The buxom babes of SENRAN KAGURA return and this time they’re back with more bounce than what a rubber ball gets when thrown in an empty room. If this was an arcade room, SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball is the pinball table in the corner that gets little play due to little Timmy’s attention being drawn toward skee-ball instead. To the seekers who enjoy their reflexes tested and adrenaline pumped when their hands get on a pinball machine, and are happy that it’s still plugged in even if it’s the only table there, there’s some good news. The core gameplay of SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball feels great and has an addicting way of inviting one to come back for another round. The game still draws a particular crowd in and may not be for everyone. Do you come for the babes and stay for the pinball, or do you come for the pinball and stay for the babes? It may be a little of both, but anybody turned off by one aspect would most likely be less interested in the other as they both go hand-in-hand. (shout-out to whoever Timmy is).
The arcade room is actually where our dreadfully slow story starts, at least in Story mode. There’s no obligation and players can immediately hop into Free mode using their favorite settings or jump into Dressing Room (more on that later). Story seems like a good way to begin things as much of the voiced dialogue along with the broads of the show popping up on screen with background art set up the predicaments our shinobi stars find themselves in. Without rhyme or reason, a Beastball is hanging around in the arcade and anyone who touches it turns into an animal (or so they think). We find the girls each dressed in fur attire of their favorite animal convinced that they are it. Thus, each one needs to be saved a.k.a. “re-humanized” by winning at pinball.
You the player act as an assistant to Haruka who runs the joint. Each of the 5 honeys have 5 separate story missions to themselves totaling to 25 story missions overall. The theme of one girl is essentially the same for the others, just with different dialogue. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve basically seen them all. I did see them all naturally so I could comment on it…. and for purist reasons. If things are a drag or if you don’t care for it, every scene can be skipped and get you straight into the pinball action. Likewise, previous dialog can be re-read, the current voiced line can be re-said, UI elements being the text box can be hidden to view the scene, and a fast-forward option is also available. Yumi (cat), Asuka (bunny), Murasaki (bear), Ryona (dog), and Yomi (tanuki) all need saving. Or you could leave them be. I mean, they’re not hurting anyone.
You’ll want to complete story missions and their challenges if you want to unlock certain extras, however. Each stage has a set of 3 challenges. Some you may check off during normal play. Some you might have to replay if you didn’t get it the first time. Completing all 3 on a stage will grant you special items. There’s no way to see the challenges during a session in-case you forgot what needs to be done. They’re only visible before starting. This can be tiring when completing one knowing the next stage has challenges because it’ll ask you if you want to move onto the next stage. Instead, you’ll have to back out to the menu, check, and start again. None of the stages require its challenges to be completed in order to unlock the next stage; you just simply need to finish it. Whether it’s Story or Free, you’ll always be greeted with one-time-only on-screen description for each gimmick or mechanic you trigger for the first time. You could be well into many rounds of pinball without seeing a tutorial only to see one pop up because you triggered something new that you haven’t before. These aren’t a nuisance as they’re brief and informative. In the paused menu during gameplay, Tutorial can be accessed to view them at any time.
There’s only 2 different tables to play on, each with 3 different variants. It probably seems low and one more could have made it a nice trio of tables, but what’s here is pretty strong. Peach Land (Day, Evening, Night) and Spooky Shinobi Park (Spring, Fall, Winter) offer their own flavor and features. Once you learn and start to master the tables, it’s just you and the high score. Getting to your first 1 billion is a nice feeling; especially when you get a hefty amount of Zeni (in-game currency) to use in the Shop in order to purchase extras. Completing story missions will also add more items to the shop as you go along.
While the tables may change, two elements remain the same: the position of the girl always being top-center stage and Luka the dolphin off to the right. Knocking the ball into Luka’s pool triggers him to knock it back to you, but the 2nd time he will reward you with a random prize which could be an extra ball, a score multiplier, or a psychic ball to name some. Psychic ball to cause the ball to react and move toward nearby objects when shaking the table. Some items are immediately taken into effect while others are stored (one at a time) and can be used by pressing B. Shoulder buttons are used for the left & right flippers. Shaking the table is done by either shaking the controller or flicking the right analog in directions. Unlike SENRAN KAGURA Reflexions which required Joy-Con use only, Peach Ball allows players to use the Pro Controller as well as the Joy-Con. Whichever preference, the good news is if you’re an HD advocate such as I, it feels pretty great here. All the effects and impacts feel nuanced and recreate the feeling of a real table as best it can since everything else is pixels. It’s constant, immersive, and will drain your stick of all its juice faster than most other Switch darlings.
There are 3 phases to get through in order to “win” on a table. Points need to be earned to increase the gauges on the right section of the screen. This is done by completing Peach Missions that continuously come in. These can be as simple as bopping the girl a certain number of times or hitting the slingshots that are right above the flippers. Others are table related. Special Peach Missions are the same, but reward the player with an item. When the first gauge completely fills up, the next time the ball bops her, a Sexy Challenge is initiated where the player gets tossed into a random mini-game challenge to not only rack up a higher score but get treated to an animation with the girl leaving her in a temporary daze. The same applies for the 2nd phase. The third and final phase initiates a Super Sexy Challenge to bop the girl with balls either on her chest or to hit her from the back and then finish her off during a score multiplier segment. If there’s any portion of Peach Ball where the simulation of lewd sexual behavior is at its strongest, it’s here. Babes wearing a tearable outfit will have it degrade during each Sexy Challenge until she’s bare for the finale. If she’s wearing a transparent outfit, the final part will have the water balls to splash her instead. Transparent outfits increase in wetness and reveal more of her bikini to show through her clothes.
Peach Missions generally don’t expire. You may want to focus on some in the moment instead of all. There’s always a flow new ones to replace the ones completed so there’s always a chance to gain the points you need. If it’s the high score you’re looking for, take caution not to initiate a Sexy Challenge by hitting her with a ball and instead go for the gimmicks tied to each table. For instance, in Peach Land you can navigate your ball into a teacup ride where each hit against them fills up a star meter where once filled will have an elephant burst out of one of the teacups. The next time entering the ride will trigger the elephant to blow its loud trumpet putting the girl into an After Effect. There are multiple gimmicks per table which achieve this goal and being efficient in doing so buys more time and opportunities for maximizing your score.
One example in Spooky Shinobi Park is hitting paper lantern bumpers in succession which will then shoot coins on the table (which are satisfying to collect alone). Collect enough of these coins and they will be put into a the nearest chest where once filled, will take you to a challenge where if successful, will also place the girl into an After Effect. Just bopping her enough times with the ball can also do the same.
After Effects temporarily put her into a passionate trance in any number of positions. Utilizing this moment to hit certain parts of her will give you lots of points added to your score. It is possible to prolong After Effects by working the table in order to achieve Fever Time and the even-better Super Fever Time. In Fever Time, you are given a score multiplier and are able to bop your girl, complete missions and work the table’s gimmicks to greater effect since time is on your side. Once you know how to achieve Super Fever Time, the opportunity triples, giving you three balls on the table at a time until you have one remaining.
Super Fever Time can rack up an insane amount of points without going into a Sexy Challenge since your girl will be in a glorified After Effect. During this time, balls will fly all over the place and the amount of gimmicks triggered will be ready for you to immediately activate once she picks herself back up, thus allowing you to create another Fever Time and repeat the process creating an endless loop of score-maximizing potential until you fail and/or move onto the next phase. Hustle Time works just like Super Fever Time with three balls, except she’s not in an After Effect and bopping her into a Sexy Challenge and moving onto the next phase is likely.
Shaking the table is not only effective on ball placement in relation to objects, but it also causes your girl to change her stance for a few seconds. This creates new openings to lock in a ball behind her and get repeated bops with the ball stuck in place. Or it can be effective in getting her to move so you barely miss her so you don’t activate a Sexy Challenge yet if you’re going for more to add to your score. The bunny between the two flippers means Ball Return is activated where if you lose a ball, it won’t count towards a ball loss and instead will be returned to you until the bunny stops lighting. There are ways to reactivate Ball Return. Bebeby can also kick back a ball onto the table if it falls into either of the left or right lanes and once per. Assist mode can be activated before playing a table. Here, instead of starting with 3 balls and Bebeby lanes not activated from the start, you will start with 8 balls and have Bebeby started activated and remain so.
The higher the score, the higher the money you get to buy the pricey things in the Shop. From outfits, to accessories, to music, to new balls, to art. Some of which are illustrations to be placed on the table giving it a new look. You can view your table from 6 different angles by using Up and Down. Camera A-C offers different zooms with dynamic movement. Camera D-F offers static zoom. I found Camera B to be the best tilted angle of the entire table while not moving around too much so I’m able to keep track of where the ball will land next. Whatever preference you have to help you play better and get the highest score possible, one thing that’s annoying if you care about the history you make is that the top score initials only go up to and always have to be 4 characters. I wanted to just make it two initials, but instead I was forced to add two more characters. Occasionally after a loss I was mad at yet still got the high score, the not-caring part make some of the top scores “AAAA” just to get through it. “Maybe pressing + (Start) would advance without putting all 4 characters”. No.
You can clear every challenge in story mode to earn new items and clean out the shop completely, but you still won’t unlock everything. The remaining extras can be earned during Free play. Sometimes, and not every time, the Super Sexy Challenge finale will instead turn into Special Super Sexy Challenge where your girl holds a bottle containing a reward. In Free mode, once you clear the final phase, you begin the table anew with your current points and balls remaining. This repeats until you lost your marbles. Free mode is the place to achieve the highest of scores.
Peach Ball plays great and feels great in the hands. How it looks and sounds makes the other half of the experience. Animations pull off the direction it’s going for. The effects and sound design of knocking targets or hitting objects have their distinct sound and amplify the experience if not more-so thanks to the upbeat and good music. It’s pinball, baby! You want the lights, sounds and weight.
Weight of the balls also come as Yin or Yang (light or heavy), although it mainly pertains to how it effects rumble and sound of the balls. Many can be purchased from the in-game shop, but others need to be unlocked by other means.
When you think you’ve got enough extras to be satisfied for the time being, you can head to Dressing Room. Here, you can customize the appearance of each shinobi gal, from their hairstyle and its color, to the outfit and accessories. Optionally, this can be what is displayed in Story if you prefer, but it’s what your girl looks like will be what’s in Free.
Still within Dressing Room, players can choose Diorama, where your shinobi bombshells can be posed in many different ways with precision. Players can choose to have them display in front of a 2D background, the pinball tables, or entirely new 3D settings, many of which can be unlocked. A more impressive offering than the previous title as the camera now has full 3D control in a closed environment, environments such as a shopping district with different alleys of shops and fully modeled objects, for example. Create your own scene.
The last mode to talk about is Intimacy. As in Reflexions, players can physically
grope interact with their lady using both analogs to control each hand to grab, poke and massage. Or squirt her down with water. It’s not as fleshed out as Reflexions as that entire game revolved around intimacy, but it’s a little somethin’-somethin’. Why not take her hand and then give her a kiss if you got the mad skills.
And this is the unfortunate dilemma for two types of players. Peach Ball is a fine pinball game and super fun to play, but if the sexualization and ecchi vibes aren’t your jam then you’re not going to feel compelled to want to see it through nor unlock everything. Which is a bummer because someone would be missing out on some good pinball. Instead, this is more for SENRAN KAGURA fans who already enjoy pinball which is a win-win either way as the game’s theme is prominent in every regard. I judge games based on how it accomplishes what it sets out to do and not who it needs to appeal to.