There are games that have almost universal appeal: I honestly think anybody can pick up Super Mario Bros. 3 or Tetris and realize the potential for entertainment and fun, even if they don’t immediately get it. And then, there are niche games. Let me tell you, Senran Kagura is a franchise known for producing niche games, and Senran Kagura: Reflexions might be the most niche of the lot. Is that a good thing? Let’s find out!
The premise of the game is rather simple: Asuka, who is a main character in the mainline series and part of the Hanzo Academy, one of the Shinobi schools featured there. While she’s a kick-ass, tough little ninja in those games, here we see a more tender side. You must, through a combination of massage techniques, reach her heart. Believe me when I tell you, this is very much the PG description of what’s undoubtedly a game that earned its M rating.
The giggly physics and exaggerated physiques that are a hallmark of the Senran Kagura series go all the way up to 11 in Reflexions, as does the lewdness. This is not a game that has general market appeal. This is not even a game that will appeal to all Senran Kagura fans: some might not enjoy the slow, relaxed, laid back gameplay, and some might simply not play it because it doesn’t feature the girl they prefer (I’m a Yumi guy myself, I must admit).
The story, frankly, is thin at best and panders to the heart of the gamer that’s attracted to these girls. It makes no bones about it, Reflexions, so if you’re not into the eye candy, move along. Gameplay-wise, there’s actually a few modes here to unlock as you play along, but they are all largely the same: you must find the right spot in Asuka’s body, and then massage it until… well, gauges fill. If only life were as easy to understand!
There are different levels of intimacy, as well as different techniques you can use for massaging in the more intimate sections of the game: rollers, hands, brushes… it’s all here. Each tool features a different way of using the controls so that you can pleasure Asuka accordingly. And here I can totally see why the Switch was chosen as the release platform for Senran Kagura: Reflexions: HD rumble makes it easier and more pleasurable to find Asuka’s sore spots, and motion controls mean you can actually “massage” her in the mini-games. It’s really a rather comprehensive, well thought out package.
The voice acting is great, as it usually is for Senran Kagura releases, and the game runs fantastic is both handheld and docked mode. So, is it all a rose-colored love adventure?
Well, I do have a few niggles.
The gameplay does get somewhat repetitive, though this is somewhat redeemed by the fact that you unlock more costumes as you play along, making at least the visual experience more varied. And I really, really wish the complete Senran Kagura roster was here to play with. I know it may seem trivial to people who aren’t fans of the series, but the character development here is surprisingly rich, and I just never really clicked with Asuka (Yumi, I’m looking at you!). I know it wouldn’t have made commercial sense, though, as I know this is a product with a very limited reach and extra development costs might have not been recouped.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Senran Kagura: Reflexions. It was a great in-between while I wait for a mainline game to drop on the console, and it was nice to get to know Asuka a bit more intimately. But I don’t think this is a game for everyone; don’t get this expecting to find a universally likeable game. If you’re a fan of the Senran Kagura series, though, you should definitely give it a shot. And if Asuka is your preferred girl in the SK universe… well, you’re probably not reading this review; you’re probably playing Reflexions 14 to 23 hours a day. And good on ya!
Reviewer’s Note: I know there’s a Yumi DLC, but I was not provided with it so I can’t comment on that. I will be purchasing it on my own, though, and I might append this review with my thoughts on that at a later date.