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Disclosure: This review is based on a digital PS Vita copy provided by the publisher.
Senran Kagura Bon Appetit! hit the PlayStation Vita today, mixing the dangerous world of nearly-nude ninjutsu with the hardcore antics of a cooking competition wrapped within a rhythm game..Because why not?
If you happened to catch my review of the recently released action game, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, then you’ll know that I’m not typically quick to write off a game just because it has some mature content. Not all games need to “elevate the art form,” and Bon Appetit opens with a bit of dialogue explaining that nothing following should be taken too seriously.
From movies and books to televisions and comics, every form of entertainment offers up content that’s not meant for a younger audience. Whether or not said content is offensive or appropriate is up for debate and should be judged on an individual basis but, for the most part, I try to avoid those types of arguments when reviewing a game. I appreciate that there is an audience for fan service and barely-clothed anime characters, even if I myself am not a part of that audience.
However, this time around, Bon Appetit pushes my personal boundaries a bit too far. Whereas Shinovi Versus offered lots of that fan service we were just talking about, the T&A was more of a blanket draped over an action title with a decent amount of meat on its bones. The game looked great, controlled well and the fighting engine was a lot of fun. There were loads of character stories to work through that, for the most part, at least pretended to hide the innuendos behind a sly wink and a grin.
In Bon Appetit, however, that content is shoved straight in your face and left to linger. I felt like there was no breathing room between scenes of naked bits covered by mysterious glowing lights and extreme close-ups of every square inch of the girls’ bodies, some of which I’m pretty sure are supposed to be extremely young.
That’s unfortunate since, like Shinovi Versus, Bon Appetit is actually a pretty competent game within its respective genre. This time around, the students of warring ninja schools are invited to take part in the Super Dish Gourmet Cook-Off. The competition is carried out in the form of a rhythm game set to songs that, while mostly forgettable, work well for the button-mashing antics. Featuring taps, double taps, holds and the like, your job is to follow two lines of command in order to keep up with the rhythm.
Each song is broken into three courses, with a short taste test break dividing the sections. Your goal is to win two of the three sections in order to win the song. Chain enough notes together and you can activate a ninja power that increases the size and deliciousness of your dish. If you win a section, your opponent will lose a portion of their clothing, eventually being stripped down to their undies. This being a Senran Kagura game, “undies” is being used in the loosest sense of the term, as some of the game’s many pieces of unlockable lingerie boil down to little more than dental floss and Band-Aids.
Do well enough in the first two courses and you can trigger a special scene through the final moments of the competition, which involves the camera swooping around your nearly naked opponent in extreme close-ups. I assume the tears in their eyes are supposed to be due to shame from losing the competition so horribly, but it’s a small touch that only magnifies the amount of squick I was feeling during the whole ordeal.
Assuming you do especially well in all three courses, your opponent’s clothes will then be blown completely off, leaving glowing lights and chibi versions of their faces covering the more sensitive, um, assets.
But wait! There’s more! Earn a perfect victory, and you’ll have the opportunity to see your opponent in various suggestive poses, cuddling giant bananas or straddling a strawberry wearing nothing but whip cream and chocolate syrup.
Again, I can handle my fair share of fan service and, when used appropriately, I barely bat an eye at virtual jiggly bits. It’s not my cup of tea, but it takes a bit more than that to offend me. Senran Kagura Bon Appetit crosses my comfort threshold, though, making it difficult to enjoy the rhythm game because of how in-your-face the visuals and innuendo are. While some of the characters’ stories are innocent enough, others lack anything resembling restraint. One character, for instance, spends her entire campaign trying to convince everyone that food is best when it’s long and thick, and tries to prove this point by forcefully shoving massive sushi rolls down her friends’ throats. Get it?! It’s a sex joke! Told over and over again.
Add to that a pretty slim amount of content, and I find it difficult to recommend Senran Kagura Bon Appetit to anyone but the most diehard of series fans. You only get 10 songs for 15 bucks, and the game only features a couple of modes including story, arcade and free play. You can upload your best arcade scores to an online leaderboard and there are a bunch of pieces of clothing to unlock (and then see ripped off of the characters), but that’s about it. You can buy another 10 songs for another $15 as DLC, as well as two boss character DLC add-ons, but then you’re looking at just 22 songs for around $40. That’s a pretty steep price by any rhythm game’s standards.
Senran Kagura Bon Appetit isn’t a bad game, it’s just crass as hell and feels like a poor vehicle for the type of content it’s trying to offer. Where Shinovi Versus managed the balancing act pretty well, Bon Appetite simply misses the mark.
Platforms: PlayStation Vita