Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! Vita Review
The Senran Kagura series seems almost too absurd to exist, given the current climate regarding female roles in videogames (not to mention female roles in videogame development). Tossing all sense of modesty to the curb, the folks at Marvelous Entertainment proudly display their Otaku-pandering udder-ogling cash cow with no attempts to defend its premise as anything bigger (because how much bigger could they possibly get?). In some twisted way, it is commendable how they stick to their enormous guns despite the continued controversy surrounding videogames today, even the ones that try to modestly portray their female characters.
But there is still a limit to how much one can pander with their property, and Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! may have crossed over that line and tripped suggestively onto the ground. Clearly discontent with fetishizing shinobi combat, developer Meteorise has been tasked with taking the cast of Senran Kagura and having them engage in an all-out cooking battle. Evidently mud wrestling was too low-brow a concept, so instead we are treated to extended sequences of jiggle-heavy vegetable chopping and shoving large, unmistakably phallic-shaped food into the mouths of blushing Anime schoolgirls. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and if it isn’t your cup of tea, you can stop reading right here.
The story of Bon Appétit (heaven help us, there actually is a story) revolves around a cooking competition set up by the master of Hanzo Academy, where the winner of the competition receives a Secret Ninja Art Scroll that will grant the user one wish. The prize, naturally, is a complete lie as admitted by Hanzo himself, instead insisting that we should not take this story seriously and just enjoy the bountiful portions laid out in the competition. Sure enough, each character has a Story Mode that consists of all the sophomoric puns you can imagine revolving food, with main character Asuka exclaiming her love for portions “thick and hard”. It is quite an accomplishment when the previous Senran Kagura games look subtle by comparison, though there is the occasional parody of the series’ own story-based material…..but mostly it’s just sex puns involving food.
For anyone expecting the gameplay of Bon Appétit! to revolve around preparing ingredients to create virtual cuisines, think again. Instead, the game is actually a rhythm game that is as basic as you can imagine: hit the on-screen button prompts once they land on the bar. If you are at least expecting the game to take it easy on you with a gradual learning curve, you have been deceived once more; things get hectic from the very first song, requiring players to keep track of two bars to align button prompts with. Despite that, the game is a bit more forgiving with the timing of its button-presses, with a combo meter that ultimately results in a bigger and naturally more appetizing dish for Hanzo to salivate over. These momentary judgments occur three times per stage; whoever satisfies the sensei’s appetite will receive a bonus to their score, while the loser will literally lose bits of their clothing as he strongly declares his delight over the delicious dish. Naturally, those who achieve a perfect score will also be treated with a full-blown sequence of Hanzo achieving Nirvana with his taste buds, as well as the loser being stripped completely bare (but remember, no actual nudity…they need to leave something for the imagination, after all).
The gameplay is as simple and shallow as Senran Kagura’s predecessors, but the series’ biggest draw has always been its visuals; ridiculous wobbling aside, the colorful graphics still result in an undeniably pretty package for Sony’s portable system, especially during the Anime-esque sequences of exaggerated satisfaction when serving Hanzo a tasty meal. There is also the usual variety of dress-up accessories which are unlocked routinely, including alternate outfits, hairstyles, head accessories, bits of string that tries to pass off as underwear, etc. Unfortunately, Bon Appétit! shares the same problem as previous games in that you must equip each piece of clothing in order to view it, which is really annoying considering the hundreds of different accessories available. The game also has several camera-controlled angles to take pictures with, including the special humiliation sequence for rivals achieved with a perfect score that has them sitting naked in an oversized bowl of ice-cream, whipped cream and fudge….because the game really, really wants its audience to masturbate to it.
Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! is a game purely designed for its fans. If anyone was foolish enough to think that this spin-off may introduce any gameplay elements to draw in newcomers, think again. The rhythm mechanic is a simplistic pretense that hinders perverted players wanting to enjoy the various male-gaze camera angles during the cooking segments, the music sounds like leftovers from Naruto’s soundtrack, and the writing is even more juvenile than ever before. From a technical standpoint, it is unmistakably (and somewhat regrettably) one of the prettiest looking Vita games out there, but if the source material is not to your liking, then you had best look elsewhere. If it is your thing, no one will judge you…..well, some may judge you.