Capsule Review: Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal

A remake of Senran Kagura Burst, updating the buxom-ninja-schoolgirl brawling action from a 2.5D sidescroller to full 3D while keeping the original story. The gameplay and graphics have taken several steps up along with a few quality-of-life improvements while the old mission structure and story are maintained faithfully - to the point of using literally the same text and art (in higher resolution) as before.

As is standard for a Senran Kagura game, Burst Re:Newal stars a cast of busty teenage girls who suffer clothing damage when they fight. The game isn’t just about cheesecake-style fanservice, but that is central to the premise and a lot of the game is designed around emphasizing it. If you find that off-putting, you are unlikely to enjoy this or any other Senran Kagura game.

Combat is much improved over previous games due to a few significant tweaks. Enemies preparing attacks now display telegraphs showing where the attack will hit, color-coded to indicate whether the attack is blockable. A perfectly-timed block results in a parry, stunning the attacker and any other nearby enemies to set them up for a counterattack - but attempting to block an unblockable attack results in you getting stunned. The result is combat that’s much more readable, tactical, and satisfying than ever before. But it’s marred by a couple of surprising flaws, at least on the PS4. The camera gets caught in awkward positions far too easily, blocking your view with obstacles or angling up and not showing the ground - either way, the telegraphs become impossible to see. And for some reason, lock-on drops a lot in combat, which can result in the camera suddenly pointing in the other direction and the enemy being free to queue up attacks from off-screen. Because of this, it’s not quite the case that a skilled player can consistently avoid taking any damage, but it’s closer to that than the series has ever been.

As in the original Burst, the story focuses on the conflict between “good” shinobi school Hanzō and “evil” shinobi school Hebijo. Hanzō and Hebijo each get a story campaign, covering events from each school’s perspective with overlapping plot beats but clear contradictions on many significant details. Both versions of the story focus on themes of seeking balance and understanding your enemy and end in roughly the same way, resulting in a decent base for the later games to build on even if there isn’t a clear canonical timeline. There are also new short side stories featuring Yumi and Miyabi available as paid DLC.

In my opinion, the Hanzō side of Burst’s story is still the best story that the series has ever had. Bundling it with the series’s best combat gameplay yet results in a great entry point for newcomers. For veterans like me, it’s more bittersweet - it’s a reminder of what this franchise used to be and how it’s changed its focus from theme-based storytelling and strong character arcs to consequence-free romps with many shallow characters.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the game, including both Hanzō and Hebijo stories and all optional objectives. I did not purchase any DLC.

Docprof's Rating:

Four Stars: Great. Not only did I finish the game, I probably played through the whole thing again and/or completed any optional objectives. It's an easy recommendation for any genre fan.

You can get it or learn more here.