Senran Kagura: Shinobi Creativity

Besides being a cracking series of games that are a lot of fun to enjoy in their own right, a very appealing aspect of the Senran Kagura series for a lot of players is how it encourages creativity.

This has taken a number of different forms over the years, beginning with the simple option to dress the various characters up as you see fit — with these custom appearances being reflected in real-time cutscenes during the game — and gradually evolving into a fully-formed “Diorama” feature where you can arrange and pose characters as you see fit.

Let’s take a look at how Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal, the next game we’ll be covering here on MoeGamer, handles this side of things.

Kicking off a session in the Dressing Room in Burst Re:Newal, you’re presented with these options. In the Japanese original and PC version, there’s also an “Intimacy” option where you can poke and prod the girls in various ways; this was stripped out of the Western PS4 release due to Sony’s bizarre behaviour with regard to sexualised content in recent months at the time of writing. It’s still present in the PS4 versions of earlier games such as Peach Beach Splash, though — you can even do it in VR with that particular game!

Let’s explore the Change option first. This allows you to pick one of the five characters loaded in at any one time — you can switch any of them out to any you have unlocked and/or purchased DLC for — and customise their costumes, lingerie, hairstyle, accessories and skin tone.

The skin tone option is pretty self-explanatory; you can choose between the character’s default skin tone, particularly pale (Yumi-style), “normal” (i.e. that which the majority of the cast has), tanned or tanned with tan lines. So if Homura’s tanned skin does it for you, you can give the whole cast some time in the sun if you so desire.

The first thing you’ll probably want to fiddle around with is the base costume. There are a bunch of these unlocked from the get-go, more unlock throughout the game and others are purchasable from the in-game shop. Pre-orders of the game came with some additional costume DLC, more costumes are available as paid DLC and certain pieces of paid DLC from previous games on the same platform are cross-compatible with Burst Re:Newal, which is nice.

You can shift the camera around while browsing costumes to see how all the different parts look. You can pan it around the character, zoom in and out and spin the character around to see their front and back. No peeking up their skirts though; that’s what Diorama mode is for, among other much more interesting things.

Each costume has several colour variants. In a lot of cases, there are five different colours to choose from, meaning if you want everyone in one of the “sub-casts” to be coordinated but unique in some way, you can put them in the same uniform but give them a different colour.

The different costumes aren’t just retextures of the same model, either. There are a variety of different meshes allowing you to create various different looks according to your preferences. Here’s Asuka wearing a variation on Hebijo’s uniform with an extremely large skirt, for example.

Since there’s a fair chance you’ll spend at least some of your time in Senran Kagura running around in your skivvies, it’s important to pick something you’re happy with. Each character has their own iconic underwear style, but you can mix and match as much as you like. Burst Re:Newal also features the characters’ iconic designs in a variety of different panty styles, too, so if you prefer a high-leg look, borderline indecent low-rise pantsu or a butt-flattering thong, go nuts.

You can also pick each character’s hairstyle here; you can give the characters each other’s haircuts, or make use of some unique ones that don’t normally appear in the game. It always feels a little bit “wrong” doing this; for me, these characters’ hairstyles are an important part of their identity. However, you can have a bit of fun with them by, say, allowing them to change their hairstyle in between their normal form and their Shinobi Transformation incarnation.

Or you could just change their hair colour. Again, each haircut has several different colour variations you can pick from.

Accessories are divided into several different categories according to how they’ll be used. Head accessories, for example, include caps, headdresses and even floating emote markers.

Some accessories are pretty subtle and can only be seen close-up such as these cherries dangling tantalisingly from Asuka’s lips here.

Every accessory can be customised in terms of its position, rotation and size, so if you think this balloon sticking out of Asuka’s back looks a bit weird, you can move it to her hand.

Just like this! You can precisely move things by a single degree or “centimetre” at a time, or you can hold down a button to move things by larger steps. That looks much better, doesn’t it? She looks like she’s at a party.

But oh no, what’s this? She moved her hand and the balloon stayed where it was! Disaster! What will we do?

This is an easy fix. By default, the balloon counts as a “body” accessory, so it’s attached to her back. Moving it to look like it’s in her hand means that it’s still invisibly attached to her back, so it doesn’t move with her hand. We can alter this by specifically choosing to attach it to her hand instead, and tweaking the position and rotation accordingly.

And there we go — one balloon that stays attached to her hand, whatever that hand might be doing at the time. I’m sure you can think of some creative applications of this sort of thing.

Once you have the characters dressed to your satisfaction, the Diorama mode is where you can play with them. They begin as a complete group assembled together like this in front of a default background.

The first thing you’ll want to do is put them in a suitable environment for whatever you’re planning your scene to be. There are two types of backgrounds: static 2D images from the game’s visual novel sequences like this forest scene…

…and fully three-dimensional environments pulled from the game’s levels. You can freely explore these with the camera and look at all the neat little details that are around the place.

You can tweak the environment a little with settings such as effects overlays, fog and ambient lighting. Here we’re adding a sun rays overlay effect to make this tropical beach look even brighter and more pleasant than it does already.

The first thing you’ll want to do is roughly position where you want your models to be. There are a few ways you can do this, the easiest of which is the “big blue arrow” approach, where you simply pick them up and plonk them down where you want them. You can do these either for the characters individually, or move the whole group at once.

The next thing you’ll want to work on is posing them. Asuka is here on a sun lounger, so it’s only natural we’d want her to be able to lie down and sun herself a bit. But hmm, that’s not quite right; Asuka, that isn’t how you use one of those things!

Much like adjusting the accessories in the Dressing Room, you can adjust the characters’ positions in the Diorama. You can move them in three dimensions and rotate them about three different axes to get the exact position you want. You can also switch the characters’ outfits between various states including pre- and post-transformation outfits in varying levels of disrepair, and their respective lingerie for each state.

It’s worth moving the camera around a bit because what looks good from one angle might not necessarily be correct from another. Don’t be afraid to experiment and fudge things if you need to; careful composition can hide things such as Asuka’s hair going right through the sun lounger here!

Let’s bring in our next model Katsuragi. Moving her via the big blue arrow plonked her here where she’s technically on the ground, but it doesn’t look quite right. So, again, let’s adjust her accordingly.

There we go, that’s better; again, a bit of position tweaking and well-chosen camera angles can create a much more convincing effect. We can then add some more subtle touches such as facial expressions, which can be set independently for eyes and mouth. You can also move the eyes to have the character look in a particular direction, too.

Here’s our finished Kat, looking as pleased with herself as ever. Asuka remains blissfully oblivious as to what is probably about to happen.

Next up is Ikaruga. She’s feeling sensible, so we can keep her in her uniform rather than strip her down to her undies. The class representative needs to remain decent and ready for action at all times, after all.

And the folded arms pose is perfect for her. Not much else we need to do there, really. It’s worth noting at this point that if you find a camera angle you particularly like, you can store it, copy it and paste it; your scene can have several different predefined camera angles, so it’s a good idea to set one up for your final composition, then use another if you need to move around and look at characters up close for fine adjustments.

We’ll bring Yagyuu in next; she’s hiding behind the menu, but she’s totally there. Yagyuu’s irrepressible love for Hibari seems like an ideal opportunity to try out some of the “couples” poses that came with the pre-order DLC for Burst Re:Newal.

But first, we can tweak her expression to being embarrassed, because despite the fact she’s clearly as gay as a window, she would never, ever admit that out loud.

Bring on Hibari, and the companion partner pose to Yagyuu’s… wait, what happened here? This isn’t right at all!

Hmm, better, but the positioning still isn’t quite right; Yagyuu’s arm is clipping through Hibari’s stomach.

That’s better, but there’s still something missing.

Ah yes, a suitably joyful expression on Hibari’s face. But maybe we can add one extra little thing…

Perfect. Each of the characters can have animated emotes added to them based on the ones in the game’s dialogue sequences. Clearly there is only one suitable one for these circumstances, as Ikaruga tries her best to maintain her composure.

And here’s our finished scene. Or perhaps we can tweak it just slightly…

Yep, a bit of depth-of-field effect and a subtle tilt on the camera works wonders. It gives the scene a bit of life and dynamism.

When you’re happy with a Diorama creation, you can save it so you can recall it any time, either as a starting point for a new creation or simply to admire your work all over again.

The other backgrounds on offer are pretty varied. There are a number of these “TV interview” style backdrops with various sponsors ranging from the game’s developers to Japanese publications…

…and the environments based on the game’s levels are actually pretty expansive, allowing for a wide variety of different creations within the same area.

One more? One more. Why not. Let’s hit the gym! The school gym, that is. I can smell the sweaty feet from here.

Here’s the group move tool at work. You can shift all five characters around at once. It’s best to do this at the start of your session, otherwise you might end up accidentally moving characters you’d spent ages carefully positioning!

We can then use the individual character positioning to get each of them into place. It’s worth noting that the big blue arrow can only get characters so close to a wall or other obstacle, so it’s best used for simply putting them roughly in position. Use the fine-tuning controls to finish the pose.

I dunno, you train your girls as ninjas and they just get cocky by sitting on top of the basketball hoops. Katsuragi is looking up with a big grin on her face right now.

There are actually a decent variety of poses included in the base game, including numerous simple sitting poses as well as standing. This allows you to give each character a unique look that befits their personality.

Now, Kat… I think you need to do something silly as punishment for ogling Asuka from beneath. Let’s start with the silliest pose I can find, which is probably this “idol jump”.

We can then carefully insert her into the basket and tweak her facial expression so it looks like she’s somehow tripping over something that is at least eight feet off the ground.

Add a suitable emote and yep, that looks good. Hibari would be proud of that tripping action.

Talking of Hibari, let’s get her seated to enjoy the fun. This pose looks eminently suitable. Now perhaps we can grant Yagyuu’s wish for her…

Hmm. Yagyuu’s ridiculously massive hair makes this a little more impractical than I had hoped. Maybe the pair of them should switch places.

There we go, that’s cute. Not quite right, though; Hibari’s arm is currently embedded in Yagyuu’s chest. Unfortunately, there are no inverse kinematics features in the Diorama, so you can’t just move Hibari’s arm to a better spot. You need to find a different pose or use camera angles creatively.

Ah, that one works better. This is another half of a “couples” pose, but it actually works well by itself when combined with Yagyuu’s seated pose here. Let’s apply a few tweaks.

It wasn’t obvious from the front, but both of them were a bit far forward. Let’s move them back to get them seated a bit more securely on the beam.

A little bit of “tilt” on Hibari finishes the pose off nicely, but wasn’t there something else we need…?

Oh right, yeah, Yagyuu’s powerful gay energy seeping out of her ears. Can’t forget that!

And there we go. Another fine piece of work.

If you’re feeling particularly spicy, there’s even a “dialogue box” overlay effect for each of the characters in the scene, allowing you to make use of your favourite image manipulation program to make them say silly things.

I rest my case. Thank you for your time, ladies, your cooperation was much appreciated. Especially you, Kat.


More about Senran Kagura

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3 thoughts on “Senran Kagura: Shinobi Creativity”

  1. One thing I would absolutely love to see in the future for SK games in diorama is the ability to have each of their attacks as a pose so that way we could also do battle dioramas! Having something like Asuka and Homura clasing in mid-air with their attacks would be a really fun thing to see!

    Liked by 1 person

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