Well, this certainly is a good way to get yourself a reputation. While the other Gaming Respawn writers are working on their reviews of Dishonored 2 and Watch Dogs 2, I am stuck here playing a game about big-breasted ninjas having a cook-off… oh, woe is me.
Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit! – Full Course is a rhythm game in the Senran Kagura series which follows the exploits of a few different all-female ninja training school students as they beat each other up so bad that their clothes fly off. The main difference with Bon Appétit! is that instead of hitting each other, you’re trying to make a better crème brûlée, but rest assured the clothes still fly off. The story of Bon Appetit! is as token and pointless as it is in pretty much every Senran Kagura game. The headmaster of one of the ninja academies has decided to host a cook-off to find the perfect ‘super-dish’ and has posted a supposedly mythical ninja scroll as the 1st prize. The weirdest thing about this plot device is that it’s not really mentioned much beyond the opening video of each character’s main storyline. In fact, once they ‘win’ the competition, each character seems to get the thing they wanted the scroll for without even using the scroll.
Gameplay-wise, Bon Appétit! is a pretty basic rhythm style game. Buttons scroll across the bottom of the screen, and you have to press them as they approach the left hand side to rack up combos and beat your opponent. The rhythm mechanics actually work very well, and the gameplay of hitting the buttons as they approach the marker is very smooth and pleasing to do. There are a variety of different note types: the standard one press notes, holding notes which must be pressed and then released at a certain time, and finally button mashing notes which you have to press as many times as you can before time runs out. You also have a meter that fills up as you perform well, and once filled you can press R1/RB to go into a point bonus mode increasing the score you get from each note you press on time.
One of the most important things in a rhythm game is the music, and Bon Appétit! has some…weird ideas about the music. The songs are all ‘original’ tracks by the games composers Akihi Motoyama and Mutsumi Ishimura, but a lot of them borrow parts from some really strange places. It was pretty disconcerting to be playing this very Japanese rhythm game and all of a sudden to start hearing a strange remix of ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country’. I would highly recommend that you don’t try to play this game with an Xbox 360 controller. By default you have to use the D-pad during the rhythm gameplay, and the D-pad on the Xbox 360 pad does not lend itself to quick paced rhythm gameplay. Luckily, you can use a DS4 controller, and the game has the correct button prompts so you don’t have to try and remember which icon is which while trying to press the buttons like a mad person on speed.
Even the sexuality of the game is strange. As expected your character’s clothes fly off every time you beat them in a round, but the thing is you’re far too busy looking at the stream of colours rapidly flowing across the bottom of the screen to pay any attention to the scantily clad ninja on the top half of the screen. Also, every time you beat an enemy ninja, you get a small montage of that enemy covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce, sitting in some sort of dessert…you know, normal stuff. The thing that kept me playing this game for the longest time were the scenes of the headmaster judging the meal you’ve made at the end of each cook-off. Basically, there is a very weird animation based on whatever meal you’ve been cooking, and at one point he was riding a giant squid like a rocket, in another he was eating a mountain of ice cream into the shape of two big boobs with red sauce as nipples. At the end of the day, these odd animations ended up being the only reason I was still playing, well that and the fact that I had to review it properly.
Alongside the cooking competition gameplay, there is also the standard dress-up gameplay that comes with these games. As you play you unlock different clothing items to dress up your ninja in, but this seems slightly pointless as the whole point is to make the clothes fly off, and even then you won’t get the chance to look at the top half of the screen while actually playing the game.
One final note on the gameplay is that it is completely unstable. While playing for this review, I had to restart the game no fewer than 10 times because the game has a horrible habit of just crashing out of nowhere. In fact this was the main reason I stopped playing when I did, well that and the feeling of abject shame that came over me every time I completed a level and saw the enemy ninja arranged like a dessert trolley display piece.
Visually, the game is fine, it has a very ‘kawaii’ style for the most part with lots of pastel colours like pale pinks and yellows. Obviously, the game is a port of the PS Vita version, so the graphics aren’t the most highly polished. But really if you’re buying this game, we all know why you’re doing it, it’s to look at the big breasted ninjas. As long as you can tell what the graphics are supposed to represent, and trust me you can, then you shouldn’t have too much concern over the graphical fidelity.
Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment, XSEED Games
Platforms: PC, PS Vita
Release Date: 12th November 2016