Sunday, February 11, 2018

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit! (Vita)

Senran Kagura:  Bon Appetit! is a spin-off in the Senran Kagura series, now set within the rhythm genre.  The excuse plot this time is that Hanzo has set up a cooking championship where the grand prize is a Secret Ninja Art Scroll that can grant any wish.  The characters then participate, with different motivations.  There are ten character story modes, from Hanzo Academy and Crimson Squad.  The remaining 10 characters from the two other Academies plus two additional characters are DLC.  It's right in your face too since their icons in the menus are blacked out.

Each character's story goes through five songs.  There are a series of short cutscenes (and not after every song either) where the character will reveal their motivation for joining the cooking contest, rise through the ranks and then win.  You're treated to a full screen piece of artwork once you complete the mode.  The story is usually throwaway dialogue but it is quite funny sometimes.  As the series' most famous component, there are heaps and heaps of fan service, even moreso than Shinovi Versus.

Not only are there double entendres and sexual innuendoes. plus stripping your opponent of their clothing, but they will be placed in compromising poses.  The reward for a perfect run is the naked character posed as a dessert, complete with strategically placed chocolate swirls, cream and fruit on their body.  The rhythm gameplay is simple and if you have ever played a rhythm game before, then you will pick it up instantly.  There are two lines where button prompts will appear.

The player must press the D-pad and face buttons in time with the prompts that appear on the two lines, which in turn is in time with the music.  The onscreen action shows off the preparation of the food from both the characters, so the better your timing, the more likely you'll win.  Typical gimmicks such as holding down a button and mashing buttons are here, so there's nothing extraordinary that sets Bon Appetit apart from already well established rhythm games.

As you continue to hit prompts correctly, you'll fill a gauge to eventually activate a Ninja Art where you get multipliers and higher scores.  The caveat is that the multiplier resets back to normal if you miss a prompt, forcing you to build it up again from scratch.  Bon Appetit has generous hitboxes so getting prompts will often be fine on Easy and Normal difficulties.  Hard is of course, hard due to the combinations of notes and faster speed.  There are plenty of tricky sections where you must alternate various buttons prompts but because it is displayed across two lines, it can get confusing the first few times.

During the harder technical sections, it is best not to think too hard and rely on your muscle memory to get through it.  Interludes during the song will include exaggerated motions such as when Hanzo taste tests the food and his imagination runs wild, with his exclamations being the reason the characters' clothing are damaged.  The game reuses the same assets and animations as Shinovi Versus though.  What usually make or break rhythm games are the music and Bon Appetit's selection is average.

Since the Senran Kagura games didn't have super memorable music to begin with, it doesn't stand out here either.  What makes it worse is that there are only 10 songs that you can freely select, plus one "boss" song that you can play in Arcade or Story mode.  When you are playing through five songs per character's story, it means that the game gets repetitive very quickly.  As other Senran Kagura games give you a full roster of all four Academies, it really feels like they cut half the content away from the game to sell as DLC.  It doesn't help that if you want the Platinum trophy, you have to clear 200 songs (yes, if you don't get the DLC, that's playing each song on average, twenty times).

Apart from Story Mode, there is Arcade Mode where you play six songs back to back to gain high scores, a Free Mode where you get to choose the song and a Dressing Room where you change the outfits of each character.  The Library contains music, artwork and character voices used in the game as well as your stats.  Overall, Senran Kagura:  Bon Appetit! isn't a bad game, it's actually quite a lot of fun.  It really is too bad then that the limited selection of songs in the base game holds it back.  The fan service is stronger and if you can get the "complete" version, then Bon Appetit! is worth a playthrough.


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