Review: Senran Kagura Reflexions (Nintendo Switch)
- Release Date (NA): September 13, 2018
- Release Date (EU): September 13, 2018
- Release Date (JP): November 24, 2017
- Publisher: XSEED Games
- Developer: Honey Parade Games
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
This has been a month of firsts for me; in these past few weeks I've reviewed my first fighter game, acquired my first IKEA furniture to assemble, and now I find myself sitting in front of my first Senran Kagura game. I've seen ninjas, cooking, and water gun fights from the series but at all times simply looked from afar—no more I say! Promised an experience available exclusively to the Nintendo Switch, one to utilise its unique features more than any game before it, I step, nay leap, into this world of infinite possibility.
A Heart in Five Pieces
The story told in this game is that of a shy and well-endowed female classmate. After suddenly calling you to the classroom after school, much to her surprise, you appear. It's around this point her intent becomes clear; increased heart rate, rosy cheeks, an arm position that must be causing some serious pain to her chest—all signs of love yet to be confessed. Unsure of how to express her true feelings, she humbly requests your help in searching herself. Senran Kagura Reflexions is a story of blossoming love between friends, set across several well-illustrated landscapes. On the surface, you may mistake it for any other high school romance, but it's in its core gameplay it flies far beyond anything that has come before it.
Reflexology—the technique of applying pressure to various parts of the hand to rid the body of pain or illness. Her hand in yours, you caress her palm, her fingers, and her thumb, until her mind is taken to another realm; a land of dreams and make believe. Here, she can truly express her feelings with no remorse nor regret. The caveat is that these feelings will only come out with further reflexology… Elsewhere on the body. A key advertising point, where you choose to massage her body will change the outcome of the dream sequence, and the game does do reasonably well here in making the same events more interesting. With each scene having five different routes, each marked by their own colour for you to know which route touching a certain place will lead you down, there is a relative sense of realism at play here. If you want to spend the session prodding her inner-elbow, you might be thanked for making her feel relaxed; and equally if you spend the session slapping her gelatine breasts, you might be called out for your deviant ways.
Before you can reach the session's penultimate dialogue, you have a chance to relax her more than any simple massage with Glorious Reflexology. Starting with only your hands to work the stress out of her thigh, you eventually unlock a roller, brush, and massager to really help find the words she is aching to say. Each of these adding unique gameplay sequences, they go a long way in helping the game feel less repetitive. Of course, with there only being four glorious techniques, you still may find yourself tiring of them towards the end of the story. Thankfully, the development team took this into account, and allowed you to skip this part of the dream in the later stages of the game, giving you the chance to work through at a much faster pace and touch her heart in a way nobody else could. It's a shame there's only one character included in the purchase price, as you find the game is over before you really get a chance to know her, but at the same time, the journey to the end point is an experience in itself. If do you find yourself yearning for more, four additional characters are on the way, with Yumi available today as purchasable DLC, and the rest being released in the coming weeks. While the limited content is a shame, I find myself unable to justify a complaint with the asking price being so low (£8.99 / $9.99).
High Definition Rumble
A significant selling point for this entry in the Senran Kagura series, Reflexions uses the Switch's featureset to its fullest, putting HD Rumble at the forefront of the gameplay experience. I find myself split in this regard; on one hand, I constantly was in a position of not really noticing the significance of it, but on the other, when I was specifically putting attention on the rumble, I could match it to the events on-screen remarkably well. A keen example would be in the Roller Glorious Reflexology sequence. When I first played it, I felt the rumble as the roller was put on the back of her leg, but when I really paid attention, I noticed the intricacies; each notch and bump on the roller genuinely felt defined in the Joy Con feedback. It's impressive the degree of subtlety and integration the development team managed to achieve in what is ultimately a very unsubtle game. I had a similar experience with the Massager in a Glorious Reflexology sequence; the Joy Con vibrated subtly when being held, and felt as though it was being pressed against something as it was pressed down.
This of course extends beyond the more obvious moments, each touch, rub, and slap giving some sort of feedback. Remembering an early promotional video for the game, where the game's director said how he wanted to recreate the feeling of a pudding and water balloons using HD rumble, was where my curiosity for the game stemmed from. Slapping the breast of the game's protagonist, I can say I wasn't disappointed. It felt as a water balloon or a gelatine pudding might as it rippled in a way I would expect the aforementioned balloon or pudding to. It's absurd, it's stupid, but it is a great deal of fun.
A Game for Degenerates?
Senran Kagura Reflexions has a clear target audience in mind, and markets itself well towards this audience. With long-time series fans at the centre of this, it also does well in attracting those of low moral standing, and those simply looking for a fun experience. The obvious attraction comes from prodding and slapping the various areas of the game's heroine, but there lies unique charm in each of the game's dream sequences. From the little sister, to a female warrior, a teacher, or even a schoolgirl in the gym storage room; this game caters to many a strange desire, wrapping them in the hazy package of fantasy as if to say "it's okay, it's not really happening." I don't really understand the appeal in these, and while the range of alternate dialogue and interaction were welcome, I feel the game could have thrived further by properly integrating a plot and character development into this instead of blindly catering to what is ultimately fetish culture. That being said, such an approach would be to take away from the raw and unadulterated entertainment value provided by its disjointed and shameless choice of scenes.
The game also provides ample customisation options to the player. Do you want your heroine to have a pony tail? Pigtails? Bangs? Two pairs of worn underwear around her ankles? A double knot? Senran Kagura Reflexions has you covered. With more customisation options being made available as you progress through the story, you can develop her wardrobe at the same rate as her personality, and relationship with you as the player. Being able to change her hair, outfit, and lingerie, as well as having the ability to add up to eight accessories to the equation, the experience can truly be made your own.
When all is said and done, it's hard to really come to a conclusion with this game. Were it a full retail experience, I would be throwing criticism at the sheer lack of content, but for its price tag, you really do get what you pay for. Here you have a short but sweet overly sexualised experience full of laughs and slaps. If you can get a group of friends together to play, it's something I feel I can wholeheartedly recommend, if only for the one-time experience. There may also be a niche audience in those wanting to try out the HD Rumble, with the feature not overly used to this extent in other Switch games, but whether it's worth your money just for this is perhaps something more subjective. All in all, as long as you know the kind of game you're getting yourself into, you're bound to find some fun to justify the cost.
+ Impressive use of the Joy Con's features
+ A fresh take on a long-running series
+ Brilliant fun to be found in every part of the game
- Limited content
- Limited replayability
- A one-trick pony for some
Everything looks as it should. Panties are visible and breasts are moving like jelly without suspension; this is everything I had expected from Senran Kagura and more.
While I do appreciate the HD Rumble and the fun of slapping a gelatine woman, it's hard to overlook the limited content here. You have hand stroking, body poking, and four unique minigames; rinse and repeat. It's great fun the first few times, but you'll probably find yourself skipping the minigames as you progress to the later parts of the game.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game. I've never been huge on fan service, but there's something so shameless and raw about this that I struggled to dislike. While it's not something I can see myself coming back to alone, it's something I will be forcing friends to play for months to come.
out of 10
(not an average)
Senran Kagura Reflexions is no masterpiece, but it was never made to be one. It is a short and sweet adventure of discovery and love, of poking, slapping, grabbing, and ultimately, massaging. Making great use of the Switch's featureset, the Joy Cons are put to the test in a way I would have never imagined. This is a game I find myself able to recommend if only for the hilarity of playing with a group of friends. It does more than enough to justify its price tag, even if its content is limited.