There is something nostalgic about playing pinball. Maybe it’s from time spent playing 3D Pinball on older versions of the Windows operating system, or the maybe trips to the local pub’s arcade. Regardless, Pinball machines hold a special place in the hearts of many. So when it was announced that the Senran Kagura series known for it’s well endowed anime girls would be getting a pinball spin-off I would be lying if I said I wasn’t interested.
This outlandish idea comes to life in the form of Senran Kagura: Peach Ball for the Nintendo Switch. As with any spin-off in the series the title comes with a story to match that sees the girls this time getting together for a videogame tournament. Things quickly go wrong when Ryona, Murasaki, Yumi, Yomi, and Asuka turn into animals - so to speak - and it falls to the player and Haruka to round them up and turn them back to normal by using Peach Balls.
How does this tie into the pinball gameplay? Well, these Peach Balls are the balls you’ll use on the pinball boards which will feature one of the girls sat on it at the top. You’ll then need to use the flippers, bumpers, ramps, mini-games and numerous other objects on the board to turn the girls back to normal. What matters is that the core gameplay loop is that of traditional pinball where your focused on keeping the ball in play for as long as possible.
Now regardless if you play the story mode or dive into freeplay, the aim of each stage is to complete a series of missions that appear on the side of the screen that will slowly fill up a meter divided into three segments. When this hits the first and second mark you’ll have the chance to complete a ‘Sexy Challenge’, where hitting the girl with the ball will see her flying into a circus tent and a minigame unfold. These are a chance to earn a large amount of points while also getting a lewd animation of the girl playing out at the end. She will then be thrown back onto the table in a ‘downed’ state again giving you a chance to earn extra points.
After playing two of these challenges the girls’ outfit will tear - a staple of the series - and you will be able to work towards the third and final challenge dubbed ‘Super Sexy’. This time you’ll have to use the paddles to fire multiple balls directly at parts of the girls’ bodies before directly flipping them causing an explosion that ‘saves’ the girl. The aftermath of this is the girl laid out dazed, embarrassed, and naked with only their hands to save this from being a hard 18 rated title.
The difference here between the two modes is that in story mode you’ll ‘clear’ the stage after completing all three challenges. In freeplay the board will just reset and you will keep playing until you run out of balls. Considering that both modes use the same boards, of which there are very few, and the story is forgettable you would be absolutely fine to just jump into freeplay when you have a free five or 10 minutes.
Now where Senran Kagura: Peach Ball really shines is that each of their few boards are full of flare that makes it a really engaging experience. Nearly everything on the board can be hit and causes some kind of reaction be it audible, visual, haptic, or all of the above. Lights will be flashing, animation and VFX will be playing, the girl will be moving and moaning, all while you focus on hitting everything with a ball. To say it is a clutter of noise and information would be an understatement but it’s one that oddly captures the excitement of pinball machines. Even the ‘Sexy Challenge’ and it’s lewd nature is a rewarding milestone you get to enjoy during a stage that offers a change of pace akin to a break. It is therefore good that the developers have made sure that both in handheld and docked mode that Senran Kagura: Peach Ball runs at a steady framerate.
There are a few down points however, including the previously mentioned lack of variety in boards. The ones that are included are all fairly similar in their layout with only the minigames and visuals being the main difference. Another disappointing element is the use of the HD Rumble with the Joy-Con controllers. As almost every action causes haptic feedback it can quickly become overwhelming for your hands and make long play sessions rather difficult. This wouldn’t be a problem if the vibrations were not as strong as they are.
The dressing room is back again as well allowing players the chance to dress up the girls however they wish for use both ingame and in dioramas. It is a shame that only a small selection of girls are included in this title considering the series has a rather broad cast of characters. And yes, the much loved intimacy mode has made a return allowing you the chance to get up close and personal with each girl if that is your thing.
In all, Senran Kagura: Peach Ball is a title that provides players with the chance to enjoy a rather solid and visually appealing pinball experience, albeit somewhat lacking in content and variety. You’ll find a good few hours of fun here but with some more boards, girls, and gimmicks thrown in this would have been a fantastic title. Still, if using a pinball flippers to smack an anime girls’ butt is your thing then you’ll love this title.
SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Senran Kagura: Peach Ball might be lacking in variety but offers an enjoyable pinball experience complete with lewdness that is sure to keep players engaged for hours.