With summer officially come and gone, many of us may still be dwelling on the warm, sunny days. Summer is when dreams start to spring to life, free from the shackles of work or school. If you're anything like me (and let's hope you aren't), one of your dreams is to be able to run around and have a squirt gun battle with busty anime girls. While that dream will never fully become a reality, it is as fulfilled as it'll possibly get thanks to developer Tamsoft and Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash.
The Senran Kagura franchise focuses on squads of female shinobi-in-training, each representing a different training school. These schools see each other as rivals, much like many of our universities do. Though the plot of each game differs, this rivalry always plays a huge part in it, as well as the relationships between the members of each team. Typically, the gameplay is that of a hack-and-slash brawler, though there have been a few spin-offs in the form of a rhythm game and now, with Peach Beach Splash, a shooter. The biggest thing Senran Kagura is known for, however, is certainly the copious amount of perviness and fan-service the games offer, and you can bet this game takes full advantage of its setting and gameplay to maximize those aspects.
Peach Beach Splash predominantly features 5v5 battles where the objective is often to have more knockouts than your opponent. There are ten water-based weapons to choose from, ranging from your shooter standards, such as a pistol or rocket launcher, to the more unique weapons, like the gatling gun and shower spray. Each weapon also has an alternate firing mode, giving you some extra choice as to how you fight. While water is your source of ammunition, it also represents your ability to move quickly. Each girl is able to dash forward and rocket jump, each move costing water. This system provides a nice trade-off between movement and action, especially for weapons with slower reload times.
In addition to your weapons, you have the ability to customize a deck of cards representing your special abilities. These cards take time to charge during battle, but when used, give you a nice variety of skills. Some of these actively damage your opponents, others debuff them, and yet others shield or heal you. These skills are nice to have in a pinch, but ultimately didn't really contribute too much to my success. You can also get more cards by completing story missions or by purchasing card packs using in-game money. You can only have one of each individual card, so any spares you have automatically get thrown into a giant pile where they become upgrade material. Each of the ability cards, as well as each weapon and character, can be upgraded using these extras.
This system helps in powering up your characters in both single-player and multiplayer, so it's wise not to ignore it. However, robust as this system is, it can make each girl feel like a carbon copy of the others since everything you do is based off of your card deck. All it takes is a simple swap to your deck and you have your full arsenal at your disposal. From a gameplay perspective, there's nothing unique to each character to encourage you to play as them, which is a shame given the uniqueness of their personalities and abilities from other titles.
It wouldn't be a Senran Kagura game without the removal of clothing as battles progress. Peach Beach Splash maintains this series tradition through the squirmy finish mechanic. When an enemy falls in battle, you have a small period in which you can rush over and finish them off. Upon starting the minigame, you have a few seconds to squirt either the head, chest, or waist of your opponent using a rubber duck. A few seconds in and your targeting becomes focused solely on one particular area. Once time runs out, you'll be treated to a special pose (often with either the swimsuit's top or bottom flying off) depending on where you were aiming. The weapons each character uses also affects the position in which they fall in battle, so there are quite a few different poses you can end up with in the long run.
There is a story to Peach Beach Splash, but it seems to serve only as a way to provide an excuse as to why these girls are participating in the water gun battles. That's not to say it's a bad story, but it's not great either. Each team's story also revolves around the relationship between the members of the team, so if you aren't familiar with the characters, you might be at a bit of a loss. Overall though, the story's funny at times, sad at others, and downright perverted all the time. The game actually opens by making four or five perverted jokes in the span of a few dialogue boxes. While I'm fine with that style of humor, and even find it funny myself, it isn't for everyone. If it isn't your thing, you're in the wrong franchise entirely.
Being a shooter, multiplayer is a huge part of the experience. There are five different modes within multiplayer: Team Battle (Team Deathmatch), Queen of the Hills (Territories), Capture the Bra (Capture the Flag), Squirmy Showdown (Team Deathmatch where only squirmy finishes count), and the cooperative Survival mode. Unfortunately, because the game isn't out in the United States yet I haven't been able to play with other people right now. It does seem a little strange that I can't play with people from Japan as the game has been out since March over there. I have been able to play with bots, however, and I'm far from impressed, namely because the AI needs a complete overhaul when it comes to objective matches. In a 1v1 Capture the Bra match, the computer completely ignored the objective and focused on attempting to kill me for the duration of the match. This led me to win hands-down with a score of 8 to 0.
The 5v5 matches weren't much better. I tried a few more Capture the Bra matches and the instinct to kill kicked in again, even with my own teammates. I went and scored a couple of times before just standing around watching the brawls take place, occasionally rushing in to perform a squirmy finish, then getting the heck out of the way again. I then switched to Queen of the Hills and, big surprise, I was the only one who made any attempt whatsoever to capture any of the territories. I captured the base closest to our spawn then sat back and jumped around and took screenshots for three minutes. This issue was present in single-player as well, but it wasn't quite as noticeable since there was only one or two objective missions per arc.
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a pretty solid team-based shooter mechanically, when it comes to actual deathmatch-style gameplay, but elsewhere it needs a bit of work. The full suite of customization options allows you to play the game how you want to play—you aren't locked into a specific "class" like you would be with other shooters. However, this makes each character have the potential to play exactly like every other one. I would've appreciated something unique to each girl to make her stand out a bit more.
The story also could've used a bit more depth as each scene seemed only like a way to justify each school's participation. Lastly, multiplayer mode has a lot of potential, but I can't speak too much on it without playing against actual people. Peach Beach Splash is certainly not a game for everyone, given the nature of its content. But for someone like me, it's the perfect way to relax after a long day of school and work.
A copy of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash was provided by XSeed Games for the purpose of this review.