Title: Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars
Developer: Compile Heart
Release Date: October 26, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Idea Factory International
The Neptunia franchise has become almost entirely spinoffs, with their gameplay identity being in constant flux amidst varying genres and concepts. With that being said, it’s been ultimately tricky to build an attachment to any of these recent outings. However, the recent Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is an unexpected collaborative hit that has reinvigorated my love for both franchises.
Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars takes place in a reality called the Illusory Dimension, where the casts of both Neptunia and Senran Kagura exist in the same world. Each nation of this world, called Gamninjustri (great name), has a ruling Daimyo, whose desires and struggles lead to constant conflict.
The Senran Kagura and Neptunia girls are on opposing sides and frequently battle one another, but both sides have undeniable affection. However, an invasion from an organization calling themselves the Steeme Legion occurs, headed by the Master of the Headshot Style, Yoh Gamer. I wish I could be making these names up. This interference kickstarts the Super Ninja War.
The narrative is legitimately engaging here. Of course, there’s a strong base around comedy, but there is genuine effort poured into the story that ultimately leads to a satisfying conclusion. Stakes are presented, and the motivations from the protagonist and antagonist alike make for a compelling journey. Those who have experience with the Neptunia and/or Senran Kagura series will probably find the most enjoyment out of it.
Admittedly, the best moments of gameplay were seeing the Senran Kagura cast interact with the Neptunia goddesses. It’s honestly bizarre how it’s taken so long for these two franchises to have a crossover, but I’m glad it’s here. The characters’ mingling feels natural like they’ve always belonged with each other. Granted, I do wish that more Senran Kagura characters appeared and that the Neptunia sisters were part of the main story, but I’ll take what I can get.
Combat is akin to the mainline Senran Kagura games, which are linear beat-em-ups. Although, it is also loosely identifiable with Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed and MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies. Players choose two characters to go on missions that can be switched between. Missions consist of traversing linear areas full of enemies to destroy. And, while there are treasure chests and the occasional puzzle, little thought is required for actual progression. Fighting is the name of the game here, and thankfully, there is a slew of mechanics to keep it engaging.
Combatants can have up to four battle skills equipped at a time, each providing distinct effects such as simply raw damage or buffs. These skills can be chained together during usage, effectively leading to simple to perform, mesmerizing combos. Players can only initiate skills when the ‘Trigger’ gauge is on the screen to build up the chain.
Additionally, it’s important to point out the elemental battle states. Each character can willingly transition into a different stance that alters specific battle properties. For instance, the Fire style drastically increases attack while lowering defense, and the Mountain makes the character immune to all damage when guarding. Then, finally, are Spirit Gems. These items are placed on character-specific boards, granting varying boons such as higher drop rates, and increased offensive capabilities.
These mechanics are simple but add a necessary degree of battle freedom given the small-scale stages. When coupled with how unique each character’s general movement and swing speed feel, there is an enjoyable variety of mashy action to peruse. Further, even though button mashing can resolve most conflicts, later boss battles do demand some understanding of their well-designed telegraphs to prevail against. Only a limited amount of items can be used when on a mission, too, so all players will have to rely on their own skill without conveniences, to a degree.
Still, the amount of monotony present throughout progression is readily apparent. The areas themselves lack standout designs to make them memorable. Due to how most main story progress is handled by simply taking out foes and little else, every location feels the same regardless of aesthetic differences.
Plus, even when taking the variety of playable characters into account, they don’t do quite enough to limit the boredom that eventually arises. None of this is to say that I didn’t enjoy myself because I did. It’s just that lengthy play sessions must be accompanied by some form of background entertainment because it doesn’t provide enough captivation by itself.
This mindless repetition also pervades the quest system. These tasks are always simple, requiring players to defeat foes, find items in a given time, or navigate an area in a highly lite-puzzle fashion with switches. The latter two scenarios do shake up the formula, though the quest maps are overused. I actively found myself rolling my eyes when entering another quest that took place in the same area the previous 5 did.
One final, albeit minor critique I have, has to do with game length. It took me around 15 hours to clear the main story. Despite there being post-game content, I only recommend picking this up on launch if you’re a dedicated Neptunia or Senran Kagura fan.
Game length rarely equates to value, but given how progression in this title lacks on the creative side and is essentially just a glorified mashing fest, I believe there could have been more content included to occupy players for an overall more prolonged time outside of a simple training minigame. Lastly, the absence of an English dub has not affected our scoring but would have been an awesome inclusion.
Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a delightful crossover boasting an engaging narrative, heartwarming character interactions, and a steller localization. With its added mechanics, this is by far the best Neptunia spinoff, but that doesn’t absolve it of tedious and repetitive progression. It’s evident this is a game for the fans of these busty fighters, but we could have used additional characters and modes to heighten the experience.
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