Grab. Touch. Sigh. Repeat.
I’ve been a big fan of the cheeky and fan service driven video game franchise, Senran Kagura, alongside its Manga and Anime offerings as well. I’ve played each and every game, from the action orientated hack and slash focused adventures to the competitive cooking spin-off and its Splatoon-like water gun extravaganza, Peach Beach Splash. Each and every title has featured a wealth of humor mixed with its incredibly non-subtle approach to fan service, yet has always had a certain charm baked into each subsequent release. Its latest, Senran Kagura Reflexions; however, lacks nearly everything that makes each of the other Senran Kagura games feel worthwhile and comes off as a complete waste of time.
While the Senran Kagura series has always been a fan service heavy title featuring upskirt antics and enough cleavage to choke a horse, the games have always balanced action and humor around the nearly naked cast of buxom ninja’s. Apart from the action orientated nature of the series, each game features countless hours of visual novel type conversations, dozens of engaging personalities and comical moments that the cast seems to always get hooked into. Reflexions is based solely around the fan service aspects of the series and fails to include the core elements that make the brand stand out. I’m not going to deny that the fan service origins that built the brand are important, but the series has remain popular because of everything else it brought with it.
Starring Asuka of the Hanzo National Academy, Reflexions is about having some intimate one on one time with her. She’s confused about her feelings for you and what it might mean to her ninja training. Throughout the game, which lasts not much longer than an hour or so, you will visit with Asuka and essentially feel her up as she wears a variety of skimpy outfits during numerous dream sequences. Reflexions is, for the lack of a better phrase, a groping simulator. While the series has contained the very gameplay built around that very touching before, it was always regulated as a side activity instead of being the prime focus of the game. It was a feature I wasn’t terribly interested in then and it seems just as hollow and unnecessary here, even with the Switch’s HD rumble, which adds nothing to the experience.
Each session with Asuka has you placing your hands on her palms and squeezing individual fingers until she starts to feel something for you. Certain spots on her hands will trigger a different version of Asuka that you will visit during one of these dream sequences. Each spot is predetermined, so following playthroughs will offer hints that indicate you may have visited that version of Asuka before. Apart from some artwork and a few different lines of dialogue, the path you take will end up with endings that are far too similar to one another to warrant seeing each and every one. In fact, the “true ending” features maybe a few different unique lines of dialogue and a piece of artwork that separates it from any of the others.
You’ll meet up with Asuka in a classroom each time a session starts. You’ll trigger a dream sequence and then start your quest to massage and touch key parts of her body that are based around colors. Each ending is centered around a certain color, so targeting different parts of her body via each playthrough is essentially the gameplay loop here. While each dream sequence offers up a different situation that you find Asuka in, each story ends up revolving around you having free reign to touch her body.
You can touch her head, shoulders, arms, breasts, stomach, legs, and well, everywhere. She will become embarrassed or indicate that certain zones are inappropriate, so you will need to focus on areas that arouse her. Once you’ve found a spot that works and is the color you need, this will trigger yet another dream sequence and will be focused on a certain type of massage based around either using your hands, a brush, a roller, and well, check the screenshot below at this so-called “massager”. Each mini-game is then based around finding a designated rhythm and keeping your movements in check with a target zone while filling up a meter before time runs out.
Now, these actions are dubbed by the game as Reflexology, which is actually a real thing. Known as zone therapy, Reflexology is an alternative medicine that is centered around applying pressure to a patient’s feet or hands without the use of oils or lotions. While the game starts out with you massaging Asuka’s hands, you certainly then move away from the true art of Reflexology during every other aspect of this game. It is here during these “gameplay” moments, that the game referrers to as Glorious Reflexology, where you will use the Joycon motion sensors to perform a series of simplistic mini-games. Massaging with your hands is done by moving the pair of Joycon’s like the beating of a drum, where the roller is performed by tilting a single Joycon down and up in a repeated motion. From a gameplay perspective, there is nothing really engaging about any of the few mini-games offered here and not a single action present is fun in any real way. Again, there is plenty of fan service on display here, but none of the series’ charm.
To make matters worse, the game also offers up a vast assortment of DLC options featuring not only new outfits, poses, and hair styles, but some of the other girls from the series as well. These content packs for Yumi and Murasaki are priced at the same cost as the main game and feature additional outfits and their own dialogue-based story changes, but sadly no additional mini-games to add anything substantial to the game. As the Japanese version is already loaded with several more girls through DLC, it seems that XSeed is following the industry trend of drip feeding content to the game via micro-transactions than delivering a complete overall package.
Apart from the few mini-games present, every feature included here has been a part of the series before. Previous entries have let us change their hair, their clothes, and putting them in various poses again and again. Hell, PS4 users can do that already with Peach Beach Splash. Reflexions is essentially side content re-purposed and sold separately as a stand alone product that is such a step backwards for the series that it will do far more harm to the brand than good. Again, I’m not denying that fan service isn’t one of the main reasons that the series is popular in the first place, it’s just that this series deserves so much more than this hollow and unrewarding experience.
Senran Kagura Reflexions was purchased by the reviewer.
All Screenshots were taken on a Nintendo Switch.