Not content with merely occupying the beat-em-up genre anymore, Tamsoft has taken the Senran Kagura franchise into the third-person shooter multiplayer territory with a video game equivalent to a wet t-shirt contest (with no shirts). Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash has players blasting their favorite kunoichi with water guns until their bathing suits come off in a number of team based modes that seems like it wants to capture the adult audience of folks who enjoyed Splatoon. And while it doesn’t quite reach those heights, it’s honestly a really good effort.
Unfortunately, Tamsoft’s latest outing is locked to the PlayStation 4 this time around, and while it is an understandable move (the added performance and bolstered online presence of the console), those who previously shied away from revealing their gameplay habits from their loved ones will not so easily be able to retreat to their Vita. Sure, there is remote play, but hardly an ideal solution for a multiplayer environment, much less as a replacement for using a PS4 controller. Look forward to explaining to everyone in your household why you are splashing water on crying underage girls using a rubber duck.
The plot in this game (yes, that exists) kicks off innocently enough. The various ninja schools are invited to participate in a televised tournament to see who can most easily adapt to using a squirt gun instead of a kunai to best their opponents. What follows is a series of arcs focusing on each school’s melodrama, while simultaneously revealing the true intent of the tournament. Which, if you played Estival Versus, you should know very well what to expect. It’s simultaneously light-hearted and hollow and while this limited drama doesn’t require much franchise knowledge from potential newcomers, it also means there are a ton of characters to keep track of and little development to flesh them all out if you didn’t know their backstory beforehand.
But that’s not really why you’re here, is it?
Peach Beach Splash (or PBS as I’m going to abbreviate it from now on) is way more mechanically sound than it has any right to be. Each character has a particular weapon that they start out with (that can be changed if needed) that ranges from water pistols, to water sniper rifles and water bazookas. Basically, anything that you’ve become accustomed to seeing in a normal shooting game, there is a water based version of here, including grenades. Players can also equip cards that offer temporary benefits, such as summoning a pet or increasing stats for a limited period of time. After choosing characters and a loadout, a five on five match ensues which has you shooting at your opponents until their health runs out as which point you can initiate a minigame that involves blasting the breasts and butt of your opponent until that article of clothing goes shooting off. This doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose to earning victory and seems more intended to humiliate your opponent.
Since you’re dealing with water, there is no ammunition in the strictest sense. Rather, running dry forces you to pump the gun repeatedly until your tanks fill up again. I don’t know how this makes sense within the logic of the Senran Kagura universe, but when you consider that some characters can sprout massive guns from their privates, you just kind of roll with it. The girls each have water tanks fastened to their waste which can double as jetpacks or you can coast around the arena like Vanquish, which I thought was an awesome feature, though it burns through your water reserves in a hurry.
The main story mode goes by rather quick, though it does contain some memorable boss encounters (including giant machines intended to… uh… grope and lick people). Fortunately, there are other modes to take part in. Paradise Episodes offer alternate scenarios for the girls to get involved in, beyond the main plot of the Peach Beach Splash tournament. There’s also V-Road Challenges that allows you to put together a roster of your choosing and challenge an increasingly more difficult set of battles until you win trophies and prizes. And let’s not forget the multiplayer, which should be the bread and butter of this type of game. Sadly, my early attempts to join matches in the few weeks following release proved to be a disappointment as the online was practically a ghost town. If you do get matched up with someone, there are standard and ranked matches to look forward to with such standard affair as team deathmatch and capture the flag variants. Some of these modes don’t exist to play solo offline, likely due to the fact that your computer controlled teammates are horrendous at completing objectives. There’s also a Co-op Survival mode, which is essentially the PBS take on horde mode.
Visually, PBS is not going to put your PS4 Pro through its paces by any means, but it certainly does benefit by not being held back by a Vita version. Characters all animate well, the… uh… physics are all there, and there’s a good variety of landscapes and enemy targets to soak up. There are even a few anime sequences peppered throughout. For those looking for a more intimate experience with the cast, the Dressing Room feature allows you to mix and match outfits and accessories, or just squirt water on everyone. Or make grabby hands. Because that’s a thing. On the audio end of it, there is only a Japanese dub, which has become commonplace by this point. The music is pretty decent, if not particularly memorable, but does the job well enough.
If day one DLC is a thing that bothers you, the PlayStation Store is loaded with various hairstyles and swimsuits for the characters in this game. While I do advocate for a minimal amount of this sort of thing at launch, it is worth noting that there is a good amount of customization content that is unlockable within the game and everything that is on sale from what I can tell is purely cosmetic. There is a handful of it that was free at launch too, so there is that.
At the end of the day, the Senran Kagura franchise proves once again that there is more to it than gimmicks and a reputation that is only surface deep. It’s not going to give Splatoon or Gears of War a run for their money, but as far as third-person shooter mechanics go, Peach Beach Splash does a very good job at being a very sound team-based experience. The shooting confrontations feel great, the waterpacks add a great deal of mobility, and there is a huge variety of cards and weaponry to customize your team. If the story mode wasn’t so shallow and the servers weren’t so dead (which may have improved with the last update, I haven’t checked), I would encourage more people to check out a less kid friendly PBS.
Short Attention Span Summary
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash arrives exclusively on the PlayStation 4 console, which means the only way you’ll be huddling up with this game privately is through remote play. Instead of a beat-em-up style game, SK went for the third-person shooter route with the latest spinoff, encouraging you and four other teammates to splash water on the opposition until their bathing suits come off. But while most games that run with this kind of gimmicky premise end up shallow as a result, the shooting mechanics are not only functional, but quite exceptional. And being able to use water packs to jetpack around the arena or skid around at high speeds offer the kind of mobility that other games of the genre outside of Splatoon can only dream about. That said, finding a match online can be difficult, and there is no offline multiplayer to make up for it. In addition, the story mode is rather bland outside of a few key boss battles and playing against the A.I. isn’t interesting enough to justify a single player purchase. If server traffic picks up though, you’re looking at a solidly built multiplayer game that can give some of the AAA efforts a run for their money. Just… be sure to have an explanation at the ready when someone inevitably questions why you’re playing such a perverse game.