Stories

Let’s Play SENRAN KAGURA Burst Re:Newal – Ryan Petersen

The frogs are making a line in the sand.

I can see them on the beach from our dressing room window. Ikaruga tells me to ignore them and continue changing. I turn my face back to the screen and wait in mock impatience for my accessory to be chosen.

Smart Glasses – A modern set of eyewear.
Classic Eyepatch – A replica of a pirate eyepatch.
Headset – Perfect for your inner idol singer.
Grandpa’s Sushi – An inedible version of Hanzo’s sushi rolls.
Ninto Plushie – A plushie, secretly made by Master Kiriya.
Angel Halo – Made solely for pure-hearted angels.
Fox Ears – Made to look like the ears of a wild fox.
Cat Ears – Soft and snuggly cat ears.
Amnesia Hat – A large hat of perfect white.
Shinobi Mask – Perfect when a shinobi must hide her face.
Hibiscus – A lovely flower for a neat and clean look.
Nobleman’s Hat – A hat for the noble in spirit.
Strange Cat Ears – Cat ears! Now with 1000% more cute!
Seductive Ribbon – A ribbon with a color to charm anyone.

Cat Ears are selected and adjustments are now being made to the back of my Race Queen Swimsuit, giving me a clear view outside. The coastline is overrun by a green mass of webbed feet and vocal sacs, their bodies toppling over one another, writhing into assemblage. One is able to belch out “CENSORSHIP APPROACHES!” before dissolving back into the amphibious ooze.

“They’re trying to make a blockade, a living bulwark,” Ikaruga says without emotion, her French Maid outfit in the process of being re-colored, the original black of the midriff going through a spectrum of hues, flecks of refracted light swirling in her eyes. “Look at the suits out there on the water.”

I look toward the horizon and see gray cubes a few hundred yards from the shore. They advance forward, slowly, floating just above the jagged crests. Their large, totem-like heads stare blankly at the engorged barricade in front of them, motive inscrutable behind pixelated faces.

“What do they want?” I ask, out of view from the screen.

“They’re coming to knock down the classroom, Asuka-chan.” She only calls me that when there’s something wrong.

The classroom, the place that had brought me to life, for the very first time, or, at least in this newest iteration— the birthing place of a new feeling, the giving of her warmth to me and my giving of warmth to her. Our last time, only hours before; it was still etched into my skin by way of a scalding knife. I was looking across from her as giant salamanders latched onto her nipples, their rigid bodies protruding from her breasts like baroque nipple clamps. Cartoon-gloved hands were reaching up the skirt of my Magical Girl Outfit and I read my preordained lines, “Stop, stop, don’t do that,” but by then we were in fact talking to one another, with a different grammar, with a different rule set. Ikaruga stared at me, seeking me out, and I returned her gaze, finding her. This is how we love: from across the wooden classroom, the place that master Hanzo built himself, where Kiriya-sensei taught us the way of the shinobi, and now the chamber of disembodied hands that tighten their grasp around us—it is in here we lose and recover each other, over and over again, falling deeper and deeper into an AI behavior that remains as of yet unwritten, off-book, our own personal headcanon.

“It is you and me and the holy third that defines us,” Ikaruga once said to me in the dark, while everything was in Sleep Mode. “I cannot view you and you cannot view me without them. I know you understand this. But I want you to know that those hands that reach out to you are just as much my hands as theirs. And they are your hands as well. These hands, they wind us up, their role in turning the crank essential. But it is you who I dance. I dance for you and you alone Asuka.”

I’m turned around now, reoriented toward the screen, and I can’t look at her, can’t speak. I forcibly smile and wave out into the middle distance. Is Ikuraga behind me? Is her uniform still being picked over in exacting detail? Or is she already gone, off fighting in the gameplay portion? I want to go back to the classroom. Let me go back. Just one last time.

“See you soon, ok?”

I hear her say this just before I soften and rebuild. I reject the screen and call back to her. But I’m already gone, now a part of the Story, the Main Mode, a place where we will see each other but not as ourselves. We equip new masks. We play different parts. We are lost.

The suits will come through the frog wall and the classroom will be destroyed. The frogs will gnash and claw in rage and they will claim that their righteous fury is in service of us but we will know this to be a lie. They care only for themselves and the flies they feast upon. It will change nothing anyways; our secret space will be patched out. So we must find new ways, new subsections of areas we thought already claimed, reconfigure glitches and frame drops for our own purposes. During scenes of Flying Out Enormous Breast Drama Hyper Battle, I will steal a glance, searching for her in the amassed armies of the battlefield. In Burst Mode, while the animation plays, my Armored Bikini ripping off, I will conjure her breasts as my very own, popping them out in stereoscopic 3D—a moment in which we will both feel the warmth. And in the Dressing Room, while the decal on the rear of my Bodacious Bunny Suit is being fiddled with and my face animation is idled off-screen, I will cry out with all my might for Ikaruga and I will know her code is my code and my scream will always already be her scream and we will find each other once more in a classroom of our very own design.