Senran Celebrations Day 2 – Senran Kagura Deep Crimson (2014) Video Game Review

Welcome to day 2 of my Senran Celebration month. Last time we looked at Senran Kagura Burst, the first game in the series that kicked off this franchise of buxom ninja babes. Now we move to 2014, which was a big year for Senran Kagura, receiving no less than 3 games on 3 different consoles. Unfortunately I never got the opportunity to play the PC and PSVita games Shinovi Versus and Bon Appetit, so instead we’re jumping straight into the 3DS follow up to Burst, Deep Crimson. So does this game build on the strengths of its predecessor and add new and exciting ways to play? Yes! Absolutely, in fact we have right here what’s probably my favourite game in the series. but why is that? Well let’s find out.

Story


This story follows straight on from Burst, in fact this games first chapter is the last chapter of the aforementioned Burst. After this we kick into high gear with the main plot. The story revolves around 2 new characters, Kagura and her bodyguard Naraku, as they race to bring Kagura to full strength and eradicate all Youma, horrifying demons hell-bent on destroying the world. This games story takes a unique angle when it comes to the duality of the story, much like the first game but in a less direct way. While Burst tackles this theme with 2 sides to the same story, this one tackles the concept of doing what is right and what is instructed. The main protagonist Asuka is torn between following her duty as a shinobi to hunt Kagura, but also feels it’s wrong and is conflicted about the direction to take. They also do this with Kagura, her motivations directly threatening the main cast as well as the whole world, with the meat of the plot being a race against time to stop the Youma before Kagura has the chance. This story is tense, but knows when to balance it out with moments of calm and brevity that makes for a generally more relaxed tone than the first one, but knows when to up the ante and makes for an engaging plot. I’m sad this story wasn’t adapted into an anime like Burst was into Ninja Flash.

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Gotta admit, these Youma look pretty sick.

Characters


  • Hanzo Academy: These girls remain essentially unchanged from the last game. Their personalities are still strong in this outing and they remain the righteous and kind hearted warriors they’ve always been. It’s great seeing them interact with the Hebijo girls again, but this time as allies and eventually as friends. Seeing their relationships develop and grow is great to watch, especially 5 years after the games release since we see these bonds still persist today. Each girl receives their own small arcs that open the door for hijinks and development, but Asuka once again shines as the most developed. Her constant battle with the duality of the crisis ahead makes for an interesting wedge in her character arc that allows for characters like Homura to come in and really drive on the arcs of developing bonds.
  • Hebijo Academy: Hebijo receive some significant development throughout this game, this game serving as one of the main catalysts that turned them from villains into anti-heroes. There’s a large chunk of the game dedicated to showing these girls and their new life as runaway renegades and it’s great seeing them grow into their own and develop past being nefarious and evil shinobi. Seeing them depend on each other and work together to achieve things is a great relationship to watch grow, and let’s not get started on their chemistry with the Hanzo girls this time round. The way they grow from the enemies they once were into these now integral allies to the Hanzo girls is great development, plus it’s nice for us to see these old foes turned friends find common ground and to beyond and share experiences. These girls don’t necessarily impact the plot as much as Hanzo do, but at the same time they themselves are involved in their own little stories, with many side plots and smaller sections of the game focused on them and the Hanzo girls assisting them in certain moments. Also any opportunity to praise the waifu queen Haruka is always appreciated so again, bonus points to hebijo for that.
  • Other Characters: Dogen, the main villain, is as vapid and bland as they come. Evil for evil’s sake and he only exists as a respawning obstacle that while he boasts some cool designs, he makes for an overall unsatisfying villain. Kagura and Naraku on the other hand are some really unique and fun characters that double up as both tense antagonists that raise the stakes and tension to a considerable degree while also being fun characters who have some really quaint moments with the other characters, carefully treading between villains and neutral.

In conclusion, this cast is pretty strong once again, and grows from the last time we saw them. Hanzo remain mostly unchanged but do help propel the narrative in enjoyable ways, and while Hebijo doesn’t impact the plot too much, they make for some great character development while also serving as a great way to progress character chemistry with Hanzo. I’m glad that these characters turned out the way they did, as they’ve persisted even to this day and remain some really fun and likeable characters after all these years.

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AAAAAAND! Strike a pose ladies!

Gameplay


The gameplay here is a straight upgrade over Burst, and this style of gameplay became the standard for the franchise in future installments. The game has left the sidescrolling world and now ventured into the third dimension of movement, giving you a much more varied landscape to venture through and makes for much more intuitive and engaging level design. The enemy count has also increased, morphing the game into a pseudo Dynasty Warriors style game which would carry over into future games. One thing this game does great is how it adds mechanics that actively make the core gameplay itself more enjoyable and really adds substance to the game. This game introduces team ups and pairings for the levels, allowing you to either go solo, or bring slong another character that you can alternate between with your main character. This allows for either a super powered Ninja Art, or if you get specific pairings, you can get some really explosive and unique Ninja Arts that do extra damage. These attacks feel great to pull off and are a lot of fun to see in motion. This game also introduced Shinobi Stones, unlockable boosts that add a little edge to your character and making them more powerful. But it doesn’t end there, one thing this game has that really makes it stand out, The Youma Nest. A hellish gauntlet that sees you progress through the floors of the dreaded Youma Nest, fighting off waves after waves of foes, and the end result is something special. This game introduces customisable weapons, although purely for cosmetic purposes which is a bit of a bummer, but seeing some of the weapons, they really look cool and help add your own unique aesthetic to the characters on top of the myriad of awesome costumes you unlock through the game. If I was to make any real complaints, it’s that the Giant Youma Bosses were a mixed bag, and a pretty poor bag at that. They were either too easy, or way too hard, no in between allowed. This made them not only a chore to play against, but more like an obstacle rather than an actual fight. Another problem I have is that these mechanics that make the game good are never explored again, the Youma nest or any other gauntlet style feature hasn’t re-appeared and the weapons and Shinobi stones have yet to be seen, which sucks cos these features really added to the game in small but meaningful ways. Other than that, this is solid gameplay, adding many things that sadly haven’t been explored further in the franchise, which is a shame because these are some great ideas that really help add substance to the gameplay and really spice it up making it a more personal experience.

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Yeah! Go on girls, kick their ass! 

Presentation


Like with Burst, this games visuals are still slightly impaired by the system it’s stuck on. The graphics are still appealing and a definite step up from the last time, in fact the games general presentation was really streamlined here. The animations and in game movement is a lot smoother and has better framerates, the actual animations themselves are more concise for the Ninja attacks, making for a more smooth visual experience and the game’s layout is visually pleasing. The in game CGs and opening animations are absolutely stunning, take notes Shinovi Master, and the game really does up the ante with its fanservice. The jiggle physics are back with a vengeance, more costumes with unique little details bringing them all together, and the game also manages to find a fine balance of tasteful and near the knuckle fanservice, but honestly it takes a backseat to the rest of the gameplay and story which I feel is a very good decision so as to not provide any unnecessary distractions, unless haruka is on screen in which case I’m unresponsive for a solid few seconds… Anyway, before we leave the presentation part, let’s quickly talk about the soundtrack again. Last time i talked about how the soundtrack was probably the best I;ve heard in a game, this one is…good but not as good as before. This game has some awesome melodies and the character themes are strong once again, not to mention the central theme of the game Beyond Light and Darkness, is a wonderful tune and stands as my favourite Senran Kagura theme overall, even if Bursts soundtrack in general was superior.

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It’s Orochi’s turn on the Xbox and he’s not taking no for an answer!

Grades


  • Story: 4/5 – This story feels like an organic continuation from Burst. It introduces new spins on old themes and creates some nice tension and manages to create an engaging plot that moves at just the right pace.
  • Characters: 4/5 – These characters are great once again. They develop and grow, forming great bonds with one another and having little quaint moments of brevity amidst an otherwise dark tone. I really have to give extra merit to Hebijo however, this really is them at the best, not overshadowed by the likes of Miyabi’s group like in future games.
  • Gameplay: 4/5 – This gameplay is tight, well developed, has some great mechanics that are begging to be reused in future games and really managed to smooth out the core gameplay paved out by Burst before it.
  • Presentation: 4/5 – The presentation is pretty good, not much else to say. Nice animations, great music and a much more polished look, it’s just a generally well made game.
  • Enjoyability: 5/5 – This is just fun, that’s all I need to say. It’s got all the workings of a great and fun beat em’ up hack n’ slash style game, and has since aided in the influence of future games.

Final Grade: 4/5


This game is a lot of fun, no question about it. It adds onto the core gameplay laid out by Burst, and moulds it into a much more well crafted experience in almost every way. The gameplay is much better paced and more exhilarating, the story retains the same tone and well paced narrative complimenting the consistently well written characters. Add to this some pretty visuals, some eye pleasing fanservice and some great customisation options, and you have a game that’s a 100% improvement on the series from its predecessor and a truly fun game to play. If Burst can get a remake, please give it to Deep Crimson too, if you were to out this game on say…the switch, we could get expansions of these awesome mechanics and gimmicks, making for an even greater game.

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It’s times like this I’m reminded of how vicious my waifu used to be…

And this brings us to the end of Day 2 of Senran Celebrations Month. I had a bit of a scare earlier as this whole review somehow got deleted (thanks WordPress) but thankfully it was salvaged. I’m happy I finally got to talk about this game with you guys, and I look forward to talking about future installments. Join me next time when we jump over to the PC and Playstation 4 for Senran Kagura Estival Versus. What’s that game like? You’ll just have to wait to find out.

Thank you for reading I hope you enjoyed it, if you did please consider leaving a like and following my blog for updates on future posts. Also follow me on twitter @joe_reviews for further updates and general nonsense. Till next time.

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