“Great cooking and great racks – the perfect combination!” This is one of the first things said by the ludicrously brilliant Master Hanzo and, yep, it pretty much sums up the tone of the whole game. Believe it or not, that line is actually spoken in jest when he is initially feigning a serious tone at the start of the game – you can probably imagine what happens when he starts having fun…….actually, no you probably can’t. In fact, there is no way that anyone is the west could imagine anything about this game. It’s so bonkers, so rude, so sexist but somehow, against all of the odds, still enjoyable in a, I can’t believe this exists kind of way that, well, it could have only come only come from Japan.
I recently reviewed Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus and I thought that pushed the boundaries, but man, Bon Appetit, this is on a whole other level. Like Shinove Versus, I will put out the immediate caveat that this game is wildly sexist, extremely rude and, if read on a purely surface level (which is easily done), highly degrading to women…..and potentially damaging to the industry. If you do get past the immediate shock however, like Shinovi Versus, Senran Kagura Bon Appetit is actual a very well made game with high production values, solid gameplay and a clear love for the source material.
On top of that, while it is unquestionably rude, I would again argue that the tone (especially in the case of Bon Appetit) is so irreverent, so self aware and so absolutely ridiculous that it is almost impossible to take seriously or to be offended. Yes, the game flits between innuendo and outright light pornography, but this is a game made for those who aren’t easily shocked and are able to laugh along with the developers at just how absurd this game really is.
After that initial shock of ‘I can’t believe this is a thing’ subsided, I actually found mysef laughing along with this game on a regular – and I don’t mean that in a purely ironic way either. Despite some inevitable unintentional laughs (and a few awkward giggles), the host of the cooking game show, Master Hanzo (oh yeah, this game is about cooking), actually proves to be a genuinely amusing character with some great lines and some of the best cut scenes I have seen in ages.
The clothes dropping of each of the already scantily lad girls as they fail their culinary challenges does get old after a while, but honestly, the sight of Master Hanzo riding a giant squid into the sky or standing proudly atop the worlds largest cream cake remains entertaining for much longer than it has any right to.
Whether you find the tone absurdly amusing or downright degrading, get past the bizarre presentation, zany humour and extremely high levels of titillation and what you’re left with is essentially a culinary-based rhythm action game. There is a story, but it’s utter nonsense (even Master Hanzo admits is pointless) – this is a game all about its simple mechanics, its music and, well…..tits.
Doing nothing particularly new with the genre, Senran Kagura Bon Appetit has two lines with buttons or directional inputs that move across the screen. As you can imagine, success is achieved by hitting the right buttons at the right time. A special meter builds as you progress which, when activated gives you extra points for as long as you don’t make a mistake while the occasional requirement for combinations across the two lines does keep the game challenging. There’s not much else to it in terms of core gameplay – it works well enough, but it’s hardly revolutionary stuff.
What sets this apart of course is its presentation. Each battle is split in to three rounds with the loser of each round losing more and more of their clothes (naturally). Master Hanzo rates each performance based on the size and taste of the dish (essentially based on your accuracy and hit rate) and can award a heart if you are proving especially dominant. This heart, if hit in the next round, * treats * the player to a rather perverse close-up of their competitors lady-bits for the remainder of the round…..insane, rude and, well, largely pointless as you’ll usually be too busy hitting notes(?) to actually see what is going on.
As per Shinovi Versus, achievements made throughout Arcade Mode, Free Mode and Story Mode will unlock items for the array of selectable characters available. With plenty of lingerie, dresses and accessories to collect, fans of the manga or anime (or of playing dress-up) will have plenty to unlock and, if they are so inclined, can spend time in the changing rooms dressing up their favourite characters, giving them a twirl and, for lack of a better term, giving them a poke. Yes, the girls do show signs of embarrassment at being touched, but this is the one part of the game which is all but impossible to defend. Much of the sexualisation of the female characters can hide behind its outrageous tone, but when it’s just you, a half naked girl and a touch screen, well, yeah, things feel decidedly more creepy.
Many will have made up their mind by the time the opening credits are done, but for thos willing to go with the tone, Senran Kagura Bon Appetit actually offers up a surprisingly funny, utterly irreverent and really rather enjoyable rhythm action game. The songs are a tad forgettable and it could do with more content, but despite these issues, and, you know, all the nudity and stuff, this is a game made with reverence for the source material and a real eye for fan service. It’s unlikely to be remembered for anything other than its highly questionable attitude towards women, but this really is a decent game with one of the most entertaining characters I have come across in a video game for some time. Come for the music (and the girls?), but stay….stay for Master Hanzo.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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