Some game designers become so well-known for a certain series that their names are instantly associated with the IP, and that’s certainly the case with Kenichiro Takaki. Though he’s worked on games as diverse as Vita Vocaloid rhythm game IA/VT Colorful and action-RPG-shoot-‘em-up Half-Minute Hero, he’s best known for creating Senran Kagura, and steering the sexy shinobi series through several genres on the 3DS, Vita, and PlayStation 4. The latest Senran Kagura game, Peach Beach Splash — a water gun-based third-person shooter — arrives on 22nd September in Europe and 26th September in North America, and we were lucky enough to chat with Takaki-san ahead of its release about the new game, expanding the series into new genres, and his ecchi inspirations.
Push Square: First of all, would you mind introducing Peach Beach Splash to our readers?
Kenichiro Takaki: Up until now, the series has been mostly straight action games, and Peach Beach Splash is the first time we’re trying the third-person shooter (TPS) genre, so it’s a new challenge for the series. It has a single player campaign, and also a 5v5 multiplayer mode with up to 10 players online. It’s also an anime-styled game, which you don’t see very often in TPS games — so it features the anime girls and world of Senran Kagura and is very much geared towards traditional fans of the series, but at the same time there’s a fun, solid TPS underneath, so we’re hoping to draw in a broader audience.
The basic goal of the game is to run around, shoot everybody, and get them wet! Eventually as you get enemies wetter, you can knock them down, and after you knock someone down you can do a ‘Splash Chance’, and choose between aiming at their face, upper body, or lower body. In addition to shooting at your enemies, you can also shoot at your allies, and it actually powers them up — teammates have a ‘wetness gauge’, and if you fill it up they get a power-up.
There are 10 different weapons, all water guns but most of them are based on traditional TPS weapon types. The controls are also similar to other TPS game, except that the water gauge at the bottom is both your ammunition and the fuel for your water jet pack, so both those functions use the same resource.
We’ve also added a card system. Before you go into battle, you can customize your girl with one weapon card, three pet cards, and a variety of skill cards that you can swap in and out, so you can choose which areas you’d like to be stronger in. There are over 800 cards, so all sorts of combinations are possible! When you clear a stage, you’ll get a card pack with random cards in it to build up your options, and if you get doubles, you can exchange them for points which you can then use to power up other cards.
In past Senran Kagura games, the story has played a big part in setting the serious/silly/sexy tone of the series. Is that combination what you’re shooting for with Peach Beach Splash? Or is this more of a side story?
This one leans more heavily on the fun, silly stories, but there is still a little bit of the seriousness as well!
Senran Kagura games usually feature a wide variety of outfits for the characters, but this time the clothes will be getting wet — did that change affect what kinds of clothing designs you put in the game?
Yes, absolutely! We have new costumes in this game that are specifically designed to take advantage of the water effect, so as they get wet they get more and more transparent. That’s in the dressing room feature too — there are all the features we’ve always had, but now you can spray the characters with water to see the clothing get wet. There are also the other traditional kinds of costumes, so there are basically two types of clothing: the type that gets wetter and wetter, and the type that rips. Those are in addition to the straight swimsuits, which are the default outfits that they wear.
Are these water effects something you were able to do because Peach Beach Splash is only on the PS4 (as opposed to the Vita)?
Yes, this wouldn’t be possible on the Vita.
One thing you’ve done with Senran Kagura is introduce a lot of players to the idea of ecchi [i.e. lightly sexual] games as a genre. How do you make a great ecchi game?
The fan-service is very much up front and in your face in Senran Kagura, but we’re game makers by trade, so obviously we want to make good games! Really, the key to making a good ecchi game is to make a solid game first, and then make sure the ecchi stuff is built on top of that base.
There have been a lot of games in the past where you see the package, and it has a really fun design with pretty characters on it, so you buy it, but when you get it home you find out it’s not very fun to play! That’s a really disappointing experience, and something I remember well from my childhood, so making sure the game is solid is really key!
If people get interested in ecchi games through Senran Kagura, what other titles would you suggest they check out?
Do you have any favourite non-game ecchi recommendations?
It’s not supposed to be ecchi, but I’d have to say Sailor Moon.
Yes! Read it again — I think it’s more ecchi than people give it credit for!
By this point in the series, there are so many shinobi in Senran Kagura, and the interactions between them have been a large focus of the series’ storyline so far. Do you have a favourite relationship that’s unfolded throughout the series?
Definitely Asuka and Homura. From the very first game, we’ve taken that relationship really seriously to make sure we show it in a good way, so I think that would have to be the one.
You’ve worked on many types of games — music, action, shooters, RPGs, and more. Do you approach different genres differently in terms of game design?
Whatever the genre is, my way of thinking is that I want to make something that’s fun for people who like that sort of game, but also inviting for people who are unfamiliar with the genre, to bring new people in and introduce them to new game styles.
When Peach Beach Splash comes out in the West, what are you hoping people will experience when they play the game?
Senran Kagura has been around for over five years now, and the fanbase has been growing, in Japan but also in the West, which we’re very happy about. I’m hoping that with this new genre, we’ll be able to draw in even more fans and introduce the series to more people — if Peach Beach Splash is popular enough it’s possible it could turn into its own series separate from the main games.
There may be a lot of people who see a game like this and think “Oh, I would never play something like that”. But by introducing a new genre that might catch their attention, perhaps we can get them to overcome that inhibition and give it a shot, and bring them into the fold.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Even though the new genre is to bring in new players, we thought very much about the audience for the action Senran Kagura games, and wanted to make something that they would still enjoy. So if there are people out there who think “Oh, I love Senran Kagura, but I’m not sure about playing this shooter”, know that Peach Beach Splash is a Senran Kagura game through and through. If they give it a chance, they’ll see that everything they know and love is in there, so if anyone is worried about the genre change, please give it a shot — I think you’ll enjoy it!
We’d like to thank Takaki-san for taking the time to speak with us, and Collin Cahlert for translating. The interview text has been lightly edited for clarity. Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash releases 22nd September in Europe and 26th September in North America.