Without a doubt, there is something admirable about the Senran Kagura franchise. In a word, the whole series is utterly brazen without being phonographic. There is no confusion what the target audience might be, or what the appeal of the game series is, and the creator revels in it as well as his fans. We’ve seen the women of Senran Kagura go through multiple iterations of gameplay, from the original busty ninja brawler to some extreme handholding, a rhythm cooking game and even a volleyball game that, sadly, is nowhere to be seen on the Switch. Still, far be it from Marvelous to simply slow down and give up on what they could or could not be doing in the world of absurdist gameplay. Instead, they looked at pinball and said, “How can we make this sexy?” Using convoluted logic that only makes sense when you don’t think about it and the combined talents of Tamsoft, Marvelous, XSeed and Honey Parade, we launch into a bold, insane new realm that is Senran Kagura: Peach Ball.
In the world of Senran Kagura: Peach Ball, the group of femme fatales are all working at an arcade for the summer, because that sounds awesome, but Haruka, the eldest of the girls and the unofficial leader, gets bored and decides to cook up a potion in the bathroom. Which potion, you ask? Why just Beastall, a magical concoction that turns people into animals. From the original storyline, it looks like Ryona might have been the one to accidentally discover the potion and mistake it for handsoap, but the multiple playthroughs of the story mode (which puts each girl in the center role) have me a bit confused. Anyways, Beastall can be spread through contact, and the girls all end up getting marked and turning into animals. Well, not full animals: they take on some personality traits of the animals they’re emulating while wearing furry underwear that represents an animal. Asuka turns into a bunny (and either thinks she’s a bunny girl at a casino or just a full on rabbit), Yumi turns into a self-centered cat, Yomo is a Tanuki, and Murasaki is a bear. And Ryona? Why, she’s a dog, of course! The only way to get these girls back to normal is a two part action: first, you need to communicate with them and remind them they’re human, which seems simple and straightforward enough. Then, when they’re questioning themselves, you have to put them up on a pinball table and smash the hell out of them with the magical Peach Ball. Leave your judgment and reasoning at the door, we’re about to get into sexy pinball, and there’s NO room for those things in this game.
The core gameplay of Senran Kagura: Peach Ball is literally that of pinball, but this comes with a big, screaming warning to people who have been enjoying Zen FX3 or the like. You may have gotten used to a variety of tables with huge numbers of interesting designs, core concepts or novel/innovative ways to juice up the genre. There are exactly two tables in Peach Ball, with some seasonal variants to them that affect how the tables look but not play. The first is the Peach Park, which is a sort of theme park with three flippers (a secondary right flipper to access ramps and a hidden chute), and is decked out with some cool ride themed bonus conditions (a Ferris wheel and teacups) to help spruce up the full idea. The second is the Spooky Shinobi Park, which is more simple, two flippers, and two loop around chutes with a couple of small bonuses. Both tables have the appearance of a king dolphin who will grant you an item bonus if you get into his grotto twice in one ball (the items are things like extra lives, ball returns or point multipliers) and the Shinobi Park has the added bonus of triggering massive golden coins that can be collected in order to activate additional bonuses. You can select your ball before each match, which weigh in with either yin or yang (light or heavy). Additional balls can be purchased, but they only look different: it’s up to your play style if you want to stick with a heavier or lighter approach. In order to win, you need to accomplish enough smaller missions (such as hitting bumpers or going around the chutes) enough to trigger three specific challenges, with the third challenge being the endgame for the story mode chapters. The point value also can go ridiculously high with modifiers and bonuses, and it all circles back…to the girls.
Each “chapter” of Senran Kagura: Peach Ball has the girl you’re trying to turn back into a human sitting front and center in the upper echelon of the main floor. You get to hit her with your ball in order to rack up points, and hitting her enough times will cause her to fall over, allowing you to hit other parts of her body (read: ass and chest) which can accumulate more points much faster. Strangely, this concept is flushed out exceedingly well for how the girls interact with the tables. For example, Asuka, as a bunny girl, is on her hands and knees, occasionally jumping, and when I got lucky and got the ball stuck behind her foot, she fell over basically ONTO my ball, and it bounced nonstop into her backside until she got up, giving me massive points and instantly jettisoning me to the first challenge. In another case (I think it was Murasaki), when she fell over, her bum was actually blocking one of the chutes, and my ball got stuck lightly tapping her cheeks until she also recovered. It was ridiculous, but no more than anything else that was happening. Sometimes three small sprites (called fairies) would appear, and then, if I hit them all before the timer ran out, a heart would appear that I could hit and cause the girl to, what else, fall over and allow me to whack into her breasts a ton. All of this so that I could build up for the Sexy Challenges. What, I didn’t mention they were Sexy? Well, that should have been implied.
At this point, I think we can drop the facade and mention the meat and potatoes of the whole game, which players should have been aware of when they saw Senran Kagura is in the title. You’re going to see breasts and butts. A lot. When you get into the Sexy Challenges, you have a limited amount of time to hit two balls into a series of small targets, like rubber ducks, a spinning top or a daruma-faced totem poll, and try to get your points as high as possible (max of S rating) in a limited amount of time. Once you accomplish this, you’re treated to a small animation of the aforementioned items attacking the girls in some way that usually plays into a fetish of some kind. The rubber ducks will spray the girls with liquid of some kind and then they fall over. There’s a giant balloon that explodes while the girls are laying on it. The daruma statue wedges itself in their cleavage and then explodes, damaging their clothing a bit. This game is going to push itself to the very edges of risque presentation while still making sure that nipple and actual genitals are covered. Even the third challenge, titled the Super Sexy Challenge, will have you literally slamming the balls into the asses and breasts of whoever you’re playing against, with the grand finale being you paddling their boobs or butts with your pinball flippers until they’re cured. That’s how you get them back to human. MASSIVE PADDLING.
Between each play in the story mode are small skits where the non-animalized ninjas are going after their fellow sisters, and, seriously, these are the things that make Senran Kagura work and make it so popular. They aren’t just buxom girls who kick and jump around a lot, they’re incredibly funny and well voiced, and the skits in between make the story modes worth it. Having Ryona declare “I’m just a stupid little bitch!” or having Tomo hinting that she would like to put two balls in a sack is just blue humor through and through, and I was loving it. The localization team did top notch work to make sure the puns and jokes in Japanese were just as funny in the English subtitles, and the English voicework is good enough as well. I prefer the Japanese voices, but whatever, I’ve got classic anime standards, and yet here we are.
The most impressive part of it all is how freakishly smooth Senran Kagura: Peach Ball runs on the Switch. I did a majority of my play in handheld mode (because I can’t put this on the television, my kids would see), and there was no stuttering or lag whatsoever. The graphics are amazingly clear and clean, giving you detail and bounce (heh) whether you’re on the table, in the dressing room or in a cut scene. You’d expect these textures and ideas to set you back over ten gigs or more on the memory card, but the engineers who made this non-censored port work on the Switch also compressed the damn thing to 5.2 GB. By comparison to another recent release, Bloodstained is 5.9 GB and runs significantly worse with compressed graphics, though, arguably, it’s a totally different game.
This game is fan service through and through, and there’s no apologies for that. You can do the story mode of Peach Ball, sure, and you can do free play if you just wanna whack around some balls for points and fun. Hitting achievements in story mode means getting more imaginary cash, which is used to purchase a lot more than additional ball skins for the game. You can get outfits and hair styles and head accessories for the girls, which are then used in a pose gallery for all the team or just your favorite. You can unlock the musical tracks, some movies, and still images for viewing whenever you’d like, and players are definitely going to want to do that, because, if you’re the person who just spent forty dollars on this Senran Kagura game, you’re in it to win it. Also, those outfits, hair styles and accessories are all reasonably priced, so why not unlock them all?
Lastly, if you missed the groping mini game of Moero Chronicles, or wish you had a less story driven version of Reflexions, you can go to town with the “Intimacy” mode of Peach Ball. Dress up the girl however you’d like, get her to spin around for you, and then use the JoyCons and the HD rumble to grope her to your heart’s content. Part of this feels incredibly creepy and strange, but part of me also remembers this is a video game and I just spent several hours convincing a chick in a bikini with raccoon ears to sit on a pinball table so I could whack her until she turned human again. This is something that really plays into the insane, mature culture of what people like to do in their free time, and it’s certainly not appropriate for children, but it’s great for adults who enjoy these kinds of things. Let’s be honest: there’s something both funny and satisfying about doing a gallery shot, leaving four girls the same height and natural pose, and then making Asuka around 20 feet high, sticking her butt in the air, and she is visibly angry. These features are here, so why the hell not give it a go?
If you’re here for a bit of waifu culture cleverly disguised as a pinball game, Senran Kagura: Peach Ball has got your back. There’s a DLC section that promises either additional tables (probably not), additional girls (maybe Homura?) or additional costumes (almost certainly). The game genuinely looks good, not just in terms of the character designs, but in playback and optimization. There’s so much replay value to unlock everything, and it’s a bit of fun as a pinball game as well. If you were hoping for something less eyebrow raising than Reflexions, oh boy, will you be disappointed. But for fans who are looking for more bouncy goodness and to really stick it to the censors (seriously, what happened, Sony?) then this is a jolly, jiggling good time.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
User Review( votes)
When I told my wife the premise for this game, she couldn’t stop laughing, and you probably won’t be able to either. Sexy pinball to the rescue!