Capsule Review: Senran Kagura Peach Ball

A pinball spin-off of the Senran Kagura franchise starring busty schoolgirl ninjas who take clothing damage (though there’s basically no ninjutsu or clothing damage in this one). Five of the series’s recurring characters (Yumi, Asuka, Murasaki, Ryōna, and Yomi) have been partially transformed into different animals (which mostly means they wear fur bikinis and animal ears while acting like a stereotype of the animal in question) and to restore them, you need to hit them with a pinball over and over.

The story is thin and mostly nonsensical, though it does at least include some minor character moments as the human characters try to remind the transformed characters who they actually are - though this can also introduce some tonal whiplash, as when Yumi is jolted from believing she’s a cat by being reminded of the death of her grandfather.

The gameplay is pinball on Senran Kagura-themed tables - though for some reason, there are only two different ones. Standard pinball mechanics are in play, often featuring the franchise’s animal mascots - Hibari’s rabbit Ninto acts as the ball launcher, for example. The girl you’re attempting to restore sits in the middle of the table and acts as a special bumper - hitting various places on her body gets varying number of points, certain actions cause her to move or change her pose, and under some circumstances hitting her triggers a minigame. On top of this, there are always several missions active for doing things like hitting certain targets or hitting the girl a certain number of times - accomplishing these provides extra points and other rewards. The results are flashy and there’s always a lot going on. In the story mode, the pinball game ends when you complete enough minigames to restore the girl; in the free mode it continues until you run out of balls.

Playing either mode nets you currency to buy cosmetic items such as backgrounds for the tables and outfits for the girls, the latter of which can be used in the series-standard dressing room and diorama mode. Buying all the content will take some time, and is apparently intended to be a progression that motivates continued play after finishing the roughly five-hour story mode (split into roughly one-hour stories per character). But since all there really is to do is pinball on just two tables, it can get old fast if you aren’t a fan of that kind of gameplay. And on top of that, if you’re a series veteran it may not be exciting to unlock the same outfits you’ve unlocked in game after game already.

Overall, Peach Ball is a solid enough cheesecake-laden pinball game, but it’s a very slight package that could have supported much more. It’s baffling that there are only two tables and so few characters available. And there’s basically nothing here for players who don’t enjoy pinball.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished Yumi’s story, which is five pinball stages and interspersed dialog scenes. It took me something like an hour. I didn’t bother with the other four stories or the free mode because I don’t find pinball gameplay compelling. This is the first Senran Kagura game I didn’t finish, but I’d expect pinball fans to enjoy playing it for longer.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.