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Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Vita) artwork

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Vita) review

"Whoever wins... we don't lose"

The Neptune was a Sega console that was being prepped to release alongside the Saturn, but it never actually saw the light of day. Hyperdimension Neptunia celebrates this particular piece of gaming history by basing part of its lore on a version of Sega that released the Neptune, rather than shelving it. Perhaps it makes sense, then, for the world of Neptunia to clash with the Sega Hard Girls, a group of anthropomorphized Sega consoles. In Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls, a new Vita title, we finally get to see which group of game console ladies is superior, and have a lot of fun in the process.

Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls is exactly what it sounds like. The goddesses of Neptunia are fighting against the Sega Hard Girls, and itís up IF and the mysterious Segami to put a stop to the conflict before history tears itself apart. Our heroes must travel to the four main eras of Sega history--Mega Drive, Saturn, Game Gear and Dreamcast--and solve the various problems affecting each one so that history can right itself. Along the way, you should expect the usual Neptunia humor, but with even more laughs than usual. Superdimension Neptune benefits from excellent writing, an incredible dub and the sort of bizarre situations that can only play out when time travel is part of the equation.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Vita) image

The narrative is largely enjoyable, despite generally playing things safe, but the real delight comes from the substantial change to the core gameplay that has defined the series since Neptunia mk2 debuted back in 2011. For the past five years, Neptunia has kept its combat and dungeon exploration the same, while iterating and introducing complexities elsewhere in the form of resource management mini-games. For Superdimension Neptune, though, the developers have finally modified the core combat and exploration mechanics in some new and exciting ways.

For combat, the turn-based system that has four characters acting within an allotted space remains the same. What has changed is the introduction of an action gauge that slowly fills with every action taken, including movement, item use, skills and attacks. A characterís turn automatically ends once the bar reaches the red area near the top. If this happens, that character wonít be able to act for a longer time than they would have if they had instead manually ended a turn. In essence, knowing when to go all out and when to take a more reserved approach lets you impact turn order. Itís a nuanced, tactical system that I honestly didnít expect from the Neptunia games, and I am quite pleased by the approach.

Another interesting wrinkle in combat is the addition of little floating stars on the battlefield. If a character takes the time to collect them, they provide a number of helpful benefits that include HP and MP restoration. The stars also tie into a fever gauge that fills as the party dishes out damage. Fill the gauge and you produce a start that triggers fever time. In this mode, the fever gauge slowly depletes following each successive action taken, but the partyís turns are prioritized over the enemies' moves for as long as the mode remains active. Itís especially helpful later in the game, when preventing a boss from taking any turns for a few rounds can mean the difference between life and death.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Vita) image

Character progression also received a nice punch up with the introduction of classes. Each character has three classes that provide different skills and growth patterns, allowing for extra customization that didn't exist in the past games. Characters are restricted to only three skills initially, but can increase that number to five later in the campaign. While some Neptunia players may not like those restrictions, I found the change refreshing because of the resulting injection of strategy.

As for exploration, the party explores the same basic dungeons weíve seen in past games. There is, however, an interesting difference: IF can now jump, climb and crawl through the environments to reach new areas. Itís not an incredible addition, but it does alleviate some of the tedium that usually accompanies these dungeons.

Collectibles are another new mechanic. As IF explores each area, she can collect medals as rewards for the aforementioned jumping, climbing and crawling. If players make an effort to collect all the medals in each dungeon, theyíll be rewarded with higher quality items in the store. Itís an interesting take on store progression, but not one that Iím entirely convinced works. Some players will not feel itís worth the effort, and will have a harder time of things in combat, without the benefit of the more powerful weapons and armor that the sometimes tedious medal collection makes available.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Vita) image

The most interesting new idea in Superdimension Neptune, however, is a time travel mechanic that lets players correct mistakes made in previous time loops. Each mission available in the hub world has an attached timer that goes down by one as IF and crew complete main and side quests. If a quest's timer reaches zero, the quest disappears and the final boss grows stronger. When every available timer reaches zero, the party will fight the final boss and inevitably lose. At this point, IF and Segami are transported back to the beginning of the time loop. Previously completed quests stay completed, thankfully, and the timer on all incomplete quests are reset. This gives players more time to satisfy any remaining objectives. As a result, the final boss grows steadily weaker, eventually allowing players to defeat it. Just when you choose to take on the final boss determines what ending you eventually receive.

As far as technical performance goes, the game runs about the same as previous Vita entries in the series did. Thereís no major slowdown and everything looks pleasant enough, but the title isn't going to win any awards for visuals. I did notice occasional frame skips during battle, but itís not a persistent enough issue to ever cause major problems. A presumed PC release will likely fix all of these issues, as has happened with previous titles in the franchise, so those gamers who are hoping for a stable 60FPS experience will want to hold out for a later date.

Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls is probably the shortest RPG in the series, clocking in at about 25 hours, but it might just be my new favorite. The ridiculous and entertaining plot, combined with a smart rethink of the core game mechanics, make this game an easy recommendation for Neptunia fans and even JRPG addicts in general. Those who were previously brought in by the Neptunia world and characters, but turned off by the gameplay mechanics, may well find a lot to like this time around.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (October 10, 2016)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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