In out of the way this week before it becomes a more irregular feature timed to new releases, we’re left with just one more column tomorrow before you go about your weekend. To that end, capping off this week is Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines on the PS Vita. Many English-speaking readers might not know a whole lot about the game since Sony has remained pretty thoroughly mum about it since announcing its localization, but as someone who’s played a lot of the Japan-only PSP remake of the first installment, you can rest assured that I’ll not only guide you all through Japanese reviews of this new game, but also explain why that first game especially is so revered as a major influence on Japanese-developed RPGs today. Until tomorrow, folks!

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