“Let’s start from where we left off.” –Yumi, Peach Beach Splash menu
Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is an unusual instalment in Senran Kagura series, being a third-person shooter where ranged combat with water weapons replaces the traditional hack-and-slash gameplay of previous titles. The titular Peach Beach Splash (PBS for brevity, not related in any way to the Public Broadcasting Service) is an ancient tradition where female ninjas engage one another using water weapons, and fight for the top spot that guarantees the winners anything their hearts desire. Each of the characters from Hanzō, Gessen, Hebijo and Crimson Squad participate in the tournament for their own reasons, whether it be for their friends’ sake, to ascertain their futures or simply prove their worth. As players progress through the game, they unlock various cards that bolster their characters’ abilities, as well as earn in-game currency that can be used to purchase character customisations. Mechanically, Peach Beach Splash is a reasonably solid title that features highly colourful settings, an unexpectedly engaging story that allows even newcomers like myself to gain a modicum of insight into what the characters are like, respectable shooting mechanics and above all, a progression system that encourages replay. The features available in Peach Beach Splash indicate a game where the core mechanics are well-defined, sufficiently to the extent that other Triple-A developers could stand to adopt a thing or two from Peach Beach Splash. One such title is DICE’s Battlefield V, which has proven to be a disappointment of late for its relative lack of content. While I appreciate that DICE has invested considerable efforts into improving gameplay mechanics, and for having introduced the Tides of War, which encouraged me to return weekly, the lack of maps has been put a dampener on my excitement. Further to this, the customisation system, originally touted as being an integral part of the experience, has been remarkably lacklustre.
Peach Beach Splash offers a customisation system that puts Battlefield to shame once a day and twice on Sundays. Players have access to an impressive collection of clothing options right out of the gate and can customise their characters to some extent even before they start the game, and as in-game currency is earned, more options become available. Moreover, clothing in Peach Beach Splash reacts to water effects properly. By comparison, one could swim through a river in Battlefield V and come out as dry as they’d been sitting by a roaring fire for a few hours. From a Triple-A title powered by one of the most advanced game engines known to mankind, this is disappointing: I expect more realistic visuals. The cosmetics system in Peach Beach Splash is sufficiently versatile such that the combination of choices is nearly limitless, and players can precisely tune their character’s appearance prior to setting foot on the battlefield. Besides a deep cosmetics system, Peach Beach Splash also outdoes Battlefield V in terms of its map count. Battlefield V launched with a measly eight maps, and in December, Panzerstorm was introduced, bringing the total to nine. Peach Beach Splash has a total of eighteen maps, bringing additional variety into the base game. DICE could take a leaf from Peach Beach Splash: maps are the core of the Battlefield experience, and a part of what makes Battlefield so appealing is being able to learn the ins and outs of each map over time. Greater map diversity keeps the game fresh, and Peach Beach Splash already nails this. Between the superior map variety and customisation system, Peach Beach Splash‘s developers have evidently gone the lengths to make sure that, even without a live service model, their title remains serviceable. DICE could certainly stand to look at games elsewhere for inspiration on what Battlefield V requires to be a long-lived, successful title in the long run.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I’ll open by mentioning that I’ve got no familiarity with any of the characters of Senran Kagura: I started the game with Yumi, a third year of the Gessen Academy who is said to be cool as ice, but underneath a rigid exterior, is someone who cares for her friends to a great extent. Unlike the main games, all of the characters handle the same, and the choice of character is purely a cosmetic one.
- Swimsuits, water parks and blue skies are classic summer settings: it is therefore a bit of irony that I played through Peach Beach Splash during the Christmas season. Having bought this on the spur of the moment while I was picking up Valkyria Chronicles 4, I felt that this game would offer simple and frivolous fun, far removed from the more demanding nature of titles like Battlefield V. For one, Battlefield V does not provide players with aesthetically pleasing characters to look at.
- If I had to be truthful, Peach Beach Splash has unresponsive, slow controls unseeming of a shooter – this is offset by an automatic lock-on system. In the end, while a third-person shooter, Peach Beach Splash lacks the mechanics that most demand skillful aiming, and instead, places more emphasis on cooldown management, which requires a different set of skills.
- The weapon selection in Peach Beach Splash is basic but sufficiently diverse. The assault rifle-type water gun that is good for medium and close ranges, striking a balance between reload speed and damage output. The water pistol handles like a hand cannon, dealing high damage at the expense of firing rate, while dual pistols allow for a higher capacity in exchange for damage output. There’s a slow-firing rocket launcher that does ranged area-of-effect damage, a water-balloon launcher with limited range but area-of-effect impact, a sniper rifle for precision shots at range and a shotgun that excels in close quarters.
- More outrageous weapons include a Gatling-gun that has a long reload time but is unparalleled in damage output and a portable hose that handles like a flame thrower. Like Battlefield 4, the assault rifle is more than adequate for most missions. A player’s ammunition reserves is shared with their jump packs, which propel players forward or up. It’s a fun way of getting around quickly and brings to mind the jump packs of Titanfall, even if wall-running is not a feature in Peach Beach Splash.
- For the main campaign, I ended up playing with a variety of characters, and here, square off against one of the machinations that PBS’ hosts bring to bear. The boss fights were quite ludicrous, being a world apart from the deadly-serious bosses that were seen in The Division. While I’m wielding a rocket launcher here, there’s more than one way to beat a boss – provided one doesn’t pick the close quarters weapons like the hose or shotgun, bosses will go down with enough patience.
- Some of the characters in Senran Kagura have troubled pasts: Murasaki here is a gloomy, pessimistic character who wields a terrifying power causing her to black out and enter a berserker rage when angered or cornered. She’s normally quiet and soft-spoken, and in Peach Beach Splash, wields none of her usual powers.
- While Peach Beach Splash might have simple mechanics, the voice acting is on-point and brings the characters to life. I was particularly fond of the different stories each of the characters for the different groups had, and this gave a bit more reason to be rooting for each team as they progressed through the tournament.
- With a boisterous personality, Homura leads the Crimson Squad, who in Peach Beach Splash, is desperate for work following their departure from Hebijō, and since then, have scratched a living off rocks. While this is more serious in the series proper, Peach Beach Splash has them attempt various money-making schemes, such as comedy skits and the like; the PBS tournament represents a chance to become famous and earn some hard currency for Homura and her team.
- I rather disliked the missions where an accident results in fires being spread around a map: there’s no indicator on the minimap as to where the fires actually are, and finding them can be tricky, if they’re hidden behind other objects. These missions tested my patience more than any other part of Peach Beach Splash, and I elected to roll with the pistol, which has the smallest profile of any weapon and would also allow me to use my jump pack more liberally.
- The inability to aim means that boss fights are trickier than they would in other games: in The Division, for instance, I have very fine control over where my character is shooting and therefore, I can always flank a named elite, using my skills to distract them if necessary, and then getting a good flank off, allowing me to target their weak points. This simply isn’t viable in Peach Beach Splash, but I suppose that having superior clothing-water interactions does make up for this to an extent.
- Besides fights against swarms of weak enemies, Peach Beach Splash also gives players a chance to square off against characters from the other schools. Enemy characters are more durable and will project a shield if their health drops below a certain point, and once they are vanquished, can be finished off by means of glory kills: while not quite as visceral as the glory kills of DOOM, it’s still entertaining to take aim and blast their enemies into humiliation. While body shots are technically possible, having played shooters for a nontrivial period of time, I always go for the head.
- As I progress further into Peach Beach Splash, I developed my own set of favourite characters to fight with. Murakumo is my current favourite – one of the Gessen students, she hides behind a mask the same way Gundam Unicorn‘s Full Frontal does, assuming the veneer of a terrifying warrior. This belies a shy, insecure personality prone to speaking with a squeaky stutter. Her time at Gessen and with Yumi helps her improve, and I roll Murakumo without her mask for most.
- Most of Peach Beach Splash‘s campaign missions focus on the schools, but once all of the schools and Crimson Squad’s stories are completed, players gain access to additional missions that showcase other characters. These additional missions are a pleasant surprise and also expose the fact that the PBS Tournament is not all that it appears. The campaign is a bit corny, but all the more entertaining for it.
- Besides the campaign, there’s also a series of side stories, plus the option to mess with the characters in what Peach Beach Splash refers to as the locker room. I’ve begun customising my preferred characters here, and while I don’t think I’ll ever use the locker room’s more unnecessary (for me) functions, it remains an option for the folks who might have use for such faculties. I have no objection to such features, although it appears that not everyone shares this particular perspective.
- I’ve heard that Kenichiro Takaki, Senran Kagura‘s main producer, left Marvelous for Cygames after Sony imposed restrictions on the content that is permissible within PlayStation games. Feeling that Senran Kagura would be diminished, Takaki decided to work with a company that would not be subject to the same constraints. These restrictions come from the North American branch of Sony, and sets a worrying precedence for future developers in that North American values, particularly those of the United States, could be used to force overseas developers to comply to arbitrary demands.
- I personally feel that it is definitely not the place of North Americans to influence decisions that affect organisations abroad, least of all from individuals who have no interest in the game – there is such a thing is not playing what one doesn’t like, after all. It is unfortunate that those who would seek to deprive others of their preferred entertainment exist. It is beyond the scope of my understanding as to why some would do this, and also beyond the scope of this discussion.
- Over the course of Peach Beach Splash, I’ve been slowly upgrading all of my weapon cards: like The Division, I rarely use the card abilities for skills, instead, placing faith in my choice of weapons and a sure aim. As the end of the game draws nearer, I field Yumi again, and invite readers to take a gander at her profile at the Senran Kagura wiki, which has a rather…interesting description of her physical attributes.
- The final boss of Peach Beach Splash‘s campaign is a massive entertainment system that shoots lasers. My computer-controlled allies were next to useless in this and were promptly melted. It took me a few attempts to beat this monstrosity, whose attacks, while predictable, are powerful and whose biggest asset is a deep health pool that puts even the Black Tusks’ named elites to shame.
- I ended up winning by retreating to reload and hammering the mobile entertainment system with the water that I had. Eventually, I’d worn down its health enough, got to the bottom of what was keeping the girls on the island and ended the campaign. My skills from The Division far exceeded what was necessary to do well in this game, and having beat the game, there is the matter of whether or not there I may give other Senran Kagura games a spin. The answer to this is that only time will tell.
I imagine that, were the DICE team to take a leaf from Tamsoft and focus on creating a solid experience for players, Battlefield V could yet be salvaged; Peach Beach Splash represents a polished, smooth product designed with the players in mind. A Battlefield title with more elements inspired by Peach Beach Splash would certainly make a splash, and…I think that’s about as far as I can take this year’s April Fool’s joke. In actuality, while I am quite disappointed with the lack of maps in Battlefield V, the mechanics have seen substantial improvement, and I’ve been having fun with the Tides of War, scored an 18-streak and found Rush to be a welcome game mode. It is the case that I wish DICE would focus on creating new maps and exploring new theatres rather than divert efforts towards minor game modes, but the reality is that I’m not terribly worried about the cosmetics system. The new Firestorm mode has also been a welcome addition: I was hesitant about it until trying it out, and overall, Battlefield V isn’t terrible: it is true that I am bored with the lack of maps, but there’s plenty of other games to go through while I wait for the new maps, which are slated to arrive in May. With this in mind, Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash was something I got during the winter holidays as a bit of a joke. The gameplay is a bit wooden, and somewhat uninspired – aiming takes no skill. With this in mind, I was impressed with the movement system, and extent of customisations available to players in Peach Beach Splash. As well, the character stories did give the game additional depth that I was not expecting: Peach Beach Splash is intended to tie the different schools together, and while I’m not too familiar with the Senran Kagura lore, it is clear that each character has their own story and goals. The main games go much more deeply into the world that is Senran Kagura, but having a bit of story in Peach Beach Splash did much to liven up what is ultimately a fanservice game with no aim beyond showcasing a visually-pleasing cast in swimsuits. It’s certainly not a match for something like Battlefield V, but as far as providing some laughs go, Peach Beach Splash does deliver.