In Dekamori Senran Kagura, Hanzo decides to organise a Dekamori Delicacy Cooking Contest and lured 22 of the series’ female ninjas into participating by spreading a rumour that the winner of the competition will be awarded with a secret ninja scroll that will grant its user one wish of any kind. Or so the opening monologue in the Dekamori Senran Kagura demo that Siliconera went hands-on with explains.
Why award such a powerful ninja scroll — something that could potentially tip the world’s power balance — as part of the prize in a cooking contest? Why, so that the tale told in Dekamori Senran Kagura would be one steeped in conspiracy and shadowy ninja antics, Hanzo says before quickly admitting that he’s not being completely serious here. Whether or not the winner of the contest will actually receive such a scroll, is anyone’s guess that’s something we’ll have to find out in the full game, I suppose! But in the meantime, Siliconera got a brief taste of the rhythm gameplay in Dekamori. And although the gameplay itself isn’t exactly innovative in any sense, when coupled with the game’s saccharine sweet J-pop tunes, the combination here is one that’s easy to swallow, especially for series fans.
After the brief opening monologue that explains Dekamori’s narrative, we’re taken to the main menu in the demo, where all the various modes are blocked out, except for the main story mode, which we promptly select. The story mode in Dekamori appears to be set up in a fashion similar to those in arcade fighting games, you pick a character from the roster, and are thrust into a series of one-on-one battles, with some dialogue thrown in before and after each fight. In the demo, only Homura could be selected in the story mode, so that’s what we selected.
Homura has been taking up a part-time job at the local supermarket and, due to poverty, has been having nothing but greens for all her three meals. She’s so sick of vegetables that she wished meat would just fall from the sky. Just as she was praying for that, one day while heading from after a shift at the supermarket, she finds a flyer on the ground for the Dekamori Delicacy Cooking Contest.
Although most of the female ninjas in Senran Kagura are probably drawn to the contest due to the rumoured prize of a mythical ninja scroll, in Homura’s case, what she wants is a little different. Noticing a clause on the flyer that says that the winner of the contest will also get to keep all of the spare ingredients remaining in the aftermath, Homura eagerly signs up, and faces off against her first opponent, Asuka, her rival in the mainline Senran Kagura games. Homura harbours a fierce hatred for Asuka in Dekamori Senran Kagura too, but this time the reasons for that hate are a little more obscure.
As an opponent, Asuka stands between Homura and her prize: all the meat she could ever eat. What’s more, Homura does not understand why Asuka, who apparently comes from an affluent background and who gets to eat great meals on a daily basis, is a participant in the contest and that about concludes the pre-fight dialogue between Homura and Asuka.
The actual gameplay portion of Dekamori then began and as I matched my button presses to the command prompts that appeared on the screen, I found my experience to be similar to that of most rhythm action titles on the market. Command prompts (square, triangle, X, circle, and any of the four d-pad directions) scroll from right to left across two lines near the bottom of the screen. Unlike in Project Diva, the PlayStation face buttons are differentiated from the directional inputs, so you cannot press down on the d-pad when the command prompt reads "x". Since there are only two lines of command prompts, the maximum number of simultaneous button presses only go up to two buttons at a time, but these can be any two buttons as long as one is from the d-pad, and the other is from the PlayStation face buttons’ side of things.
Similar to Taiko Drum Master, there are only three types of button command prompts: singular press, repeated presses, and long holds. There were a few instances where I mixed up the prompts for repeated button presses and long holds even more reason to pay attention to the button prompts rather than the cooking action in the background. Generally the game is fairly easy to get into, even on the hardest mode of play. It appears that Dekamori Senran Kagura is aimed more towards casual players rather than hardcore rhythm gamers.
With that said, if you’re the sort who likes to aim for the highest score possible, you might find Dekamori to be a bit of a challenge. What I found interesting while playing through the demo was that, when you hit a wrong button, there is a lock-out period that lasts for quite a few seconds, during which your button presses will not register. So, if you screw up and hit the wrong button during an intense part of the song, you might potentially miss out on a lot of points.
Each song or cooking battle in the game is split-up into three segments. The goal of the game is simply to be performing better than your opponent during each segment, which is indicated by a meter at the top of the screen. If you made too many mistakes and are getting pinned down by your opponent you can hit the R button to enter a fever mode of sorts, that makes it easier for you to gain dominance over your opponent. This fever mode, however, can only be activated when a radial meter on the bottom left of the screen is filled and you do so by hitting the right buttons consecutively.
Versus the computer, however, there was never any reason for me to bother activating the fever mode. As you can see in our video hands-on, the computer stood no chance at coming back and so Asuka’s articles of clothing get torn into pieces by means of an unknown force .
After all three phases are complete, Hanzo judges the food once again and just like in most cooking anime shows, Hanzo likes Homura’s sushi rolls so much that he imagines himself getting all wrapped up by a bed of rice and seaweed, before being launched into a body of divine deliciousness.
And that about concludes the Dekamori Senran Kagura demo we got to play. But before taking us back to the main menu, however, the demo teases that in the full game, we’ll get to see the losing ninja girl get served up on a plate with food all over her naked body.
Overall, Dekamori Senran Kagura seems to be a pretty simple rhythm game for series fans to get into, that expands on the Senran Kagura universe and shows aspects of the characters that they have yet to see before. But even for non-fans, if MarvelousAQL decides to throw in an online versus mode for Dekamori, that could change things quite a bit, and improve the playability for the title by a landslide the mechanics are simple, but ultimately it’s not nearly as much fun wailing on the computer as it is to match your skills against a live human opponent.
Dekamori Senran Kagura comes out on for PlayStation Vita in Japan March 20, 2014.