By: Matthew Striplen
If you’re reading this review, there’s a good chance you at least like video games. Why do we like games? The answer for most is simple: games are fun. Fun takes countless forms, but fun at the expense of others is just bullying.
Sexism has plagued video games since consoles became powerful enough to render vaguely humanoid shapes, and it will continue to poison the market as long as gamers support these backward, degrading games. Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson provides a perfect example of 21st century sexism.
After you peel away the ridiculous images, Deep Crimson turns out to be a 2.5D beat ’em up. Each ninja girl possesses unique weapons and skill sets. Regardless of which character you choose, all are a bit clunky.
Once the player starts an attack, the corresponding animation takes a long time, leaving the opponent open to counters. This, coupled with the fact that enemies rarely get stunned or take knock-back damage prevents the player from feeling in control of their actions. Additionally, all characters are incapable of turning around in place, forcing them to make a wide loop.
From a purely technical perspective, Deep Crimson‘s graphics showcase the true power of the 3DS. Each cut scene has tons of detail, color and the resolution quality remains undoubtedly impressive. The only downside is the weak camera, which often fails to rotate, leaving the player blind to the enemy.
However… Deep Crimson features almost an entirely female cast, all of whom are shamelessly objectified. I’ll cover this topic in more depth later.
The soundtrack is pretty standard fare for fighting games. There’s plenty of exciting rock beats but nothing that will stick in your mind. Same goes for the voice acting. Each actor performs with flair, but it never ventures outside anime archetypes.
Deep Crimson is a beat ’em up in name only. Each moment of gameplay, from the opening cut scene to the battle sequences, makes it known that the game’s focus does not lie with the action, but rather with, erm, “admiring” the female form.
I don’t even know where to start with the offensive material. During the course of battle, you and your opponent rip each other’s clothes off, which is accompanied by a close up shot of whatever area was exposed. Dialogue is deemphasized because of their physics-defying breasts. Upon finishing a level, in either victory or defeat, the player is shown a provocative image of the losing party, and can ogle her by using the 3DS camera to pan across her body.
Another character makes light of sexual harassment by listing it as her hobby. Defining what can and cannot be used as comedy can be dangerous, but naming sexual harassment as a hobby implies that it is something fun, harmless and not to be taken seriously.
An entire section of the game is dedicated to dressing and undressing the female characters. Wearable outfits range from schoolgirl uniforms to bikinis and the girls can be positioned in ridiculous poses like “Power Cleavage 1” or “On all Fours.” If the pose doesn’t include a panty shot, it shoves boobs in your face instead. (Editor’s Note: I’m listening…)
The examples are innumerable, but the problem with the game boils down to this: the gratuitous sexual content crosses the line into being offensive because it degrades both women and men. It degrades women by inferring that the only way to make them interesting is to exaggerate their genitalia, and it marginalizes their storylines, generic as they may be. This is also insulting to men because it implies men are supposed to enjoy the degradation of women.
All that said, sex in games is not inherently bad. In fact, sex can be used to great effect when properly implemented. Sex only becomes a problem when used to degrade and define characters solely on their gender.
If you cast aside the sexual content, Deep Crimson doesn’t have much to offer besides generic beat ’em up action. Gameplay is divided into a series of missions, most of which follow the same formula: fight your way through hordes of weak minions to face a boss at the end.
Each character levels up with experience and can equip various weapons, which adds a bit of depth. Bosses are significantly more difficult than any previous encounters, however, leaving the player wholly unprepared for the big fight.
Online and local multiplayer co-op modes are available. Both face the players against successively more difficult monster groups. All items and experience gets carried back to the main game, so it’s a great way to strengthen your characters. However, gameplay quickly gets stale from the repetitive nature of stages.
Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson is essentially softcore porn loosely disguised as a beat ’em up, and more effort was clearly put into the “sexiness” than the actual gameplay, as the awkward controls and generic gameplay fail to create a cohesive product. If you support gender equality, you’ll want to avoid this game.