There has been quite a few good science fiction animes to come out from Japan. Ghost in the Shell was one of them. Starting out as a manga, the anime adapted the source material and went in its own direction. Using elements from cyber punk like cyborgs and brain hacking, it became a instant classic around the world. It is not surprise that someone would want to do a live action adaptation. It is also not surprising that, even though it is an international collaboration, a Hollywood actress was chosen to star in it.
Ghost in the Shell is an 2017 science fiction movie starring Scarlett Johanssen, Takeshi Kitano, Michel Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche. It is directed by Rupert Sanders. It is based on the Ghost in the Shell multimedia franchise, pulling it’s inspiration from the various version, but with an original story. It is released by Paramount Pictures.
Set in the not so distant future in a culturally diverse city that could be future Tokyo (on not; they do not specify), it focuses on a woman given the name Mira Killian (Johannsen). Involved in a terrorist attack which killed her parents and severely maimed her body, she is saved by a company called Hanka Robotics. She becomes the first fully augmented human, with a robotic body and a human brain. Employed by a government agency called Section 9, she obtains the Rank of MAjor and leads a squad of mostly cybernectically enhanced personnel. When a mysterious hacker called Kuze, starts to target and kill employees of Hanka, the Major and her team-mate, Batou, try to track him down. But, the Major discovered that she as a connection to Kuze, somewhere in the past that she barely remembers. As she goes deeper into this mystery, she starts to question her memories, even her own name as she discovers a secret at Hanka that they will to anything to keep hidden.
Ghost in the Shell is a fast paced movie that does not forget it’s anime roots. In fact, there are several shots and action secrets that were based on scenes from the 1995 movie, from the building of the Major’s body to the fight sequence in the water.. The visual are very futuristic, with the city skyline dominated by holographic signs and billboards. It looks very futuristic but still very much in the realm of probability.
The storyline is good. There is nothing too out of the ordinary, given the source material. There are a lot of movies with heroes with a mysterious past with benefactors that are hiding secrets. The Major is pretty somber but as she questions her past, more of her emotions show. The rest of Section 9 is used sparingly, save for Batou who acts like he did in the original anime. They even show how he got his cybernetic eyes.
Now, the major complaint about the movie is the “white washing” of the Major. They could have easily cast an Japanese woman I the role, but with Hollywood, they would like a marque actress to star in such a project. ScarJo is pretty popular right now and has international recognition. The creator of the manga even says he didn’t mind th casting (but that could be the money talking.). The movie does explain her name change and it will be up to each viewer to decide if they accept it. But, there is no reason to thing that a future Japan could be more heterogeneous place. Western films like Blade Runner had a future America where Japanese was spoken widely. Putting aside the guilt of past colonial aspirations, what is the difference from that setting to the one here, if it is set in future Japan? Anyone familiar with Ghost in the Shell knows that each iteration is different for each other. The manga is different from the film. The film is different from the T.V series. Even Arise differed from Stand Alone Complex. This is just a different version of the Ghost in the Shell story.
Ghost in the Shell is not perfect, but it is a decent science fiction movie. If one can get past comparing it to the anime, it is an entertaining movie. Scarlett Johannsem is a decent actress, but one cannot argue that she looks good in tight outfits, which she wears plenty in this film. The call out to the original are well done and Aramaki is pretty badass for an old guy.
Ghost in the Shell opened 31 March 2017. It is rated 14-A in Ontario.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a third person hack-and-slash action game developed by Marvelous and published in North America by XSeed Games. It is a spin-off of the popular Fate multimedia franchise by Type Moon that started with the Visual Novel Fate/stay night(originally an eroge that was toned down for a general audience) that spun off into anime, manga and video games. Fate/Extella is an indirect sequel to the spin-off game Fate/Codes (still available on PSN as of this writing.) and Fate/Codes CCC (Japan only). This game is available for the PS Vita and the PS4 with cross save and cross download features. It is playable on the PlayStation TV micro console.
The Fate franchises has an underlying theme to all of its versions: The is a mystical artifact called the Holy Grail (what it is can vary) and a war is fought over it. The Grail chooses several people to become Masters. Masters usually have some sort of magical aptitude, but their level can vary from person to person. All of them, however. are able to summon a Servant. A servant is a Heroic Spirit that become a legend in the past, present or even future. They come from history, legends, myths or even from times not yet past. These Heroic Spirits are not necessary good, but they have all made their mark on history in some way. But the ultimate goal is to defeat all of the others and win the Holy Grail, which will grant them what they desire most.
Servants are broken down into several classes. There are Sabers (sword wielders), Casters (magic users), Riders (fast moving, sometimes with a mount), Archers (projectiles, not necessarily arrows), Berserkers (great strength and endurance), Lancers (lances and pole arms), and Rulers (able to command other Servants)
Fate/EXTELLA varies a bit from the core Fate storyline. For one, it takes place not in our world, but in a virtual reality. The Holy Grail is the Moon Cell Automaton, an ancient computer build by non-human hands and hidden on the Moon. It generates a virtual world called SE.RA.PH. Masters, called wizards, project their consciousness into this world and they bond with their Servants, who the Moon Cell Automaton pulls from the Earth’s history.
The second difference is that the Holy Grail War is already won. Set after the events of Fate/Codes, EXTELLA sees the player takes the role of the Master who had won the Grail War and now rules over the virtual world of SE.RA.PH alongside the Servant, Nero Claudius. A Saber class servant, Nero is very loyal to the protagonist. She (yes, she) gathered four other Servants (now existing independently in SE.RA.PH.) to help rule the new lands. She has a ring, the Regalia that symbolizes her dominion over SE.RA.PH. But things are not as simple as it seems. Another servant appears with her own Regalia. A Caster, Tamamo no Mae has claimed that she won the Holy Grail War along side her master, who appears to be the player character as well.
A servant sent as a System Administrator, Archimedes explains that the player character was attacked in the real world by servants of Velber, the Umbral Star, a sentient planet that destroys every civilization it encounters. It has returned to Earth after 14 000 years to lay waste to the planet and its Moon. It split the player’s avatar into three parts, Body, Mind and Spirit. Nero has Mind, Tamamo has spirit, and the body is in the hands of Velber’s servant, Altera. The player has to help the servants reunite the three parts and hopefully stop the Umbral Star from destroying the virtual and the real world.
The main story is split into three parts, one for Nero, Tamamo, and Altera. Each part has you fight in battles as you try to win by taking over sections of the battlefield and defeating the enemies within. Each time to takeover a sector, you gain keys called Regime Matrices. Collect 15 keys and you take over the area. Lose 15 and the enemy takes over instead and you lose. One you have 15, the Boss servant appears and you have to beat them to complete the level. this is similar to the gameplay of Koei Tecmo games such as Dynasty Warriors.
You create the Master of the game, but the customization is limited. You can create the name and choose their sex, but that is all you can customize. Other than you name and what sex you choose, the game plays the same with your servant expressing their admiration and love for you no matter your sex. You are skill referred to as King or Master or Husband, depending on the character, though sometimes the female player character is referred to as Lady.
Each of the servant characters have the standard light and heavy attacks (Square and Triangle, respectively) that can be chained for combos. As the character levels up you gain the ability to do longer combos as they are unlocked. The Circle button activates the Extella Maneuver; as the little blue bars beneath your health fill up, you are able to launch an attack that hits all the opponents around you. The more bars you have build up, the longer you can string the attacks.. Finally, X is jump.
There are also two special attacks. First is the Moon Crux (L2 on PS4, L and X on the Vita)for the three main heroines in with they temporarily transform into a more powerful version of themselves and gains special effects like flames or ice with their attacks. The other servants don’t transform, but become more powerful until the bar above their health empties. The other special attack is the characters’ Noble Phantom. Throughout each level, there are Red crystals with a circuit part that fills a graphic next to the character’s health. Once you get three of them and complete the circuit, you can press R2 (or the circuit symbol with the Vita’s touch screen) to activate the attack. Each characters attack is different and they tie into that character’s legend or backstory.
Besides the main story, you have two other modes. The side quest allows you to play as any of the other servants you have unlocked in story mode. There is also a Free Mode, in which you can replay any of the missions you have beat with any character that you have unlocked. Missions may even have side missions give by other servants that will increase you affinity with them. There is also a gallery, which you can watch any of the cut scenes you unlocked, look at character models or read up on terms in the Fate Extella setting.
There are alternate costumes available as paid DLC for the game, with more coming in the weeks to come. You can change the costume between missions and the character’s looks will reflect the costume in most cut scenes. Even the character art in the dialogue will reflect the costume you are wearing, which is a nice touch.
This is a pretty fun game. Fans of Dynasty/Samurai/Hyrule Warriors will enjoy the same hack and slash gameplay in this title. The three storylines and the ability to replay levels adds some value to the game. The characters are all interesting, once you get over some of the interesting changes to some historical figures. Nero being a woman is not that surprising; in the original Fate anime, the Sabrer in that series, Artoria (who is a hidden character in this game), was the legendary King Arthur. Iskandar, the King of Conquerors, is large and imposing, but historically, Alexander the Great (who is based on) wasn’t that tall though his exploites were larger than like. The most interesting interpretation was Elizabeth Bathory. A Hungarian countess distantly related to the (historical) Vlad Dracula , she was accused of murdering young girls to bath in their blood to remain young. In the Fate world, she returns looking like a teenage girl with dragon wings and tails and a desire to become a pop idol.
Both the PS 4 and the PS Vita versions play the same. Of course, the Vita version cannot show as may enemies on screen as the PS 4. In fact I find the Vita version a bit easier because of that. Both versions have an option to upload your same so you can transfer it to the other system. Gameplay on the PlayStation TV version lets you use the controller like in the PS4 version. All of the DLC the is or will be available for this game will get you both the Vita and PS4 version
Fate/EXTELLA: the Umbral Star is available now both in a physical release or digitally on the PSN. The Digital version will give you a theme for the system you bought it for and either the Shackle Bride outfit for Nero (PS4) or the Cold Blooded Warden outfit for Gilgamesh (PS Vita). Both the physical version comes in the Noble Phantasm edition, which I will review separately.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is a third person action game developed by Meteorise and published by Marvelous Inc. through PQube. It is part of the Valkyrie Drive media franchise created by Marvelous Inc, (Senran Kagura series), which includes this game, an anime and an iOS game exclusive to Japan. This game is exclusive to the PS Vita system. The game is PlayStation TV Compatible.
The overall plot of the Valkyrie Drive series is this: Sometime in the near future, a virus starts to infect teenage girls and young women. The virus is called the Armed Virus and can affect a girl in two ways: Some gain the ability to turn in weapons and some gain the ability to wield those weapons, if the girls are compatible enough. The ones that turn into weapons are called Extars and the one who can wield them are Liberators. Some Extars don’t turn into weapons: some turn into a vehicle or some just grown giant (as seen in the anime.) Some even have both the abilities of an Extar and a Liberator. The governments of the world have decided to remove these girls and put them on artificial islands where they can learn to control their powers or be cured from the virus.
Extars have one thing in common, though. In order to transform, they must be compatible with their Liberator in order to initiate the transformation. To initiate the transformation, the Liberator has to bring their Extar to a state of “euphoria.” If you’ve read my review of Gal *Gun: Double Peace, you know that’s code for giving them an orgasm. Yes, an orgasm. The higher compatibility between the girls, the easier the transformation and the more powerful the Extar gets. In the anime, it is shown that some girls effortlessly shift between human and Extar form if they have the right partner. It even showed that an Extar could involuntarily turn into a weapon if the sight of an attractive Liberator turns them on. But that is enough of the back story.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is set on the artificial island of Bhikkhuni (hence the title). It mainly follows two sisters, Rinka and Ranka, who have been sent there in order to be cured from their virus. Everyone on that island have a variation of the Armed Virus called the V Virus, which makes them both Extar and Liberator. Here they are put though various combat exercises in order to refine their powers as they are told the way to cure the virus is to master it. The sisters encounter others on the island like the mysterious Momo, the ambitious Mana, arrogant Viola, always hungry Manpukumaru and the serious Koharu. They all progress under the watchful eyes of the Four Pillar Gods, massive mechanical Valkyries that serve as teachers and opponents. Of course the girls pair up and strengthen the bond with their partners through touching groping and kissing. Yes, even the sisters because, Japan.
The game play is similar to what was in the Senran Kagura games for the Vita. You go through the map, fighting off hordes of mostly female enemies, with the occasional robot dog, scorpion or some other mechanical contraption. You attack with the square button for light and triangle for heavy attacks. Circle launches the enemy into the air and X is jump for light presses or a dash towards locked on enemies if you hold it. You can explore the maps to find hidden items and areas (guarded by a robot keeper that recognizes the girls by touching their breasts), and to collect pieces of lingerie tokens, which unlocks underwear if you collect all the pieces in the level. Like Senran Kagura, there is clothing damage that stays through the end level cut scenes. Usually at the end, you face off against another pairs of girls. After each level, you are given a score, a ranking and experience points to split between the Liberator and the Exter.
While leveling up the Liberator improves their speed, endurance and power, leveling the Exter improves the weapon’s power and unlocks the Valkyrie Drive. You build up you drive meter as you fight and defeat enemies, with combos yielding more power. Once the meter is full, you can initiate the Drive. There are four levels of the driver. First Drive is when the Exter turns into a weapon. Unlike the anime where the girl has to orgasm to turn into a weapon, in the game the girls just touch hands and one turns into the weapon. In fact, at the lower level, you don’t even start off in First Drive (even though you have a weapon), but you do as you get the Exter higher in the levels. You can activate the Drive 3 more times if you unlock the abilities for your Exter. Each stage of Drive is accompanied by a scene depicting you two characters: Second Drive has the Liberator touch the other girl’s breast; Third Drive the Liberator hugs the Exter from behind and nuzzles her neck; and Final Drive, the girls kiss (yes, even the sisters). In Second and Third Drive, the Exter loses a piece of clothing until by the final Drive, they are in their underwear. In the Final Drive, the underwear goes, replace by shining light to cover them up (like in Senran Kagura Estival Versus) and the girls launches into the air in ecstasy. You can also use the meter to do special attacks by holding L and pressing square.
The game has other modes as well. There is a hub you can go to change costumes, buy outfits and items at the store (including Lingerie) or look at unlocked art and scenes. You can also talk to the other girls here. Occasionally there will be hearts that you can collect for each girl which improves their affection level. Occasionally this will unlock a text and voice scene where the girls interact with each other. These could be about the girls challenging each other while training, day dreaming about an opponent’s boobs or directly asking Viola if the carpet matches the drapes, if you get what I’m saying. If you max out the affection level, you unlock a picture of the girls together. It doesn’t have much to do with the story, but is just fan service I guess.
Like Senran Kagura, you can customize the look of the girls. You can either buy items from the shop, unlock items buy playing the main game, or by buying DLC. Each girl only have one outfit, but you can swap them for a different colour version of the main one for any that you have unlock or bought. You can also add accessories like Senran Kagura and adjust their position on their bodies to create unique looks. There is even a DLC pack that includes many of the items available for Senran Kagura. If you’ve played Estival Versus and checked out the Miss Shinobi Contest, you know the things that can be done. As in Senran Kagura, you can interact with the girls in the dressing room in what is called communication mode. You can press the Square and X buttons to cause battle damage to their outfits or you can play the touching mini-game as you build up levels by touching various areas of her body, with the girl all the while calling you a pervert (as if you didn’t feel that way already.) There are 7 ranks broken down into various levels, from “Girl”, the lowest, to Valkyrie, the highest. Reaching level 20 (Lady) unlocks the heart catch mini-game, in which you tap on screen hearts as they fill up and before they disappear as the girl you’ve been…tapping is shown in the background in her underwear, quipping lines like “Oooh,” Ahhh,” and “That was the best massage ever!” Doing this unlocks various pictures, lingerie and outfits for that character. Other modes in the game include a survival mode and a challenge mode.
As mentioned, there is tons of DLC out for this game, including the swimsuit DLC included in Japanese special editions. There is also DLC with adds Liberator Mirei and her Exter Mamori from the anime. Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid. These two characters can only be used together, much like in the anime. They do not show up in the main story mode, but can be used to replay beaten levels
Graphically, the game is on par with Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, meaning they are fine, but not as smooth as the later Senran Kagura game. The areas in game are fairly large and the load time between areas is not that long. The game does look good on a larger TV through a PlayStation TV and most of the touch controls can be done through the face buttons.
Now content-wise, this game is a little more risqué than the Senran Kagura games. By risqué, I mean that the lesbian or yuri (as it is called in Japan) elements of the girls touching and kissing. While the Senran Kagura series has girls touching girls and there is some blatantly obvious attraction between some of the girls, it is not central to the plot. In Valkyrie Drive it is right there in the middle of all of it. But the game is not as explicit as the anime series. Watch an episode and you’ll be surprised that his was on a cable network (ATX, an anime cable channel) and not some OVA sold behind a counter. It is like an anime Game of Thrones, but with less violence, even less plot and much more lesbians. The game handles the transformation mechanics differently than the anime, but it have some risky elements with the two sisters being partners and all. Whether that’s so hot or super creepy is up to the player. Either way, XSeed (Marvelous Inc’s western arm) decided not to port this game so PQube had to step in. They also aged up the girls, having the virus affect young women (meaning over 18) to appeal to Western sensitivity. None of the girls look too jail-baity, unlike in Senran Kagura. Besides that, there are no other instances of censorship.
Another difference is that no matter who your Exter is, you still use the same weapon. In the game, each Exter changes into a certain weapon. Ranka turns into Rinka’s sword and Rinka becomes Ranka’s hell gauntlets. But if you have Ranka as Mana’s Exter, she is her bow. I understand it is to make the game less complicated, but I would have been nice if who you choose as your partner determined what weapon you get. It could even be a challenging game mechanic to force you to use a weapon you are not used to. But it was all about the girl on girl action, right?
All in all, Valkyrie Drive is a good game that could have been better. It relies on the whole “weaponized lesbians” angle to pull in players but the story can be weak in places and the battles slightly repetitive. Not having who you choose as your Exter change your weapon is a loss for me, as I was hoping that was the case when I got it. I’m sure it was just to simplify the programming, but it was a wasted opportunity. I wonder if developer Meteorize just borrowed the SK engine to make the game since it looks so similar. Maybe if Tamsoft was involved, we would have gotten Estival Versus level graphics and unique weapons forms for each Exter, no matter who the Liberator is.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is out now. Physical copies can be bought online through Video Games Plus or Rice Digital. Rice Digital had the deluxe edition with an art book, which may or may not be still available. The game can also be bought through PSN.
Criminal Girls 2:Party Favors is a Japanese Role Playing Game developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by NIS America it is a sequel to Criminal Girls: Invite Only, also for the PS Vita (and reviewed here)It was released physically on 20 September, 16 and on PSN on 11 October, 2016 in North America. The game is PlayStation TV compatible.
As in the first game, you are a Reformation Instructor in Hell. Your job is to guide the souls of delinquents, girls who have yet to commit a crime punishable by damnation, but are close enough to need guidance to reform. Unfortunately you have lost your memory and suddenly fin yourself with seven delinquents to guide through hell. Each are headstrong and resistant in their own way but you have to get them to work together to ascend the Spire. The only issue is, you find out there should only be six girls…
Criminal Girls 2 plays exactly like the previous game, with you moving your 2d characters through the mazes of hell. Monster encounters random, except for boss fights and when it is needed to move the story along. The story is told though Japanese voice acting with English subtitles with 2D images of the characters with limited animation. You explore the levels, only saving at camps at various locations.
The girls that you guide pretty much follow the typical anime tropes as the first game. You have the regular sized girls (Shinoa and Lily), the well endowed women (Yurine and Tsukyasa) and the uncomfortably jailbait-like ones (Kuroe, Mizuki and Sui). Of course the girls are old enough to no get NIS in trouble. Each character has their own personality as well. Shinoa is caring and trusting; Lilly comes off as a rich snob but does have a soft spot; Yurine is a bit ditzy but wants to help, Sui is sarcastic and analytical, Tsukasa is a bit of a tease, Kuroe is shy and talks through her donkey doll, Baron; and, Mizuki who is a clumsy girl who’s child-like nature makes motivating her creepy.
Combat is turned base and when you go into a encounter, the screen changes and you see four of your girls , two on either side of the screen and the monster(s) in the middle. As the Instructor, you do not attack, you only choose which character to take battle advice. That action will be take that round then the monsters go (if they didn’t attack first. Some action have two characters attack at once. You can also heal your girls with items or switch a girl out for another character. These actions do not count towards the turn. You can also use skill as spells that the character has learned. After the battle, the characters get experience to level up their hit points and CM points with can go towards items in the shop or to towards the motivation mini games.
Yes , the Motivation system is back. In order to get the girls to fight, you must motivate them with various punishments. There are five Motivational mini-games: Scrubby Scrub, which you scrub soap off the girls; Spanking X, which is spanking two girls at a time; Slimeshot, which you spray your goo, er slime on the girls (that’s not suggestive…); and Shocking bondage, in which you shock the girls when they are all tied up. As their Motivation level goes up, you unlock more attacks, magic or stat bonuses for that character. You will have two types of skills, S Skills and M skills. They can affect your character when you coach them in battle, enabling them to deal more damage (S) or reduce damage take (M).
The gameplay is like a typical JRPG. There will be a lot of grinding to get up levels and to unlock abilities. You can go up to 30 second without having a random encounter and when you start out with only one girl fighting, some enemies will be tough. Getting enough CM points to motivate the girls will be your priority as your attacks will improve. All characters get XP after battles so don’t worry if you tend to stick with your favourite four.
Graphic-wise, it looks the same as the first game. The dungeons change a bit from level to level but it can become a bit repetitive. The monsters still look like they did in the first game, with some of them not resembling the creature the game says they are. But, hey, you’re in Hell, scrubbing and spanking girls to redeem them. Nothing has to make sense.
Now, it has to be obvious that his game must have been somewhat censored to be brought out west. Japan has some different sensibilities that may not fly in the west. So the girls have been aged up (or, more accurately, all traces of age have been removed and it is assumed that they are old enough to drink in Alberta at the very least.). Some changes NIS admitted were redrawn art for the motivation mini-games, removing elements that might have been considered explicit, removing the yelps and moans from the mini-games ,and even changing the name of the Motivation system (originally it was called Punishment.) Compared to the pink mist obscuring the Motivation mini-game in Criminal Girls: Invite Only, this is acceptable.
Overall, this is a okay game for those who do not mind the tediousness of a grindy JRPG. You definitely have to be in the mood for it if you want to get far in this game. Looking back, I think I judged the first one a bit harshly, mostly because of the annoying censorship and the battle mechanics. But I seethe strategy in the system now and the censorship is not as prominent in this game,. But it is not a overly pretty game, save for the characters themselves. It is a long, dark bland game, but then again, it is set in Hell.
Criminal Girls 2: Party Favours is available through online retailers, such as Video Games Plus and Rice Digital on online on the PlayStation Store. There was a Collector’s Edition available as well as a standard copy. Prices may vary by your country .
Gal*Gun: Double Peace is a Japanese first-person on-rails shooter developed by Inti Creates and published in the West by PQube. It is a sequel to the original Gal*Gun game published in 2011. The game is available for both the PS Vita and the PS4 video game systems This review is for both versions.
Note: This Review is not a paid review and only is my opinion. All screenshots were taken with either the PS Vita or PS4.
Gal*Gun: Double Peace puts you in the role of Houdai Kudoki, an ordinary, rather unremarkable student at the Academy (which I’m sure is some college or something…). When Ekoro, a student angel assigned to bring love to one of the students, accidentally hits Houdai with 32 love arrows, he finds himself the target of affection of all the girls. Ekoro explains that, because of her mistake, he has until the end of the day to find his one true love or be alone forever.
Houdai’s best chance for love resides in two sister he had known since childhood, Shinobu and Maya. But they are both demon hunters, unaffected by the effects of the love arrows and are both emotionally aloof when around Houdai. They are also busy trying to hunt down a novice demon, Kurona, who is causing more mischief. Houdai has until dusk to get through to one of the sisters to show their true feelings and find true love. He only have to avoid love-mad students and teachers, and any other trouble Kurona unleashes.
In order to fend off the love-sick mobs of girls, you have to shoot the girls with pheromone shots from your… well, I don’t know where they come from. Do you use a finger gun? Shoot them with a sexy look (Blue Steel!) or do you point at them with an…appendage or some sort? Well, anyways, you shoot them with your love gun (heh) until they collapse in euphoria. That’s what the game tells you but it just another way of saying that it’s an orgasm gun.
One you have satiated enough ladies with your pheromone shots, you build up enough energy to go into Doki Doki Mode. This stuns all the girls on-screen and you can select up to three girls for a mini-game in which you can shoot pheromones at specific parts of their body until the org-… achieve euphoric bliss. If you do this in time to at least one girl, when the time ends, her euphoria will explode knocking out all of the girls on-screen.
Additionally some of the girls are under the demon’s influence and want to abuse poor Koudai. These girls are stronger and more resistance to the pheromone shot. You have to zoom in and find the mini-demon that is controlling the girl. Take out the demon and then you can euphoria the hell out of her.
Of course, throughout the game you have to win over one of the sisters. Both love you, but each has a reason to deny that love and not get involved with anyone. You have to say the right things to her to raise her affection rate. Say or do the wrong thing and it could lower it. You can also improve it by helping them out in a mini game. These mini-games usually involve you shooting demon bugs off their bodies and help them out in some way. You could be helping Maya get herself unstuck from a demon trap or bide your time looking for a way to free Shinobu from the demon’s control while she…steps on your junk while in her underwear. Oh Japan…
The game adds replay value by having multiple paths and multiple girls to woo. At first only Maya and Shinobu are available, but as you beat the game multiple times, options to woo them both at the same time opens up. You can aso take a path to win over the angel, Ekoro, the demon, Kurona, or have them both. You can also chose another path to find a random girl, if you unlock it. There are multiple ending for each choice, too.
Other modes are a time attack mode for all the levels you played and a speed one for each of the different paths that you beat. There is alos a dressing room, where you can change the attire of any of the girls in the game with outfits you have unlocked or purchased through the DLC. There is also a collection mode where you can see so stats in the game, what endings you have unlocked and view art from the game.
Another option in Collection mode is the Student Roster. Here you can see the names of all the students and teachers that you encounter. As you play the game, you unlock more girls and you can find student hand books to tell you more about them. You can also zoom in on them in the game to unlock information like their height, measurements (B-W-H) and weak spots which is handy in Doki Doki mode. Unlock enough and you can even get an option to ‘fantasize’ about them, in which you view their 3d model, pose them and change the background. You can even poke them on the Vita’s touch screen, if that is your thing.
The versions of this game for the PS Vita and the PS4 are exactly the same, but each has their drawbacks. The Vita version is slow to load, taking over a minute until the game actually starts up. The PS4 version loads much quicker, but there are parts in the game in which the screenshot and video recording is disabled, such as when Shinobu is humiliating you while in her underwear or during the end scenes. You can still screenshot in the PS Vita during those spots. While both games have a good translation overall, there are no subtitles during the mini-games and, unless you speak Japanese, you don’t know what they are saying, though the games does tell you what to do.
The graphic are good, if not spectacular. It has a solid anime feel to the art design and you could be excused for not knowing it was make with the Unreal Engine middleware. The graphics are bight and crisp and I did not see any glitches or slowdowns in either version. The graphics are a bit better on the PS4, however, but that is how is should be.
This game features a cross save functionality. You can upload your PS4 save and download it to you Vita and vice versa. All of the DLC are cross buy as well, meaning you get it for both versions. Currently the DLC is mostly costume for the girls. You can buy them individually or in sets of four. There are two sets available for purchase with one costume, the ripped uniform being only one not included. There are also DLC for reducing the girls’ breast size (Angel’s Cutting Board) or increase it (Demon’s Meat Buns.) Then there is the Pheromone Z DLC, which allows you to see through clothing (which you can already do, if you keep your reticule on the girl long enough.) This one cost $90!
Let me rant here. This is the worst case of nickel and diming people ever and that’s including horse armour and anything EA has ever done. Now, there is no nudity in this game. You can already see through their clothing if you zoom in and look at them long enough and you see their underwear. If they are in swimwear or the ribbon DLC, there are hearts covering where the nipples would be and they still have panties on. This DLC just makes it that the clothes disappear when you look at the girls through the site. The developer, PQube, said that it was meant to be a joke and nobody should buy it. So, why bother selling it? Seems like a bad joke for a slightly lewd game. You can get more value in a Season Pass for another game like Fallout 4 or Dead or Alive 5 Last Round.
Overall, this is a okay game. Gal*Gun: Double Peace is bit of an ecchi (sexy or dirty) game with the ability to see through clothing, some of the dialogue choices if you want to play it at a creep and the questionable age of some of the girls, offset by the fact they are only anime characters and hey, Japan. But, at it’s core, it is about childhood friends admitting their feeling have grown into love, if you play it that way. The fact it is a on-rails shooter where you are pretty much along for the ride with the occasional choice turn giving you the illusion of choice takes away from it a bit. But it is a fun ride and the multiple paths and collectables add replay value.
Gal*Gun: Double Peace is only available in physical release through online shops or as a download on the PlayStation Network. Check online for pricing.
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is a third person hack-and-slash game developed by Tamsoft and published in North America by XSEED/Marvelous USA. The game is available for both the PlayStation Vita handheld and the PlayStation 4 home console. It is the third Senran Kagura game on the PS Vita and a direct sequel to Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus. It is the first game in the series on the PS4. The PS Vita version is compatible with the PlayStation TV micro-console. This review covers both the PS Vita and the PS4 versions.
Estival Versus features all four factions from the previous game. After Ryobi and Ryona (from Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy) encounter their long dead sister at a strange ceremony in the woods, they are transported to a tropical paradise dimension. Soon the other Hebijo Girls find themselves drawn into a bright light into this dimension, as are the other groups; Asuka and her friends from Hanzo, Yumi and her Gessen classmates as well as Homura and the rest of the Crimson Squad. Each group are set upon by mysterious ninja, the same group that had attacked them before at the hot springs (as shown in the Senran Kagura: Estival Versus Original Video Animation, not included but you can find it online). The girls fight their way through and all of them meet up and encounter their mysterious host.
The host is an old woman named Sayuri, a former Kagura or demon hunter. She is also Asuka’s maternal grandmother. She tells the girls that they are now part of the Kagura Millennial Festival, a 8 day celebration to honour those ninja who died in vain in order to give their spirits peace. The celebration includes a contest called the Shinobi Bon Dance, with each team competing against each other to see who can destroy the most shinobi platforms. Assisting Sayuri are Ryoki, the sister of Ryona and Ryobi who was killed by a yoma (demon) on a mission against Miyabi, and the Mikagura sisters, three shrine maidens with their own ninja arts and agenda. Sayuri should not be underestimated either because she holds power inside her.
The game plays pretty much the same as Shinovi versus, with some levels requiring you to defeat a group of enemies to be able to move on to your next objective within a large area or just a large battlefield where you fight until you win. Most of the time (not always) you will face off against up to three or the other characters and have to defeat them. You still have tricks like Aerial Rave, where you launch you opponent and chase after and attack them in the air. You still have the three mode to fight in; Flash, where you fight in your normal form with no access to you ninja arts; Yang, where you use your shinobi transformation and have access to your ninja art attacks with increased strength; and Yin or Frantic, where you strip down to your underwear, increasing you speed, strength and power, but at the cost of your defence.
New to the game is being able to fight in missions along a partner. Unlike Deep Crimson for the 3DS, this partner is totally Ai controlled and shifts between modes when you do. However, you can do an Fusion Aerial Rave, where if you touch the screen (or touchpad for PS4) when you or your partner initiated and Aerial Rave, both of you will attack the launched target no matter where you were. There are also new power-ups in the form of bombs. Besides the standard exploding bomb, there are bombs that inflict status ailments on you opponents like fire, ice or poison. There are even bombs that render you invisible for ten seconds . And there are context-specific finishers in most (if not all) levels. If you defeat an opponent near certain objects, the final blow will send them into that object for an comical, embarrassing cut scene, in which, of course, there are rendered naked.
Here’s the Senran Kagura series’ main draw. Yes, the destructible clothing system is still intact. Each characters outfits can be torn away with enough damage. Powerful attacks will trigger a cut scene showing the character reacting. Unlike Shinovi Versus, the area you damage is not dependant on which type of attack you use (weak vs. strong). Outfits can be torn two times before the character is reduced to her lingerie and scraps of clothing. If enough of the costume was torn away and a powerful finishing blow was landed (or cut scene triggered) the character is stripped completely naked, with bright stars protecting their modesty.
The Shinobi transformation scenes are pretty much the same, too. There girls are naked once the transformation sequence starts, which is a magic girl trope from Japan since at least Sailor Moon (censored in the West) and the shinobi arts scroll appears, sometimes between their boobs, below their cleavage, behind their backs or appearing in…other areas. .We also get a close up of their outfits appearing onto their bodies with shots of their rear and chest. All the time any naughty bits are obscured either by a body part of by those glowing stars. Because, Lord knows, the world would lose its shit if they showed a nipple, animated or otherwise.
Customization is also a big thing in the Senran Kagura games and Estival Versus is no exception. You can customize your characters in the dressing room changing both their normal and post transformation outfits. Outfit and accessories can be bought with currency earned for completing missions. There is diorama mode in the dressing room in which you can pose up to three characters in the PS Vita or five on the PS4 and take a screenshot of them. There is also the touching mini-game in the dressing room. Using the touch screen on the Vita or on screen hands on the PS4, you, erm, well grope them until they like you (THIS IS NOT HOW IT WORKS IN REAL LIFE! DON’T DO THIS!!!) after which, if you touch their hands, you can “give” them a “kiss.” You can also tear off their clothing (DON”T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!!) by rubbing them on the PS Vita’s touch screen with the handheld vertical, which I cannot get to work, or, on the PS4, where, with the grope hands activated, you turn the DualShock 4 vertical and… shake it up and down (think about it…) Subtle, this game isn’t.
There are also DLC available at launch, with four free outfits that are cross-buy (buy for PS Vita, get it for PS4 as well. Additional characters are also coming with Naraku and Kagura from Seran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson and a special guest character in the form of Ayane from Dead or Alive, reciprocating the Senran Kagura costume DLC for Dead or alive 5: Last Round. I’m sure there will be more outfits and accessories in the near future.
Despite all the fan service this game offers (and uses as a selling point) the story of this game is pretty good (yes there is a story!) Ryona and Ryobi’s relationship with their dead sister Ryoki is one of the main beats of the story. While Ryona is thrilled to have her older sister back, Ryobi is not, still feeling guilty for telling Ryoki that she hopes she dies before the battle that claimed her life. Of course all this character development is undercut with Ryobi verbally abusing Ryona and Ryona loving it and demanding to be abused more. Seriously, Google search Ryona (BUT NOT IMAGE SEARCH, for your sanity’s sake) to see what fetish her name can refer to. Feel free to GIS Ryobi. All you get are pictures of power tools, which I don’t think has anything to do with the character.
There are other serious storylines for the other girls. Yumi and the Gessen girls have a part in which they encounter Kurokage, Yumi’s grandfather and teacher to all of the Gessen students. Miyabi also has a part in which she looks for the soul of her dead mother, who was killed by a Yoma when she was very young. Asuka also has her part to play, trying to figure out why her grandmother really brought them here and what her true motives are. But before you start to think you were getting some serious and deep storyline, it reminds you this is a Senran Kagura game with Katsuragi groping the other girls, Imu lusting after Miyabi and Haruka making up events like a panty-eating contest.
Now it is time for a bit of a rant. Now, I am not a big believer in censorship. I think it is stupid that we are afraid of showing nudity more than violence. Now there is violence in this game but it is not graphic and the nudity is fan service, but very cheesecake and all the naughty bits are censored for our protection. Some have objection with how the girls are portrayed.. They are just drawing, not real people and there is enough plausible deniability they the school as post-secondary and all the girls are of age (why would they release this if they were not?). I personally avoid using characters like Ryobi and Mirai because the whole jailbait look is not for me. So, if a game like this gets released in the West, why isn’t Dead or Alive Xtreme 3? It is much less violent, nobody gets stripped (those there might be a few near wardrobe malfunction scenes) and the swimsuits aren’t that far off of what you see in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit video or, at worse, A Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show! Why doesn’t Koei Tecmo release it here? Marie Rose? Mirai is much worse and the official trailer for DOAX3 says Marie’s age is 18. How else would she travel to a tropical paradise alone? My only guess would be the Relationship System with the faux lesbian undertones. But I’ve gotten off track…
Senran Kagura is a game that you must know what you are getting to enjoy. Like all the games in this series, it is Rated M and should not be played by anyone younger than 17. It is good clean dirty fun that is best enjoyed with a bit of irony and a whole lot of “oh, Japan…” It is a worthy sequel to Shinovi Versus and helps to expand the Senran Kagura universe. The physical release is the special Endless Summer edition which includes the game (either PS4 or PS Vita, art book, one of four sets of cards featuring the girls of each faction and a 2-disc soundtrack. The game is available as a digital download for each system for a cheaper price (I paid $79.99 for the Endless Summer pack for PS Vita and $49.99 for the PS4 game as a download on PSN.
Senran Kagura: Estival Versus was released on 15 Mar 16 and is available on PSN or on online sellers such as Amazon. Some video game stores may have it in stock or can order it for you. Check your local retailer for details and pricing.
Senran Kaugra 2: Deep Crimson is a side-scrolling hack-and-slash game developed by Tamsoft and published in North America by XSEED Games (now Marvelous USA). It is the third Senran Kagura game on the 3DS, with the first game being Japan-Only and the second. Senran Kagura Burst, being a re-release with an additional storyline. It was released physically and as a download on 15 Sept 2015.
The game starts with a reprise of the end of the first game, with the Hanzon Academy girls (Asuka, Ikaruga, Katsuragi, Yagyu, and Hibari) facing off against, and eventually teaming up with the Hebjio Acaemdy students (Homura, Yomi, Hikage, Mirai and Harkura) to take down their sensei, Dougen. They prevail in the end, but while the Hanzo students returned to their school, Homura and her friends find themselves as renegades from Hebijo,
Now calling themselves the Crimson Squad, Homura and the rest continue to train while working the odd job to survive. They find themselves face to face with Asuka and her friends once again as a vacation turns into a mission. Demons called Yoma have started to appear which put the Good Ninja Leadership on alert. Somehow tied to the Yoma is a mysterious woman named Naraku and a little girl who when she absorbs enough “red orbs” from the Yoma, she ages up and becomes the legendary demon hunter, Kagura!. Now, with the Hanzo girls ordered to slay Kagura and the Crimson Squad sensing a kindred spriit, are they two sides able to come to terms and find a way to both stop the Yoma and save Kagura from her fate?
Like there previous games for the 3DS, Senran Kagura 2 is mostly a side scrolling game. Most of the time you move forward until you a blocked by enemies, and are only able to proceed once you defeat all of them. Boss battles are in a large open area where you can move freely around the area. Stages vary from city streets to crater and to a hot spring resort, just to name a few. You can fight in both normal modes (school uniforms and street clothes) or transform into Shinobi mode where you can access you secret ninja arts for more damage. Anyone who has played a Senran Kagura game would have no issue playing this one.
New to the series is the abilities to play as two girls at a time. Some levels have you play as two of the girls, whom you can switch between by pressing A. In these battles you lose if both girls are defeated. If one is knocked out, if your remaining character survives long enough your other character will revive with a small bit of health. You can also play local and online co-op play through WiFi.
Of course it would not be a Senran Kagura game without the stripping! All the ladies of Senran Kagura games have destructible outfits and can be stripped to their underwear in battle. Some of the generic troops feature clothing damage but only when you fight one of the 10 main girls,, or Daidoji, Rin, Naraku or Kagura (in her adult form, of course!) do you get a close up of the action. You character can be stripped too and any damaged is reset between rounds, except in the Yoma’s Nest mode, which I’ll get into next.
Besiudes the main game, there are other modes like a challenge mode, whenre you win under certain conditions, for which you get a Shinboi Stone to power up you character in the game. The Yoma’s Nest mode is an endurance mode in which you fight match after match, facing increasingly stronger opponents, which regaining little to no health between matches. There are also training missions and additional content can be bought from the Nintendo eShop.
You can also customize the girls, too. Entering the dressing room you can change the characters look in her normal or shinobi modes. Hair styles and colors can be adjusted and accessories added. Even their bathing suits (what the game calls underwear) can be adjusted. New costumes and accessories are unlocked as you play the game or when you download certain DLC packs. You can also take phots or the girls, alone in in pairs, in various poses and save it to your SD card.
Have the girls strike a pose!
Yeah, not dirty at all…
I like the Senran Kagura games and this one does improve on the last one for the 3DS. However I do prefer the PS Vita version of this series ( Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus) and I can’t wait to play the new one in that series (Estival Versus, which I’ll review soon!). As I said in my review for Shinovi Versus, this is the sort of game that we used to rarely see out here due to cultural differences and attitudes towards showing a little skin. Though this game series is toned down compared to the anime and, to an extent, the PS Vita versions, I am still surprised that this is on a Nintendo platform. A game like this wouldn’t have bee allowed twenty years ago or ten years ago, or, at least not released in the West five years ago. Still, this is a game that the M rating was made for. It is definitely not for kids. Still, it is strange when you think that society would rather show violence than show a nipple.
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is available as a digital download or as a physical release. The physical release, tactfully called the Double D Edition, comes with a two disc soundtrack featuring the music from the game. It is available through online retailers such as Amazon and may be available in shop at EB Games. Check online for details.