While the rest of the world, judging by my Twitter feed, has been putting in the hours on Metal Gear Solid V – which is pretty bloody great, for the most part – I've been busying myself with a few other interactive distractions. I'm easing myself back into the beautiful wastes of Mad Max, having already played and enjoyed a decent slice of it earlier this year, and I'm having a lot of fun with Super Mario Maker, the level-creation tool for Nintendo's Wii U that so easily stirs the latent game designer in all of us.
And then there's Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson, which I downloaded onto my 3DS a couple of weeks ago. I've played maybe an hour of Tamsoft's latest side-on, 2.5D brawler; and if that name's familiar, it's probably because the same Japanese studio made the Toshinden games in the 1990s before moving onto, let's say, rather more exploitative fare. I've picked at it, across five or six brief sessions now, always moving proceedings onwards to the next scenario and fresh waves of enemies. Yet 60 minutes is enough to know what it's all about. Breasts. Boobs. Tits. Baps. Knockers. Bosoms. Norks. Melons. Insert your own local, colloquial variation, here.
Seriously. That's it. Breasts. This is a game about breasts. Oh, sure, there's fighting too, and a storyline I cannot even begin to fathom on account of it directly following the events of its preceding game, Senran Kagura Burst, which I'd not even heard of prior to picking this up. (There's an extremely long, context-setting intro, but I fell asleep halfway through it.) The combat is a long way from comprehensive, briefly entertaining combos achievable (at one point I racked up 600 straight hits, somehow) but the inputs as basic as a light and heavy attacks plus the occasional special move. The winning tactic in any boss confrontation is generally to run around and jump a lot, avoiding attacks, and then, when a window in their defence opens, mash the Y and X buttons on your 3DS as quickly as possible. But mainly: boobs. Big, bouncing cartoon boobs, grotesquely proportioned, hanging off the front of a range of saucer-eyed and schoolgirl-aged anime characters who are all training to be (good or evil) ninjas because… video games?
Each level – at least, each of the ones I have seen so far, and I'm unlikely to see any more – comprises a Dynasty Warriors-like/lite melee section where the player-controlled character, each of whom has their own weapons, from swords to bovver boots to guns to, um, umbrellas, clears out waves of identikit enemies before facing off against a boss. As these drone types are struck, their clothes fall off – and guess what? They're almost entirely girls, early on. Teenage girls, schoolgirls, just like your controllable characters. And that stripping mechanic works both ways – while you'll start each stage relatively well covered, barring the odd underwear-revealing rather-too-short skirt (but then, with all the leaping about the place, I suppose I can understand the practical side of such attire), take damage enough and your own garments will begin to fall apart. You can easily finish a stage with your shinobi wearing nothing more than what is, basically, a barely-keeping-everything-in-place bikini. Whether you win or lose against the boss, the screen freezes on your character come the battle's end for you to move the 3DS around and gawp at their, um, well, y'know… Oh fuck it. The game invites you to ogle their assets. It positively demands it.
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It gets worse outside of the core mission structure. A "hub" house, where all the playable girls can be found, allows you to check your stats, alter your settings and so forth – and also to dress the characters up in the outfits you've unlocked by completing stages, and then posing at them using a number of pre-sets which range from cheery V-signs to them squatting or actually straddling the invisible you. Quite what the point of this is, I don't know. If altering costumes and striking certain poses gives the girls advantageous stat boosts to use in upcoming challenges, I missed that particular memo. To me it simply seems to be a shamelessly outright option to leer at exaggerated, entirely fantastical female forms. At girls drawn like hyper-sexualised young adults, underage and oversized.
That a game like this can come out in 2015 is ridiculous. It's brazenly, unapologetically sexist. And it's all as arousing as a dinner date with Des O'Connor, where Des is dressed up like Prince Harry that time he went to that party in that terrifically inappropriate gear and will only speak to you in broken Brummie, which as we all know is the least sexy accent in the whole of the British Isles. The thin waists and titanic whimwhams might represent wank fantasy material for teenage boys who, for some reason, can't bring themselves to find actual pornography on the internet, but to a grown adult, a married man, a father of two, this is just the dullest, most tired tripe masquerading as titillation. I get more excited making toast.
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And yet this is a game – a series, which has spawned its own manga and anime offshoots – with so many fans. Sales of the games to date have passed the million mark, and coverage elsewhere has emphasised the gameplay improvements made to Deep Crimson, compared to its predecessor. And, you know, I'm absolutely fine with people playing this game, and enjoying it (be fair, most likely in the privacy of their own homes, despite the portability of the platform), and claiming that they're primarily in it for everything but what's inside all those fancy blouses.
'Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson', extended launch trailer
Of course, they're fucking lying, as this is a game about breasts. Only about breasts. Funbags. Jugs. Et cetera. Even a big boss dragon thing in it has breasts. It's not like publisher Marvellous has shied away from that fact, either, releasing a special edition of the game with an oppai mouse mat ("with 3D boobs!") and naming the next-level-down set the "Happy Boobs" edition. Milk bombs, muffins, cha-chas – it's all about the fun dumplings.
And nothing else, so stop kidding yourself. You're not playing Deep Crimson for its multi-layered gameplay, for its sole playable male, its pair battles or its tangled tale of… sorry, again, no idea, but I get that the baddies aren't all that bad in the big scheme of things. You're playing it because misshapen cartoon girls with weirdly massive eyes, piss-poorly made outfits and ginormous gazongas do it for you. And that's okay, I suppose. Better that you feel up fictional girls on your 3DS screen rather than grope a stranger on the bus. But I'm not playing any more of it. I don't have any more time to waste on stuff like this when so many genuinely excellent games are just out, or imminent; so I'll be belatedly starting Metal Gear Solid V instead, because that definitely doesn't have any problems regarding its representation of female characters. Absolutely not.
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is out now, exclusive to the 3DS.
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