Notice: Review and its contents contain sexual themes. Please take discretion if necessary.
The Senran Kagura series has seen its share of variety. From brawling to cooking contests, to dramatic water-gun fights and now Senran Kagura Reflexions – a game with a more casual and relaxing approach – being ever so inviting. At a $9.99 price tag, the concept is sure to be more alluring, especially if you’re like me uh..playing it for the engaging story and deep character arcs. Developer Honey Parade Games delivers on the interactive dating sim idea. Is it a homerun, or does the game only get to first base?
Just something to clarify and get out the way: Reflexions is aimed towards the male demographic. Although much of the romancing dialog and “physical” nature is neutral so anybody can go through the same experience and receive equal enjoyment, some lines clearly indicate that the player is a “guy”.
First off, control methods are either using the Grip/Handheld mode or separated Joy-Con. There is no Pro Controller support. This decision seems odd since NOT using separated Joy-Con and using the Grip offers the same exact purpose a Pro Controller would provide. Reflexions contains 3 different modes with 1 of them giving players who want full control the ability to carry out whatever fantasy they desire as much as the game allows for. In every mode, players may choose to experience Asuka with her default appearance or a customized one. Players may save presets of their customizations.
The main mode advances the story in different ways, albeit going through the same course of actions each time. In Reflexology, players will have an intimate 1-on-1 time with Asuka, the girl who opens herself up to you through pretty much your only means of communicating with her: touching. Yes, without muttering a single word someone is able to fall in love with you by groping them. If this seems completely far-fetched of an idea, it’s because it is. At least, it would be. Asuka gives you full consent and in-fact it’s her wish to explore herself with your help. It’s also probably fine that you are silent as most of the dialogue falls heavy into the typical ecchi anime tropes. Its uninspired cheesy metaphors simultaneously doubling as dirty talk serves its purpose, just don’t expect any form of believable plot. Still, probably a better love story than Twilight.
There are 3 variants to the Reflexology you will experience through one story sitting: Standard Reflexology (Hand), Standard Reflexology (Body), & Glorious Reflexology (massage time). The latter two get downright explicit even if they portray themselves as playful and innocent. It’s a funny jump considering the first Reflexology is sweet-natured and has a soft touch, literally. As you calmly hold Asuka’s hands gently in your palms, players are able to use the left and/or right analog sticks for the left and right hands respectively. As an advocate of HD rumble, this is what drew me to the game initially. Believe me! You can literally feel her heartbeat as you hold her hands if she’s really into it. It’s actually in Reflexology (Hand) that is the deciding factor for the different arcs. This is all in her imagination, of course. Reflexology (Body) is her daydream state and what story arc it turns out being is dependent on which of her palms or particular fingers you focused on. Her face is telling on what she likes and dislikes. Her dialogue also reveals how she’s feeling which also hints where her imagination might be leading into. These can be anywhere from an after school tutor to roleplaying in a video game. Although optional, the means the unlock every hair style, bikini pattern, outfits and accessories relies on completing every arc and with every color of her Heart’s Desire, but more on that later.
Different parts of Asuka’s body may be interacted with by controlling two white-gloved hands on-screen controlled independently. With separated Joy-Con, players may also use motion gestures to perform a massage tap, although it can be performed by clicking the analog sticks as well. Players may rotate the camera and zoom in & out with her in view. Holding down R in junction with the analogs will gently caress Asuka. Holding ZL or ZR for the left & right hands respectively will firmly grab Asuka. Players may also quickly switch to a water gun mode and squirt her with streams because yes that sounds like a lovely statement to make right now.
Changing each time, different parts of her body are tied with certain visual indicators that have their own shapes on-screen for effect, but color as well. Color isn’t important when it comes to advancing the story, but it is in order to obtain and see everything there is to see. Completing each Reflexology session slowly fill up a crystal meter known as Heart’s Desire. In essence, there is no losing. It always ends with love. It’s just a matter of how you react to the clues before getting there. The color of the Heart’s Desire may also change if you’ve managed to please Asuka properly. Each arc has 5 colors. The story also keeps track of what color it ends on, essential for completing pieces added to a heart frame for unlocking imagery.
As you progress on each story playthrough, you will unlock different items to use in Glorious Reflexology sessions. These are mini-games where the goal is to massage Asuka to a desired amount within a time limit. Fulfilling her before time ends grants the player to continue the session as long as they’d like. A semi-circle gauge keeps track of her mood as well as a facial emote depicting it. The line in the gauge constantly drops, about every half-second. Players will want to remain in the sweet spot which is the middle. Below means you’re too gentle and going above means you’re being too rough. Each item behaves differently and even allows of optional motion controls. Both control inputs are available at the same time. The motion controls don’t feel completely 1:1, but they do work well. They are more gesture based. Some items rely on gestures with the animation to then follow, but items like the roller tracks player movement in real-time, with limitation to the actions happening on-screen. No slipping and poking her eye on accident.
Reflexions is undoubtedly heavily sexualized, but it never goes to the extreme. There is no nudity, no vulgarity in dialog and no real type of sexual activity of any kind. It’s all “hands-on”. For those only wanting to be hands-on, there is a Mini-Reflexology mode where players can be in the classroom with Asuka as a free mode without any story elements. Those wanting to be the producer of their own show or the cameraman will have the freedom to do so in the readily available mode known as Diorama. Here, players can take their customized character, put them in numerous poses, different facial expressions, backgrounds and special effects to envision a scenario how they wish to see it.
The camera controls here are actually pretty wonky. It generally doesn’t feel precise or even accurate to maneuver. Luckily, you can get it to work close enough and use the options to finely tune your character. You can tilt, rotate, and flip Asuka by single degrees as well as change her overall size to adjust her perfectly in the scene. Players are able to save presets to use in the future without having to recreate the scene again. Simply put: let your imagination run wild.
Visually, it’s not a bad looking game. An anime aesthetic using cel-shading for characters look spot on. The digitally created backgrounds are of high quality and something you’d normally see in anime or visual novels. Audibly, it’s serviceable. Electronic music, bass lines, groovy muted guitars and piano all provide the romance/sexy vibe. There is only Japanese voice overs. There is also a DLC menu for future updates.