My, how the time flies. It feels like it has only been mere weeks since Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus had me pummeling kunoichi until their clothes came off. Oh wait, it HAS only been a few short weeks. Still, not wanting the momentum to die out for everyone’s favorite ninja academy females, along comes Senran Kagura Bon Apétit!, a rhythm title that pits the game’s cast against one another in a cooking competition. All with the same stripping mechanic that the series is known for. Let’s take the plunge and see how palatable it is, shall we?
Senran Kagura Bon Apétit! opens with Hanzo describing his want for people to strive for making the Super Dish. He concludes that the best way to do this is to host a cooking competition where the winner takes home a scroll that can grant any wish. Why anyone would give away such a valuable item so freely is naturally the first thought anyone has, which the game addresses by telling the player not to take the proceedings too seriously. It’s sound advice, as despite the game mimicking the series’ visual novel presentation during its Story mode, there isn’t much meaningful plot advancement. Instead, you’ll embark on such things as Asuka’s quest to get the world to appreciate food with more… size, or Ikaruga’s attempt at keeping the prize scroll out of the wrong hands. It’s just as well, seeing as it’s just a cooking competition, but at least you get to see further antics by your favorite characters.
Regardless of which mode you play, the basic concept of the game goes like this: at the beginning of a round, you will be given a dish that you have to cook, and both you and your opponent will compete to see who can make it better. You do this by timing button presses to the rhythm of the music. Two lines will scroll across the bottom of the screen, with button inputs that slide across them. When those buttons line up with the shuriken at the end, hit the button and you’ll earn points. The reason there are two lines is because you may be asked to press two buttons simultaneously, which, while a minor addition, can really throw you during harder difficulties. You may also run across buttons that need to be held down for a duration, or a button mashing section where you have to press the action it asks of you a certain amount of times before it clears.
If you manage to play well enough to build up a combo, you can initiate your character’s ninja art to increase your score further, and it lasts until the end of the match or until you screw up, whichever comes first. Matches last three rounds, with each round punishing whomever is trailing behind in performance (measured by two kitchen knives pushing each other on the top of the screen). The punishment for failure includes, you guessed it, the loser’s clothing getting shredded. If someone is defeated all three rounds, they get stripped completely naked (albeit censored) and you’ll get rewarded with a… um… treat. You’ll also get to view an amusing cinematic involving Hanzo’s over the top enjoyment of your food. Trust me when I say you’ll want to see all of them.
There are three basic modes to Senran Kagura Bon Apétit! Story has you choose a character and play through a mini-narrative of sorts, much like the optional missions of Shinovi Versus. By comparison, Arcade Mode pits you up against six consecutive opponents, with your high score at the end being tallied and uploaded to a leaderboard. Free Play allows you to pick your character, as well as your opponent, and play out an exhibition match. That’s not all. Other menu options include a Dressing Room to change into any outfits you may have unlocked (as well as poke and prod the girls using the touchscreen), a Library for viewing unlocked music and art, an Honor Roll for viewing the leaderboard, and finally Settings for playing with the sound or any other related options.
Despite all of the menu items, there isn’t a ton of variety to the game. There are ten characters available from the start and just as many songs and food items to make with them. Once you’ve seen and heard everything once, there isn’t much incentive to go back. That being said, the base game is only fifteen dollars, so the cost of admission is pretty low to get your fanservice on. If you want the other half of the characters though, you’ll have to fork over another fifteen. On the plus side, any previously downloaded DLC for Shinovi Versus is compatible with this game as well, so at least you’ll get double the use out of those purchases.
Visually, you can expect the character models and backgrounds to be on par with what you find in Shinovi Versus. It makes sense, as a number of the victory animations are the same and the game shares the same presentation when it comes to its storytelling bits. As mentioned before, the parts where Hanzo freaks out over the food he’s given are incredibly fluid and a joy to watch, though it’s hard to appreciate anything else when you’re trying to pay attention to the notes. Expect to get distracted on a number of occasions though, as characters chop food or do fanservicey things to try to draw your eyes away from what you’re doing.
A rhythm game lives and dies by its soundtrack, so I’m happy to say that the majority of the tunes are quite catchy. A number of them are strictly instrumental though, and while that doesn’t make them somehow inferior to the vocalized ones, it also means they don’t quite resonate as much as the ones that are. The biggest drawback is that there are simply not that many of them, so it doesn’t take long to tire of the selection. As for the voiceovers, the game is dubbed in Japanese as its predecessors were.
At the end of the day, Senran Kagura Bon Apétit! falls into the same trap that Hyperdimension Neptunia PP does. It presents a novel idea that is actually pretty entertaining and quite fun to play. However, wearing out its welcome becomes its biggest enemy and its worth as a game comes down to how much are you willing to play the same songs over and over and/or how well you like the characters enough to play through each of their individual stories. I’m thrilled to death that a game as weird and niche as this was localized, but I fear there may not be enough meat on this bone for anyone beyond the series’ biggest fans.
Short Attention Span Summary
Senran Kagura Bon Apétit! is a rhythm game involving ninjas that strip each others’ clothes off when they fail to cook a dish better than their opponents. If that descriptor sounds so insane that you have to see it to believe it, then you may be just the audience this game is looking for. It gathers together characters from the Senran Kagura franchise and pits them in a cooking competition against one another in order to win a scroll that grants them any wish they want. In terms of presentation, the game hits all the right notes as its visually appealing and the songs are catchy. However, the general lack of them may wear out the welcome of anyone not already a hardcore fan. In addition, half the characters/songs have to be purchased as a separate download from the main game, effectively doubling the price if you want to keep going. If one and done is just the type of experience you’re looking for, it may be worth heating up the Vita for it, otherwise be aware that Senran Kagura Bon Apétit! is full of empty calories that will leave you hungry later.