The Neptunia series has had its fair share of games that feature fictional characters and environments that sound somewhat like actual gaming hardware without alerting any legal departments. Well, that’s not the case in the first crossover game in the series, where they’ll have to share the screen with the Sega Hard Girls. My love for this series often comes and goes with me falling in love with one particular game and not enjoying the next. Perhaps the Sega hardware fanboy in me will enjoy the inclusion of these personified characters and I’ll come to appreciate this entry.
This time around, our ladies’ adventure takes place in an alternative universe from the Re;Birth series where they haven’t been properly been introduced to each other. However, in classic Neptunia fashion, they’ll continuously poke fun at previous encounters in the series’ past. IF is the star of the show and she has been entrusted by Histoire with traveling through time in an attempt to figure out what is causing the Grand Library’s history books to disappear. Joining IF on this adventure is Hatsume Sega, a new amnesiac heroine who is in for the ride to recover her lost memories and everyone’s favorite protagonist, Neptune — who has unfortunately been fused with a motorcycle. Our ragtag group of adventurers will travel through history and encounter some of the mainstay Gameindustri Goddesses along with the Sega Hard Girls in hopes of discovering what has caused them to feud with each other.
This game plays slightly different than other entries in the series in that it’s purely about accepting and completing various missions throughout time. Our heroines will report to Histoire in the Grand Library, where they’ll receive missions relative to each Sega hardware era in the past that is being erased. As you progress through certain missions, you’ll slowly unravel the mysteries of both the past and present, although you’ll need to do this with a sense of urgency.
You see, each mission has a counter displayed beside the title and as you complete other missions that number will decrease. If that number happens to reach zero or you abandon it after accepting it, it will be devoured by the Time Eater. The Neptunia series is known for constantly recycling assets from previous entries in the series, so I found this new feature to be quite refreshing. It truly gives the player the freedom to decide the fate of the world and how they approach each situation. However, one problem that I found during gameplay was that some missions contained boss battles that spiked the difficulty curve high — which I don’t mind, but some sort of indication for this type of battle would have been helpful.
Luckily, the changes to the battle system helped alleviate this problem. Your team is comprised of four characters and they all utilize an action gauge that fills up as they move around the field, attack, or use items or skills. Once the gauge exceeds its limit, the character’s turn will end. So you’re given a number of options for how you can approach each situation in battle. For example, you could heal your entire party then go on the offensive, or you could even use up the majority of the gauge with a string of attacks then finish with a charged attack for added damage.
As you progress through battles, another gauge, known as the fever gauge will slowly increase with each attack that is performed. Once the gauge is full, fever time can then be activated and your party’s stats will be increased by ten percent, EXE drive skills can be utilized, and all enemy turns are skipped while it’s activated. Think of it as either a desperate attempt to survive in a dire situation or to quickly gain the advantage on the enemy. One of its best aspects is that it can be carried over to the next battle if it is not used, which makes it a wonderful tool to use on a impending boss.
As you jump from mission to mission, you’ll constantly revisit areas from previous Neptunia games. This should be to no surprise since it’s a common practice in this series. IF can now dash, climb walls or ropes, and crawl through small spaces to reach different areas on the field. However, these new actions are all used to gain access to areas that were only accessible through teleportation in previous games. In comparison to the battle system changes, these new field actions feel lackluster and somewhat lazy, often being more of a hindrance instead of helpful; especially for what you gain in the process.
Generally, you’ll receive helpful items that aid in completing a mission, but the majority of the time you’ll find medals that can later be exchanged for credits. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon a baseball, which can be returned to the owner for rewards. Of the baseballs that I was able to find, they were usually discovered while failing to successfully jump across platforms. It felt as if the game was aware of its poor jumping mechanics and graciously apologized each time by rewarding me with a baseball. Fortunately, the dash action proved to be a valuable asset and it helped with completing certain missions quickly. If a mission took place in an area with weak enemies, I could easily dash past all of them, fulfill my goal, and head back to the exit with ease.
Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls makes some smart moves that push the series forward in the right direction, but it continues to be plagued by poor design choices that slow down that progress. The time traveling missions, modified battle mechanics, and the fever gauge are a welcome addition to the series. However, the substandard field actions, the re-usage of series assets, and the uninteresting inclusions of medals and baseballs leave a bad taste in my mouth.
The Neptunia series is one that I repeatedly visit because I love the world and the characters that inhabit it and each time I return in hopes that I’ll discover something new. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with this game and I returned to more of the same. If you’re an absolute fan of the series then there should be plenty for you to enjoy, but Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls has me still believing that if you’ve played one Neptunia game, you’ve probably played them all.