Thanks to Idea Factory for the review code
Title: Superdimension Neptune Vs Sega Hard Girls
System: Playstation Vita/TV
Release Date: 10/18/2016
In a world torn apart by wars and chaos, a wanderer named IF wanders into a big library, linked to many different time periods. Upon meeting a mysterious girl named Segami, the two team up to travel back to different time periods to figure out the cause of the ruined world, only to discover that the Sega Hard Girls and the guardians of each era clashed with one another, their motives unknown.
As with other Idea Factory titles, common trends for the presentation include dialogue boxes with expressive characters, pieces of artwork during key scenes, and dual audio. Of course, with this being an action adventure game and not an RPG, the game also has a lot of new things to pay attention to as well thanks to the shift in genre.
For example, the same area in different time periods could look similar but have a slightly different layout to it, while one specific area (The Dreamcast Virtua Forest) doesn’t even use the same color palette, reflecting the ruined state of the world. However even with some areas going through minor layout changes over time, for some baffling reason a lot of areas that appear in multiple eras remain the exact same when it comes to the level layout, only changing up the enemy variety. Even the collectable items remain in the same spots, although the short length of these areas helps reduce the repetitive nature such a decision would normally have.
There’s also a few framerate problems when in dungeons, with the game usually struggling to remain at a locked framerate. While it’s not an abysmal framerate, (still remaining very playable) you will notice the slightly choppy behavior sooner or later. Battles can be hit or miss with the framerate as well, although the only times the dips became noticeable were during any battles where the enemy would use a group explosion attack to injure all four members of my current party, and even then it wouldn’t last for long.
Being both an action adventure game along with an RPG, Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls mixes elements from both genres to provide a fun little experience that can appeal to a wide variety of gamers.
From the first arc of the game (taking place exclusively in the Sega Saturn Era) these elements became very apparent. Every variation of a stage (even if the design is the same in different time periods) contains hidden medals and baseballs to collect. The metals are arranged a lot like coins or collectible items would be in your typical 3D platformer, making them easy to grab in each stage if you check every single corner of the stage, as they are rarely hidden. The baseballs on the other hand are meant to be the well-hidden collectible, with each one typically hiding in an obscure part of the level and will take a bit of searching to discover. Both of these items can be fun to collect, although the repetition will show if you aim for 100% completion, since certain areas like Toyopolis require running through the same area multiple times to recollect these items in each time period. In the particular instance of Toyopolis, you’ll need to make absolute sure you run through six variations of the first floor in all time periods in order to 100% that area for good.
Thankfully these collectathons are totally optional, but I will strongly recommend them since going through a lot of the optional dungeons will get you into more battles, which in turn will get you more experience to fight the final boss and aim for the true ending. (And yes, this game has three endings, the worst one being the hardest to achieve believe it or not, but I’ll keep how to get it a secret.) You see, each time period offers an exclusive set of missions, some of which are story related (such as investigate what the Sega Hard Girls are doing and how to stop the fights in each era) and a lot of which are sidequests that require you to do a certain amount of one task (fetch items or defeat enemies) to satisfy the client. These tend to be short and easy to do, but some of the ones that focus on enemy drops can lead to a lot of grindy moments of fighting the same enemies over and over again, hoping they’ll drop the items you need to complete the missions.
Its at this point where Neptune Vs Sega Hard Girls can become a divisive game. Either you aim to knock out the story missions as fast as possible and do the end-game grinding later on, or do every single mission you come across to prevent the end-game from becoming more difficult. (For reasons I can’t mention due to spoilers) Whatever the case, the formula still works perfectly well as a game meant for portable play considering the short level lengths. Of course I mentioned all of the above without even going into the battle system, which is easily the best aspect of this game.
When in a dungeon, you can sneak up from behind an enemy and stun them with IF’s surprise attack, triggering a “symbol attack” that allows for you to perform the first strike and deal damage to the enemy before they can destroy you. Likewise if you miss the attack or get ambushed from behind, the enemies can gain more turns for their first strike, which can easily lead to death if you aren’t careful. Once it’s your turn in battle, you’ll be able to move around in a locked arena, moving closer to the opposing enemies and choosing to either attack then with the basic X button attack, or by using powerful skills that can decrease your EP.
Every single action you take in a battle will fill up a gauge on the right side of the screen, whether its from moving or attacking, and when it reaches a certain point you’re forced to end the turn for the current character in play. This can open up to some strategic moments, as sometimes the best solution for dealing a lot of damage is to stay perfectly still, spam the X button attack until the meter is almost at the cutoff point and then use a powerful skill to finish the turn. Another handy feature is Fever mode, where after hitting enemies dozens of times your fever meter will fill up, and when it reaches 100% you can jump up and grab a rainbow star that’ll give your party unlimited turns for a short period of time, which can also allow your party members to use their ultimate moves at the cost of a lot of percentage points.
You will unlock some skills later on that let you toggle the difficulty in a few ways, (either by making every encounter a symbol attack and removing the ambushes or by simply making the enemies weaker) but overall the game isn’t too challenging, with the hardest parts coming from the boss battles. (Hence my recommendation to do sidequests before the main story.)
In conclusion, Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls was a game I enjoyed a lot more than I expected, despite the heavy repetition of the missions and collectables. Maybe the reason why I can tolerate repetition when done right is due to my PMD love, but once I started playing and got the hang of the battle system I spent the good part of a weekend playing through the entire game, all the way up to the True Ending!
With a solid battle system, a bit of a collectathon vibe and plenty of hours of content, (Taking me a good 15 hours to reach the true ending while gathering a majority of the collectables, and that’s not even including the new game plus that unlocks upon beating the game) Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is a game that despite a lot of minor flaws, manages to still succeed in being both an engaging and enjoyable experience. If you have a PS Vita or PSTV, I really do recommend this if you’re into RPG or adventure games, as it manages to be a charming little crossover that may just surprise you with how fun it is. I give Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls a 9 out of 10.