If you’ve ever been playing a game of pinball and thought “this would be even better with some anime girls”, then you’re in luck. Senran Kagura: Peach Ball, as the name may suggest is the latest title in the Senran Kagura series of games. What started out as a side scrolling action game on the 3DS has now evolved into a series that has had entries that fit into varied genres. The series is no stranger to spin-off titles, with previous entries focusing on water-gun play, card games, Warriors (Musou) mechanics, each with varying levels of success. Now the series has shifted to arcade style pinball, and although it has some issues, they’re definitely onto a winner here.
The plot of the game primarily takes place within the Honey Arcade. Haruka has been conducting more of her ‘experiments’, brewing up new creations with unknown side effects. After a mishap leads to Asuka, Yumi, Yomi, Ryona, and Murasaki becoming exposed to her latest concoction, they begin to transform into animals. But thankfully Haruka has come up with a way to return each of the shinobi back to their normal selves. Using the magical Peach Ball and applying it to the girls’ bodies repeatedly can undo the side effects of the experiment. It just so happens that the Peach Ball fits perfectly inside a pinball table, leaving the rest of the rescue up to you.
The story walks the line between entertaining and ridiculous, packed with anime tropes and fanservice, it can easily be seen as ‘weird’ by anyone that happened to just stumble across the game or witness someone else playing it.
But while it was certainly weird, I did enjoy what it had to offer and thought it came up with a story and cleverly wrapped it around some really fun pinball gameplay.
The actual delivery of the story and the dialogue in Peach Ball’s story mode is done in a visual novel style format, with the characters and text appearing and able to be scrolled on-screen. This has become very much the norm in anime-style games of recent years, and is a very effective, and easy to implement way of telling a story. And being a big fan of visual novels, I love when games take this approach to story telling, especially when the story is entertaining.
When you’re not engaged in dialogue between the characters, you’ll be hitting the tables for some pinball action. The core gameplay loop of the story mode has you locating and speaking to one of the girls, then bringing them back to the arcade so that you’re able to cure them using the Peach Balls via a game of pinball.
To do this you’ll need to complete a number of missions and challenges within the pinball game. During each round, a number of “Peach Missions” appear on the side of the screen. These range from things like hitting the girl in a specific spot to hitting certain bumpers or achieving a high score. Upon completing these missions you will earn points which gradually fills a meter as you play. When this bar is full enough, hitting the girl with the Peach Ball will initiate a ‘Sexy Challenge’, a timed mini game that has you trying to perform various skill shots to damage the girl’s clothing. Upon completing 2 of the sexy challenges, the third becomes a ‘Super Sexy Challenge’, the final part of each round that usually consists of a flipper based mini game that ends with the girl being de-clothed and concluding the round.
As you can gather from the premise, or if you’re familiar with the Senran Kagura series you’ll see the game is pretty packed with visual fanservice. While it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and may make some feel awkward it isn’t overly lewd, only shows limited nudity and fits the series’ quirky aesthetic. The game knows it’s on the weird side and fully runs with it.
Senran Kagura: Peach Ball also makes great use of the Nintendo Switch hardware to provide a richer pinball experience while you play. The shoulder buttons on each of the Joy-Cons control the flippers on the table, and the analog sticks are used to nudge the table, which is both a required and strategic mechanic to successfully complete some of the game’s missions. The HD rumble feature of the Joy-Cons also allows you to feel every shake and bounce of the Peach Balls, and the vibrations change depending on which Peach Ball you decide to use during each round.
The game features 2 tables, Peach Land and Spooky Shinobi Park. Peach Land is a brightly lit, Vegas style table that is based on a theme park and has night and day variants. Spooky Shinobi Park, is based on a haunted Japanese shrine and comes in variants themed around Japan’s seasons, with the spring table featuring an especially pleasing aesthetic with it’s cool lighting and blooming cherry blossom tree.
While I did really enjoy what was on offer in each of the tables, I was a little disappointed there was only 2 to enjoy. Even with the customisation options available, I did find the tables starting to get repetitive once I began to master how to activate certain special areas and how best to gain points.
“I want more” became my general feeling the longer I played Senran Kagura: Peach Ball. The pinball gameplay was fun so I enjoyed going back to that over and over but otherwise I wanted more of just about everything else. More story on offer, more girls to unlock and complete missions for and more pinball tables. Fingers crossed there is more DLC or a sequel game coming down the line because Honey Parade Games are onto a winner with this formula.
As you play through Peach Ball, you’ll be progressively earning coins. Coins gained while playing through either the story or the game’s free play mode can be spent in the in-game shop. Here you can unlock a ton of outfits, hairstyles and accessories for each of the girls and different Peach Balls and backgrounds for the 2 tables. There is a lot here to unlock and although the story mode of Peach Ball is quite short, you’ll be playing for quite some time if you’re the kind of player that wants to unlock everything on offer.
Senran Kagura: Peach Ball is a really solid pinball game with a Senran Kagura coat of paint. The fanservice on offer certainly won’t be for everyone but if you can deal with that, you’ve got yourself a fun pinball game with highly interactive tables, bright lights and Vegas style visual stimulation. My only negative is that many areas of the game left me wanting more and could have been fleshed out in deeper ways. But this foundation has also left me pretty excited for future add-ons or a sequel game.
A Nintendo Switch review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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