Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls is a strange beast to discover in the wild. If you’re not familiar with the idea of giving cute, anime girl personas to old video game consoles, then the whole idea is completely insane from the beginning, and only gets weirder when you understand that this is actually a collaboration of two different companies doing the exact same thing. And the fact that the titular character, Neptune, is actually based on a video game console that never was, having been canceled in favor of the Sega Saturn, and that is super important to the plot. Do your best to strap in, because, if you can handle the insanity, there’s actually a really spiffy RPG at the core.
Firstly, the story. If you’re a devout Neptunia player, you may be chuffed to find this game is not part of the main series canon. It has nothing to do with the current Hyperdimension/Megadimension thread and is way more of a spinoff game than normal, because some of the most prolific Neptunia universe support characters (Blanc, Noir and Vert) are completely absent. The focus really seems to be bringing the Sega Hard Girls to the forefront and using the Neptunia format as a vehicle. In fact, the two main characters, IF (a personification of Idea Factory) and Segami (Sega incarnate, crossed with Hatsune Miku) haven’t appeared in any other games before this one. The main idea is that IF comes from an apocalyptic wasteland, she finds Segami and, together with a massive library and a time-traveling bike, they set a course to fix history and try and restore the world to a beautiful state. Part of this means investigating the war between Neptune and Saturn and finding out exactly where it all went wrong. Along the way, we will travel to different realms, encounter other Hard Girls and CPU candidates, and enjoy some hugely hilarious and bizarre conversation, which includes a lot of trademark 4th wall breaking and out-of-character swearing. There’s laughter, there’s tears, there’s a lot of general confusion when characters who represent the same thing are encountered, like Uzume (who is supposed to represent the Sega Dreamcast) meeting the actual Dreamcast. That’s what’s great about these side games: anything goes and nothing is sacred.
To the credit of the parties involved, the voice acting is quite spot on. I never have any complaints regarding the Japanese cast, but I think the English voices are getting better all the time. I had some issue getting the text to change over to English, at first, and could only toggle on the English voices to understand what was happening. The wooden acting that you find in many games isn’t present in Superdimension, and I actually went back and forth a few times to decide which I liked better. I ultimately went with Japanese to capture the feeling, but kudos to everyone involved for getting some strong and not too hammy English actresses.
Superdimension Neptune presents in a solid JRPG mold with some key changes to make things interesting. Enemy encounters are a combination of turn based combat and real time punching, with the ability to string three hits in a row. You see enemies plainly in front of you, giving a chance to surprise them or be surprised if they sneak up on you. Running is always an option. EXP from battles levels your characters and their respective classes and, after finishing the first world, you get a chance to try different classes, which in turn unlock new skills and abilities. There’s also the option to have your characters enter battle in different formations that create stronger bonds, allowing for better support attacks and certain modifications to battle conditions. Overall, it’s an interesting format and allows for a variety of approaches to the same battles, so there is a distinctly non-linear approach to everything. In fact, after finishing the original Saturn world, you get your choice where you should go next, though Historie (the mission mistress) will highly suggest you go in the order she presents.
Speaking of missions, missions are essentially what move the storyline along. If you just keep entering the same worlds over and over, you can grind for EXP, items and cash but you won’t get anywhere. Taking on and reporting missions is the only way to move the story forward, and some missions might seem incredibly trivial (beat up five Doggos or bring four items back). It’s entirely possible that they’re optional, but there’s a certain amount of necessity that comes with each. The difficulty of every stage ramps up significantly from the last, so the missions are a good excuse to keep within the same stomping grounds until you’re a bit stronger. Players might find the process a bit arduous, however. Accept the mission. Ride your time-bike to the proper world. Enter the stage. Fight and explore till mission is complete. Take time bike back to magic library. Report, complete mission. End conversation so that Historie can suddenly remember more missions. It’s how things have been for Neptunia games all along, but that doesn’t make it a good thing.
Graphically, Superdimension is stunning and gorgeous. IF made a promise to deliver a gorgeous 1080p port, and they were true to their word. Even with a relatively older card (750Ti represent!) I had zero hiccups, tears or drops while enjoying the various transformations, spell attacks and running around in general. The cutscenes have a bit more CGI to them than previous Neptunia games, but that’s just a sign of the times, not really a complaint. Everyone is well drawn and adorable, and, with the focus on the Sega Hard Girls, fans may be surprised that there’s significantly less cleavage than other games in the series. Though nothing has ever been as insane as the fan service that was Neptunia U, it’s been a pretty big trope to focus on the chests and underwear of all the female cast members (which I’m pretty sure every character of note is female). The Sega Hard Girls seem determined to be more modest than their IF counterparts, though that hardly affects the enjoyment of the game. It’s simply worth noting if you’ve played any other games in the series.
An important note, also, is that Superdimension Neptune does launch with a fist full of DLC specifically designed to make the game much easier, including a massive EXP booster and item dropper that can be turned on out the gate and is noticeable IMMEDIATELY. For someone trying to see the storyline and who may be suffering some frustration with an overly difficult area, these additions are useful and helpful. If you’re looking to play a pure JRPG experience, turning them off is dirt simple and will prevent you from becoming unbalanced at any point in the game.
There’s a good chance that potential fans of Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls have already made up their minds long before even looking at this review. Besides being a PC port of a hugely successful Vita title, the Neptune and Sega Hard Girls supporters are pretty zealous when it comes to their moe mascots and whatever games they may end up in. If you’ve never played a Neptune game in your life, this is an odd one to come in on, as it definitely doesn’t reflect the core experience of Neptune and her cohorts. There’s a lot of missing characters and, for better or worse, I found it to be a bit shorter than the average Neptunia game. Then again, if you’ve been a little put off by the necessity to play multiple games in order to catch up with the storyline that makes Megadimension Neptunia VII, this might be a great excuse to see what the fuss is about. I personally think this is a great Neptune adventure, despite having little Neptune at the forefront, and the dialogue and story are pretty damn engaging. The mission format seemed silly and I fluctuated between being overpowered or underpowered, yet I really enjoyed being in combat and grinding to get back on top. Pick it up at launch if you’re ready to dedicate your time to helping save the world and the future. Although, if you’re looking to go whole hog, the Deluxe Edition should be available shortly and may give you even more Sega and IF goodness.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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