As time continues to spiral forth on its merry way, certain facts become clouded. Sure, history can help record certain facets of information, but it is not always accurate, something about it being written by the victors. Yet, despite this knowledge regarding the ironic lack thereof, there is little one without a sentient time travelling motorcycle can do. Sure is a shame nobody like that exists in a preposterously prefixed dimension prone to whimsy and wonder. Truly, a shame…
Psych! Or, you know, it would be if you didn’t read the title of this review, or avert your gaze slightly to the right and witness the cover art of this particular game(although I applaud your adventurous spirit if you didn’t). But, suppositions aside, let us delve into yet another wacky, personified adventure of the Neptunia franchise, specifically the one known as Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls. First things first; Why does the title say Neptune instead of the usual Neptunia? Good question…I have no idea. There is nothing within the game itself that references this change (which is quite a possibility given the non-existence of the franchise’s fourth wall), which is especially vexing given that Neptune is not in fact the protagonist, despite all of her dialogue to the contrary. Rather that role falls to IF, another series mainstay, who is now a post-apocalyptic adventurer, journeying in hopes of finding a future brighter than the present in which she lives. Second things second; Why is the world a wasteland? Well, this is actually something the title tells us, specifically the “VS” part. Confusing story short, time got all wonky and hateful clashes between Goddesses and Sega Hard Girls continued through the eras of the world, finally culminating in an unspecified devastation. Pretty grim stuff really, not that you’d know given the overall tone of the game. Anywho, IF meets a mysterious amnesiac by the name of Segami (nothing special about that name) and decides to right the wrongs of history in the hopes of creating a peaceful world. Oh, also history is being destroyed and erased by some unknown malevolence…which is bad, but kind of in line with the whole “fixing history” thing, so, two birds, one stone.
For any returning Neptunia players (main series specifically), the controls of this game should come easy. For those who have not,the same somewhat applies, as this is far from the most complicated RPG to get the hang of. Split into an overworld of eras, with one centered hub, players must accept missions and venture to the areas defined within. Kill a specific enemy, collect a certain drop…that’s about it actually. Though they vary in difficulty and size, missions revolve around these two aspects, one of which is much more annoying than the other. However, word to the wise, you are able to view the location of creatures and from which items will drop by pressing Triangle on the mission screen. It may not sound like much, but that simple fact will remove possible hours of grinding and wandering. Luckily, I did not spend too much playtime before figuring this out, although I still wish it was more apparent from the get go, perhaps somewhere in between the four tutorial screens informing you how to hit things…it’s the X button. The X button hits things. Once you have discovered where/when you need to go (because of time travel), it is a simple matter of selecting a dungeon and running around until you enter battle, by clashing with an overworld sprite of course. Striking a sprite will initiate a Symbol Attack, beginning the battle in your favour, whilst allowing yourself to be struck from behind will result in a Surprise Attack, tilting things in the enemy’s favour. Again, not overly complex, but definitely something you want to be wary of, especially since losing a battle sends you back to your last Save Game. So save often. Or run, because you can totally do that now. Shout out to all the Neptunia players who know how annoying the lack of that particular feature has been. To everyone who doesn’t know how annoying that was; it was annoying.
Diverting from the main series, combat is based upon a new Action Gauge, a literal gauge that encapsulates the right side of the screen, through which all actions are funneled…hence the name. Now, each and every action fills a certain amount of this gauge, forcing you to use your movements wisely. Do you stand still in order to throw out some extra attacks? Do you move behind an enemy for extra damage, knowing that you will have less strikes? Do you utilise the costly Special Skills your characters possess, hoping that elemental weaknesses compensate for the Special Points and Action Gauge consumed? The sky’s the limit…well, it isn’t, but still be free to get creative. What I mean by this is that performing too many actions in a single turn will Overload a character, forcing them to be pushed further down the the attack order and wait longer before being able to move again. However, in short skirmishes, this tactic is more than viable, laying out weaker opponents in a single turn. Stopping short of this limit however, will allow your character to remain in their rightful place in battle. Holding back even further will allow a character to guard during their off-turn, although this will mean avoiding movement altogether and perhaps striking only once. Regardless, all action will contribute to the Fever Gauge which, when full, will allow you to initiate Fever Time, a wonderous period in which enemies turns are skipped, your party’s stats are boosted 10% and you gain access to EX Moves which deal significant damage. Also it’s awesome. But, again, it’s your choice and how you want to play, much like choosing who you wish to play as. Label them spoiler if you will, but the cast of this game provides you with the titular Sega Hard Girls and series long Goddesses to control…minus Noire, Vert, Blanc, Uni, Rom and Ram. Also Compa isn’t there. There’s no inherent pros or cons to the exclusion, but if you were looking forward to playing as them again…sorry.
Battle mechanics aside, the previously mentioned mission system revolves around a time limit, ironically enough. When added to the chronal To Do List, missions are provided a number, a number which decreases upon the completion of another. Should any mission reach zero, they are removed from the list and rendered incompleteable. Which is annoying and a real kick in the chops to the completionists out there…except for time travel. Though not revealed at the outset, your first run in with mission failure will reveal the for of the formless evil that threatens history; The Time Eater. As if it wasn’t bad enough that failure sours your palate, each task left incomplete strengthen this beast. Based upon the presented difficulty, The Time Eater will improve exponentially, acquiring a tremendous and unconquerable amount of power. As in, each strike doles out 20,000+ damage (for note, my rosters health topped around 8,000 at level 67). So basically, the boss is impossible to defeat if it is allowed to consume history. Simply put, this means that you must either complete every single in game mission, or preemptively challenge The Time Eater before any missions are absorbed. This can be done due to the simple fact that losing against the beast sends you back in time, in a kind of internal New Game + that allows you to strengthen yourself and level grind like there’s no tomorrow. Again, whilst the irony of a time limited time travel story is not lost on me, the balance of this title skews far into the realm of filler content. With story based missions and plot progressions far outweighed by collection quests and monster hunting missions, it is very clear to see how this game’s charm could wear thin, especially when the nature of Drop Rates are taken into account. The fact that missions also dictate the release of the level cap, one which is absolutely necessary to the completion of the game might I add, is yet another obstacle on this game’s path. To be fair however, the overall divided nature of the dungeons and the finite number of collectible medals (which act as a bonus to money earned) provides this game with a feeling of approachability and prevents the task at hand from becoming overwhelming. Missions are limited, level caps can be reached, all can be completed. So allow that to comfort you if you can, if 100% is not something that focuses you gaming experience…the game’s colourful. Maybe that helps? Although you should probably wear sunglasses when wandering into any cube based maps, those things are too bright. Like, painfully so.
As it stands, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is a more succinct version of the games presented in the main series. There’s humour, there’s references and there’s also a complete disregard for the sanctity of the fourth wall. For those who are fans of the franchise at large, this game is a snack on the platter of Neptunia. Short, but sweet. Simple, but fun. For those not familiar with the franchise, this is actually a pretty solid entry point. Though it does not include every aspect of the main series, it holds the heart of Neptunia and serves as an honest glimpse into what further Nepventures may bring. Ironic, considering that this is one of the few games wherein Neptune is robbed of her protagonist role. Somehow even more ironic considering that, due to time based shennanigans, this game has two Neptunes. But, duplicity aside, this is certainly an adventure worth checking out for fans and wannabe fans alike. Even if it is a little grindy…and the final boss is a bit of an anti-climax…and missing a collectible can lead to hours of backtracking. Damn baseballs…
If you feel like a little cross era adventuring, why not check out the Idea Factory in which it was formed? It’s also where IF was kind born, so, be nice