Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash wears its heart on its, er, bras and bikinis with unabashed aplomb. It’s the purest kind of ecchi content you could possibly imagine, arguably upping the ante for the game series with a cast of over 30 well-endowed women soaking each other with water guns. To say that things get wet and wild is an understatement, especially when considering how different this third-person shooter entry is from past instalments that have focused on action gameplay akin to the Dynasty Warriors franchise. This radical departure makes a big splash with some fun mechanics, crisp visuals, and loads of unlockables, but waves of repetition don’t help amidst shallow objectives.
This particular scribe hasn’t had the privilege of playing a Senran Kagura title until now, but this is a good place to start for those who haven’t. If you’re looking to play this ironically for roaring laughs or “scientific research”, you’ve come to the right place. The premise finds several groups of shinobi (ninja) girls invited to a mysterious tournament celebrating the ancient practice of water gun battles. Rather than be decked out in clothing that rips apart as you change forms, the cast is stripped from the start with threadbare swimsuits. While the groups don’t understand why they’ve been summoned here, their goals are to win the tournament for an ultimate prize and discover who’s really behind it.
Believe it or not, there’s already an existing history and specifics dynamics between everyone that we didn’t quite catch, but half of the writing takes place during matches when you’re ill prepared to read it. A lot of scenarios are also formed around no-nonsense side stories and some emotionally-driven situations, but this isn’t about the plot at the end of the day. It’s about the “plot”. The moment-to-moment lewd jokes and silly dialogue are what makes this game, which can get so preposterous that we couldn’t help but chuckle at how wonderfully terrible all of it can get. It’s hard to take Ikagura’s doubts and worries about graduation seriously while Asuka’s trying to master lewdness with Katsuragi’s boob training regime, you know?
We had similar reactions to the visuals, which provide ample physics to everyone’s breasts that transcend Newton’s laws. The smallest movement in any direction will send them jiggling every which way during cutscenes, and if you happen to experiment with the Intimacy mode, you’ll find that thighs and butts can be shaken and groped as you rotate around a waifu of your choice. You can dress them up in all sorts of accessories by purchasing them from the store, pose certain characters in all sorts of ways together, watch art and 2D animated shorts, and so on.
Of course, it’s implied that much of this can be incredibly uncomfortable if you’re not prepared for it. Watching the girls squirm and telling you to stop as you fondle and squirt them with water made us wonder why we’re still here, if not just to suffer. But if you’re ready to embrace Peach Beach Splash for what it is, it does what it sets out to do well. It’s not an understatement when we say that the developer has really mastered the look of 2D anime in three dimensions. All of the character models are distinct and the animation is superb and crisp. The game runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second on the standard PlayStation 4 that doesn’t stutter at all. Even the colourful, diverse set of maps have solid textures and assets.
The positive, energetic music complements the artistic direction, even if it’s a bit generic and unmemorable. However, the pretty graphics and hilarious writing aren’t enough to stave off repetition that sets in with its gameplay. As we said before, shooting is a surprising, welcome shift for the franchise to branch out, but when it comes to the solo content, there isn’t enough varying objectives or enemy types to keep things interesting. Most encounters boil down to fighting waves of simple AI, an opposing team, or running around a map putting out flames. Increasing the difficulty doesn’t make missions any more appealing either, since the jump from the two-star to three-star difficulty simply puts the onus of victory on you, since all of your AI companions go down in a split second to the enemy’s ungodly damage levels.
You’re tasked with rushing around to slowly deplete enemies’ health with streams of water, which you can deliver with a good selection of water weapons ranging from a high-damage sniper rifle to a powerful Gatling gun of sorts that takes time to pump up. They also grant you different speeds and methods of traversal with a water jet pack, so there’s enough diversity here to change up your approach to combat. While the characters don’t have any unique abilities, you can level them up (along with weapons) through cards that you’ll earn.
There are even other types of cards that grant temporary, consumable power-ups like barriers, differing projectiles, and team stat buffs. These are especially important to consider for online multiplayer, but while playing the campaign missions, there are so many that it becomes a chore to sort through after a couple hours. We wish more time had been spent on fewer abilities that truly make differences rather than a plethora of surface-level moves.
You can approach fallen enemies to initiate a mini-game where you blast them with water either in the face, bra, or bikini, and if you aim for the latter two, either will come flying off with their naughty bits shimmering in the aftermath like strobes. If you want to call it good fan service, it definitely is that, but it’s more of a nuisance than a meaningful mechanic in regard to gameplay. There’s a lot of fun in dashing around though, which functions similarly to Vanquish's excellent Boost mechanic. Using cards and splashing allies to give them temporary periods of infinite water can be surprisingly strategic, but the game starts to feel same-y and partially vapid without a stimulating challenge in the single-player offerings.
The game seems like it would be at its best with online multiplayer as a hectic, vertically-designed shooter that’s more about dumb, casual fun. Modes like Co-Op Survival, Team Battle, and the aptly-named Capture the Bra are where the game would shine most with real players, but we unfortunately couldn’t find any during our playtime and were forced to test all the modes out with dumb AI that sell the multiplayer’s potential short.
Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash can be a romp in more ways than one. It’s a decent third-person shooter with fast-paced, vertical gameplay, and there are some quirks here and there that make it stand out in its market. However, its single-player content can get noticeably repetitive and one-note amid a lot of the fluff that you’ll unlock. If there’s one thing the game owns with style and confidence, it’s the overall presentation. We’re pretty sure it’s the most important part anyways.