It's that time of the year again: cold gusts sweep through fresh meadows and concrete jungles, leaves wither and fall off their trees, and every single store in the country forgot Thanksgiving exists. With the chilled gales of Autumn sweeping in, it's easy to long for the warmth of earlier days — or even the warmth of another. Fortunately, the guys over at Marvelous saw fit to remedy this lonely, frozen void with a title that's more about warming your heart than it is about your libido.
Though, given that it's Senran Kagura: Reflexions we're talking about, it's still going to be about your libido at the end of the day.
Senran Kagura: Reflexions is a spin-off of the hit Senran Kagura series, released on the Nintendo Switch on November 23rd, 2017 for Japan, with a worldwide release on September 13th, 2018. While the main series of Senran Kagura games is known for its action-packed beat 'em up gameplay, spread across 2D and 3D spaces alike, it has received its share of spin-offs. From a rhythmic cooking game to a water gun-themed third-person shooter, the series has spread its busty appeal across a bevy of platforms.
The key area in which Senran Kagura: Reflexions differs from all other entries in the series lies in its tone. There are no waves of foes to fell, no songs to get those sweaty pores fired up, and no other players to fling water at. In fact, there is but one single, solitary character in the game: Asuka, the main protagonist of the series. It is through Asuka that you, the nameless protagonist of Senran Kagura: Reflexions, must conquer the most intimidating, overbearing enemy of all: romantic confessions.
That's right, Senran Kagura: Reflexions is a completely wholesome dating sim, released on the family friendly Nintendo's latest console.
The premise of Senran Kagura: Reflexions involves Asuka and the player character spending an afternoon alone in an empty classroom after school, basking in the warm glow of a setting sun. Asuka has recently been beset by a number of emotions, even claiming she hardly feels like herself. Seeking the player's guiding hand, she hopes that they will be able to find the truth behind her tangled mess of emotions. Knowing that a lady's heart — the core of her very being — is a delicate matter to handle, she trusts the player to handle this in the only way Japanese high school students know how.
By caressing her fingers and peering into the fragmented corners of her psyche, each reflecting several different aspects of her personality.
Okay, so perhaps the truth is not so psychologically engrossing; however, it is precisely how the basic gameplay loop of Senran Kagura: Reflexions begins.
Asuka offers up her hands to the player, who must use the analog sticks to target and gently massage a spot upon them, in a process known as "reflexology." The palms of her hands and her fingers correspond to different scenarios that the player can enter, which all feature Asuka and the player in different scenarios, with a different dynamic. One sees Asuka fill the role of a little sister to the player, while another sees her as a fellow adventurer to the player in a fantasy world. Though varied enough in their settings, each scenario ends with the player massaging Asuka through some incredulous means. It's here where the main gameplay sections of Senran Kagura; Reflexions begins.
Asuka is thrown onto the screen, and the player is tasked with simply "massaging" her in another form of reflexology. This can include patting her on the head, rubbing her lower back, slapping her thighs, spraying her with a water gun or straight-on fondling her breasts. Certain spots on her body are even associated with certain moods, and stimulating certain spots will lead Asuka's mood in different ways. Some spots may lead to her feeling more passionate, while others might make her a little more playful.
After enough time spent poking and prodding Asuka's body, the player will be given the option to perform Glorious Reflexology, in which the player stimulates Asuka more intimately with a quick minigame. Initially, glorious reflexology only involves slapping Asuka's thighs, but alternative forms of glorious reflexology soon become available. These other forms center around various items, such a brush or even a vibrator — neither of which are used as you'd expect.
Once glorious reflexology is done, the scenario ends, with Asuka's dialogue and reactions depending on her mood when glorious reflexology ends.
These sections are initially novel enough, with Asuka reacting suitably and adorably to being poked, prodded and groped. In fact, for a game that costs about the same as a fast food lunch, the presentation is pretty spot-on. Right out the gate, the game opens with a fully animated sequence, the soundtrack is bubbly and suitable, even if unremarkable otherwise, and Asuka looks delightfully soft to the touch. Great care was taken in making sure the female lead's tender thighs, bountiful breasts, and supple skin were made to appear as soft as possible. It's always an achievement to slap a girl's thighs in a video game and watch the fat on them jiggle and bounce around.
That's all well and good, it truly is, but I've essentially just summarized the entirety of Senran Kagura: Reflexions. That's it, that's the whole nine dollar ride: after one session of reflexology, the scenario ends and the player must feel out another part of Asuka's mind. The end goal is to keep doing this until you fill an ever-present gauge up to the max, the color of which is determined by what mood scenarios ended in the most. For instance, if the player primarily ended scenarios with Asuka in a loving, passionate mood, then you will get a suitably romantic ending. With one ending per mood and five endings, the primary goal is to view all five endings and unlock the one true ending.
In order to even view that true ending, though, the player will have to continuously start the game up, fondle Asuka to access the different personas within her heart, and successfully seduce each of them. Ultimately, this amounts to patting Asuka's head or rubbing her thighs, though there are some outliers.
Sure, amidst all this patting and rubbing are more options for glorious reflexology to sprinkle up the experience, but that's all they are: sprinkles. Amazing as sprinkles may be, they're not going to magically make bad soft-serve good. Moreover, the final round of glorious reflexology you unlock is just a skip button. With this skip button, it only takes about ten minutes to speed through five stages and unlock one ending, of which there will only be three left by the time skipping is unlocked.
Though the tone of Senran Kagura: Reflexions is more wholesome than the mainline games, the brand's own style of eroticism is still well-accounted for here. Suggestive dialogue alluding to more erotic scenarios behind the curtains, the ability to fondle Asuka in all sorts of manners and Yaegashi Nan's wonderfully lush illustrations are the main appeals behind Senran Kagura: Reflexions. There is also the option to dress up Asuka in different outfits unlocked as the player obtains the different endings, but these can only be used in the game's designated free play mode.
If you're among the souls who dislikes or is otherwise indifferent to Asuka, the game does feature four additional characters from the Senran Kagura series that could take her place: Ryona, Yomi, Yumi, and Megane. All four are given the same detail and attention as Asuka, with fully voiced lines, a few additional scenarios, new costumes and even new illustrations to unlock.
Much like most relationships, though, committing to any of these women is going to cost you. All four characters are available as DLC, and each individual one will set you back by $9.99. Given that the game itself costs $9.99, buying one of the characters is essentially buying an alternate version of the same game. This doesn't even factor in the additional DLC that adds a slew of cosmetic items to the game, which fluctuate wildly in price. I can't comment further on the DLC, as I have no money after 2018's deluge of video games destroyed my financial stability.
Overall, speaking strictly in regards to the base game, Senran Kagura: Reflexions is a dating sim that's initially rather charming in its own way. The interactivity with Asuka, somewhat hokey and optional gyro controls aside, is novel, cute and arousing all at varying points. The game's charms wear off rather quickly, though, and unlocking the true ending is less of a goal and more an inevitability. Sure, you may have to disable your frontal lobe completely, but you can make it happen in just a few hours.
Senran Kagura; Reflexions comes recommended to those looking for a cheap, quick one 'n' done for their Nintendo Switch. To anyone looking for a quality dating sim to last, I'm certain there are better alternatives out there. To anyone else, do consider the other Senran Kagura titles available on different platforms; some of which we've even covered in the past. If you just want something under the price of $10 to warm you up this Autumn season, just get yourself a fresh, never-frozen burger.