Few games are shaping up to be as singular and polarizing as Senran Kagura Bon Appétit is.
On its surface, it's a simple - and pleasantly challenging - rhythm game, but mixed deep in its soul is the sort of clothes-ripping, fan service-laden hijinks for which the series is known.
Cooking up a storm
The meat and potatoes of Bon Appétit is a fantastical cooking competition where the girls of the three Senran Kagura ninja academies compete against one another to win a mystical scroll.
Throwing logic aside for the moment, all of the ninjas seem perfectly fine with sheathing their swords and showing their prowess in the kitchen.
The cooking set will look immediately familiar to anyone who's watched Iron Chef - but truth told, the cooking itself doesn't really matter any.
What does matter is how well you can match the cues on the two lanes that scroll from right to left.
These cues combine the Vita's four face buttons and its four d-pad arrow directions seemingly at random, and rarely follow patterns or groupings like you might see in other rhythm games.
This might make Bon Appétit difficult to keep up with, but it also makes the rhythm gameplay itself rather fun.
There's really no rhyme or reason as to why certain cues appear on the top lane and others appear on the bottom, but the two lanes do correspond with one another - so if you see prompts overlapping on the top and the bottom, you'll need to hit both simultaneously for a positive result to register.
The music, animations, and voice acting are all top-notch - incidentally - and it's difficult not to bob your head along as you play.Cooking up a storm
All fair and gimmicky so far, but there was plenty of challenge even on the normal mode of the E3 demo we played.
Hold notes - often the recuperation period for one's eyes in a rhythm game - frequently overlap with challenging sequences on the other lane, and Bon Appétit isn't above switching lanes on hold notes with alarming glee.
Like Guitar Hero before it, Bon Appétit also incorporates a player-activated star power mechanic that manifests as the scroll powers players charge up in other Senran Kagura games.
When you activate a power-up (with a quick press of the L or R shoulder buttons) the lanes and notes will all turn gold, and the points you earn for racking up correct inputs or combos increases noticeably.
Rack up enough of these points, and your opponent's clothing will go come flying off.
If that sentence caught you off-guard, you're probably new to the Senran Kagura franchise - but this is all part of the charm and humour of the series.
Whether or not you're ok with teenage girls knocking the kits of one another is entirely up to you and your taste in games - as is your tolerance of the beyond-suggestive scenes at the end of a song, where the losing girl is literally served up as dessert to the viewer
Still, if you manage not to take this fan service too seriously and remember that it's intended with an undeniably lighthearted sense of humour, you'll find a great - if extremely untraditional - rhythm game in Bon Appétit.