Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus was released for the PS Vita on February 28, 2013 in Japan and October 14, 2014 in North America, with a European release following on October 15.
Senran Kagura is a 3D Brawler in a similar vein as the Dynasty Warriors franchise. However, due to the limitations of the Vita system, it doesn't feature quite as much depth in terms of AI or enemy count, but it does seem to offer larger aerial capabilities.
Right after getting into the game, you are given a choice between three 'schools': Hanzou Academy, Gessen Academy, and Hebijo Academy. Each have their own story, and after a short Visual Novel introduction, you are free to move around.
The above screen is what you see once the original exposition is finished. You can either move around the room - there are also NPCs you can speak to who have different dialog depending on where you are within the story - or you can hit the right trigger and open the screen to the right, which allows quicker navigation.
I'll skip Missions for now, since those lead into the bread and butter of the game. Dojo takes you into the multiplayer with the game. As, at the time of review, the game is not out yet, I haven't been able to test this mode just yet, but it seems to be fairly well designed from what I've seen. The Dressing Room allows you to alter the outfits of the heroines, using articles of clothing or accessories you have bought or obtained during missions. The Library functions as its namesake: it holds all the unlocked pictures, videos, songs and your overall score. Some items are given over the course of the missions, while others can be bought through the Store, which I'll cover right now. As the name suggests, the Store is your go-to for buying clothes, accessories, and Library entries. It also has the appropriately named Lingerie Lottery which, as you might surmise, allows you to bet money (Zeni) to get new Lingerie for your heroines. There are 98 pieces of Lingerie to collect and each time you bet money, the chance to get a new piece decreases. You can also presumably buy lottery tokens from the PS Store for some amount of money that is currently unknown. These are probably ideal, since each token gives you a 100% chance to get a new item, but depending on the cost, might be exorbitant.
Moving down to Character, this allows you to change characters - however you can do this through the Dressing Room by hitting the Left or Right Trigger, so the use of the Character menu is to allow you to examine each character's stats and combo list. I find this selection to be fairly unnecessary, but it might get its mileage later on. At any rate, Records allow you to save outside missions - which allow you to save after every one - as well as load a different save or delete. Settings should be self-explanatory, since it's the same menu you are probably familiar with from any number of other games. Finally, the selection hiding under the watermark on the right is to Change Schools. You are allowed to change your school at any time from this screen, and I believe it resets the story - each school has its own story, and what you do in each doesn't appear to crossover between schools.
Finally, to the meat of the game. Missions allow you to choose between story missions or character submissions. Story missions progress the main story and demonstrate the relations between the different schools you can choose from. Character submissions follow a specific character and help flesh out her backstory. They appear to consist of five missions, in which you fight against a group of cannon fodder, and a boss. Sometimes there are waves you have to complete, other times you are pitted against the boss from the outset.
One of Hibari's Submissions
Once inside one of the missions, which all seem to function basically the same, the brawling portion of the game begins. As previously mentioned, you fight a group of enemies plus a boss. The controls are very similar to Dynasty Warriors, with the Square Button being your standard weak attack, Triangle being your strong attack (and combo ender), Circle allowing a dodge move and Cross being your jump. There is also your Shinobi Transformation button, typically assigned to the Left Trigger, which acts as both a strategic move and a game changer. When used, the Transformation restores your health to full, while also modifying your attacks. In addition, your attack and defense go up, which helps tremendously if you're fighting a particularly challenging boss.
Boss using Transformation
However, bosses also have access to this Transformation, and will typically use it when they are down around twenty to thirty percent health. This provides them the same benefits afforded to you, so be warned. Also, as astute readers might notice form the image to the right, there is another system in play. The more damage you take, the more damage your clothes take. I haven't yet figured out the point behind this system entirely, but I have noticed that if you use one of your Shinobi Arts on the boss - you refill this bar through combat, and at certain intervals gain more - while they are in this state of...undress, it destroys a piece of their lingerie according to which form of Art is used. As I mentioned, it's a fairly interesting and seemingly unnecessary system, but maybe it has a use later on that I have not encountered as of yet.
Completing the mission takes you to the level up screen. Based on the stats on your mission complete screen before this, you gain more levels. Mastery refers to the power within each 'stance' available to each heroine: Flash refers to your pre-Transformation power; Yang refers to your post-Transformation power; and Yin refers to your power within 'Frantic Mode', an activated mode in which your clothes are completely stripped, but your attack skyrockets, making you a literal glass cannon. You can very easily be destroyed in Frantic Mode, but it allows you to chain your weak attack indefinitely, which would allow you to juggle the boss indefinitely as long as you're careful of your surroundings.
Last thing I want to cover slightly is the animation. Considering you're dealing with dozens of enemies on the screen and many of them are probably being hit by attacks, the animation is quite fluid. In fact, in the missions I have completed, I have experienced little to no slowdown - I say little, since if there was any slowdown I did not notice anything.
Verdict: Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is a fairly odd game. On the surface, it's very 'fanservicey' (a term used in anime and manga to denote elements added simply to please its fans) with its additions of the lingerie and stripping mechanics. When you delve deeper, however, the systems in place show an understanding of brawling games in a similar vein to Dynasty Warriors. All in all, it's a strange combination, but I think they did a great job. The story seems to be a typical anime story, but the gameplay is engaging enough to make me want to keep playing. Further, the grading system inherent in mission completion gives you a way to aim for a high score in any given mission. I will continue playing this game in weeks to come, and I would recommend it to anyone with a Vita.