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Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation Vita
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2016 (US), Oct. 21, 2016 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS Vita Review - 'Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls'

by Brian Dumlao on Oct. 19, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In this RPG adventure, our usual heroine of the Neptunia series, Neptune, is transformed into a motorcycle and now IF, who has always been supporting Neptune from the side, must take main stage!

Buy Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls

Until now, there has been a clear division between the main games of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series and its spin-offs. The first three games in the series and Megadimension Neptunia VII have been traditional RPGs while everything else has run the gamut from idol simulator to hack-and-slash action game. The spin-offs have allowed other characters like Blanc and Noire to take the lead while Neptune and Nepgear handle the main series. That changes with Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls, an RPG spin-off that features IF, a playable character from the first game who has since been reduced to cameos.

In an alternate future from the main storyline, Gameindustri is in shambles. Long periods of fighting and widespread gamer apathy have turned the once-prestigious land into a barren wasteland. IF is a wandering adventurer who is looking for a legendary library of history when — in a reference to the first game — she spies a woman falling from the sky and rescues her. Both IF and the amnesiac known as Segami reach the library only to discover that the history written in the books is starting to disappear. With prompting from the librarian Histoire, the duo travel through time to keep history stable by preventing the Goddesses and Sega Hard Girls from fighting each other.

The idea of a crossover story with a Sega property might seem kind of weird until you remember that Neptune is supposed to be a personification of Sega, named after a prototype console that merged the Genesis and 32X into one unit. Take a look at the anime "Hi-sCool Seha Girls," from which the Sega Hard Girls originate, and it begins to make more sense why this property was selected for the crossover. The main characters are personifications of different Sega consoles, and their personalities match those from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. If you base it on the cut scenes from the game series alone, there's loads of funny banter and wacky hijinks that the Sega girls get into in the anime. In a way, they're a perfect fit for one another.

Though you don't need to have played any of the previous games to understand the story, you'll want to have some experience with some of the titles in the main series or spin-offs to better understand some of the jokes and references. You'll get that Neptune is fairly dimwitted, for example, mostly because the characters are pretty one-note so they don't change personalities. What you might not immediately get is why she refers to herself as the protagonist — mostly because she's been the protagonist for so many games — or her quirk in giving everyone a nickname, whether or not they want one.

Since the game is an alternate tale instead of part of the main series, you'll find that it's loaded with humor. That's always been a hallmark of the franchise, but things have been ratcheted up, with strange tangents and the fourth wall being constantly broken. The humor can be risqué at times, but there's less reliance on fan service to get laughs. Even though you won't get bouncing breasts in the visual novel-style cut scenes or barely concealed panty shots, you'll get jokes about people wanting to ride a Goddess-turned-bike.

Speaking of the cut scenes, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is just like the rest of the series in that it is absolutely steeped in them. Unless you're partaking in a side-quest, every mission is bookended with long cut scenes. Even if you choose to display all of the text at once you'll spend the same amount of time watching the game compared to playing it. That feeling is further reinforced if you fast-forward through the dialogue and see that even that takes up at least a minute or two of your time. The story is always a big selling point of these games, so if you want to play for more action than reading, this title isn't for you.

As far as gameplay goes, you can split it into three main sections. The first is the world map, which is a menu system with chibi-style characters representing the various sections. You can do the usual things, like change the equipment on your party and buy more items to replenish various meters and cure ailments. You can take on missions, and the Triangle button acts as a guide to help you find the right areas to fulfill side-quests. You can also catch up on the lore and talk to random characters who either unlock more missions or simply keep the world interesting with random bits of dialogue.

There are a number of changes in this title that you'd expect to have appeared in the main series first. Both main quests and side-quests have timers, and while the disappearance of main quests when the timer expires is merely temporary, it gives the player a sense of urgency. Parties have access to formations, which seem trivial on the battlefield since this isn't a strategy RPG, but the formations dictate the bonuses you get and which characters improve their Lily Ranks. Classes also make their debut, as you can change each character's abilities. Classes appear far enough into the game that some may not take advantage of it, especially since you can level up the classes separately from the characters. However, the option is good for those willing to change things up in the middle of the game without constantly switching between characters.

The dungeon exploration is similar to past jaunts and is presented from a traditional third-person perspective. Players can roam around a dungeon, jump on higher ground, and break boxes in real time to get items for battle. Enemies are also visible, so encounters aren't randomized. As before, the turn advantage goes to whoever can get the drop on the other. What you can't do is clear out an area of enemies, since vanquished foes return to the field after a short while.

The changes waver between appreciated and superficial. You can engage in an active run, so you have a better chance of escaping monsters that want to chase you down for a fight. You can now ascend and descend vertical surfaces, so you have more room to explore. Crawling is also available, though that's automatically done once you approach a passageway that lets you do so. There are also medals and baseballs you can collect in each dungeon. The former gives you cash while the latter gets you items once you give them to the correct person in the main game hub. They're good additions but don't give you anything you couldn't already get from combat or the environment.

Interestingly, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls does a poorer job of determining first attack rights. The game records your slashes from a further distance than before, so you don't have to get very close to an enemy to engage in combat. However, there were more than a few times when a slash was initiated on an enemy who was standing still, and the game recognized that as the enemy actively pursuing the heroes and provided them with the attack initiative. Until this is patched, make sure to bring along extra items to prepare for this bug.

So much has changed with the combat that it's much different from the mainline games, even though it looks the same at first glance. The battles still have restrictions in that characters have a small attack circle and a limited amount of space to move. However, everything they do is now governed by an energy meter that fills for every action taken. Moving around the field doesn't immediately take much energy, but attacks certainly do, with magic spells and defensive maneuvers eating up most of that bar.

The meter isn't the only addition to combat. Charged moves call a partner to help you unleash a strong combo attack. The strength of that attack depends on your Lily rank with one another. Power-ups now appear in battle, so you can replenish meters by moving underneath the icon and jumping to reach it, making its appearance a blessing if you're frugal about item use or don't have any at hand. One of the power-ups is a fever star, which appears once the attacks and moves fill up a fever meter. Grabbing this unleashes a full-on assault against the opposition since they've been robbed of their turns, so this is something you'll want to save for boss encounters instead of using against normal enemies.

The result is a combat system that appeals to those who tire of the genre-standard classic menu system. It falls close to the system seen in the Tales of series from Bandai Namco but a tad smaller in scale. One thing people will miss is the ability to hit multiple enemies with one blow. No matter how close enemies are to one another or how wide your attack circle is, all of your efforts are always concentrated on one foe unless you're using magic. Considering how often enemies will be clustered during the first phase of combat, it's disappointing to lose the multi-hit ability from earlier titles.

The big knock that people will have against the title is the rather large-scale recycling of elements from past games. It doesn't take long before you begin to hear the same tracks from the first game, almost to the point where you believe that every track from the first title is present and wholly unchanged. The enemies are pretty much the same as well, and the same can be said of the environments. There have been a few tweaks to accommodate for the wall climbing and rope shimmying abilities, but for the most part, the layout and enemy locations are exactly as you remember them. Granted, the series has been known as a sort of low-cost game in Japan, but this approach still feels lazy even if you were to argue that they're viable for the story's time-traveling approach.

Overall, the presentation remains solid with no surprises in either direction. The graphics remain largely unchanged from previous titles. Character models are nicely detailed and well animated. Everyone looks awesome, especially in the visual novel cut scenes, with a pretty wide color palette being used on everything from monsters to the environment. Texture work is fine, and while it could have been improved in some areas, it certainly represents the norm for the system. The frame rate is pretty choppy in the dungeon exploration sequences, but it is playable enough. The battles themselves don't suffer from such issues. Likewise, the sound quality remains a constant from game to game. The new tracks fit in pretty well with the old ones in terms of quality and effects. The choice for both English and Japanese voice tracks is still here, and both casts deliver terrific performances in every scene.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls maintains the status quo of the RPG entries in the series. The lighthearted story is a great contrast to the other serious RPGs on the system, though the lengthy visual novel scenes can grate on your nerves if you aren't already on board with the oddball tale. It's a shame that a large swath of the game is taken wholly from older titles with minimal changes, but the improvements in the combat and skill systems make up for that transgression. In the end, it won't sway the minds of those who want deeper and more serious fare, but it will please those who are already fans of the series.

Score: 7.5/10

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