Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls is the latest instalment in the Neptune franchise, and it is probably my favorite installment to date. Vs. Sega Hard Girls sees IF finally getting the limelight, now we’re just waiting for “Gigadimension Vert: BOING in the Dungeon”, which probably isn’t going to be a thing, but we hope. The basic plot is that the world has fallen to ruin, due to constant fighting between the goddesses and the Sega Hard Girls. Our heroine, IF, is an adventurer in the wasteland of the world, searching the world for her next big adventure. During her travels, she comes across a library said to house all the world’s history, when suddenly a girl falls from the sky. Obviously, this girl is a key component to the plot, and even more obviously, amnesia. I’ll be perfectly honest, the basic plot is rather… lacking and clichéd, to say the least.
Once you’ve finished your mandatory tutorial stage, you break into the main bulk of the game. It turns out, there is something causing history to be lost, so obviously you need to head out and help, with amnesia girl, Segami, in tow. As I said earlier, the main plot is pretty dry and cliché. All of the endings were easy to see coming, and even the supposed plot twists were fairly evident. Where the game really shines in dialogue is anything that isn’t necessary for plot advancement. All the side commentary is pretty hilarious, the character reactions are great, and some scenes had me laughing so hard people started looking at me funny. The three main cast members this time around are: IF, Segami, and Neptune (sort of, it’s complicated). The interactions between these three and the other characters are great. A bit of a SPOILER WARNING here, but Neptune doesn’t join in the traditional sense; instead she acts more like a character possessing an item that follows you everywhere. Because her basic existence has turned into a gag, she doesn’t really need to make any jokes, because she is one SPOILER OVER. Neptune in this game is probably a lot meaner than in the previous installments, and quite frankly I think this makes her even more hilarious. In fact, Vs Sega Hard Girls is a lot more crude and blunt, but you probably would be too if you lived in a desolate wasteland. It really fits IFs personality better, and I like the grittier tone that the developers were going for.
Graphics haven’t evolved too far from the rebirth series, but on the field and battle maps, characters and environments are noticeably sharper, and I found the game to run a lot smoother than its predecessors. In traditional Compile Heart fashion, talking sequences are in visual novel format, with anime style character cut-outs voicing their thoughts, although there was a really nice CG scene during the opening of IF riding through the wasteland on a motorbike that was really solid. On the subject of voices, it felt like there was a lot more voiced scenes than there were in previous installments. The voice acting was done well, and even the corniest scenes managed to come out without sounding too strained.
So then, how about the gameplay? Here’s where I was actually thrown off a little. Honestly, when I first heard about Neptune Vs Sega Hard Girls, I thought it was going to be a fighting style game. Heck, so did the other people I know who like the series. Don’t let the Vs in the title fool you however, the game follows Compile Heart format, albeit with some rather interesting changes to the formula. First let’s talk about the bigger picture of the game. Essentially, the game is based around time, and thereby time travel. Your hub area is the great library, which houses your shop, data archive, in-game library, and a few other options that will be talked about soon. When you want to leave the library for adventure, you choose the time warp option, then a destination era, provided you have the era unlocked, and then you are free to choose a dungeon/event/etc. The game is based around completing missions, so expect to go back and for the between different eras a lot. The standard format is: select a mission from Histoire, go to relevant era, watch a scene/beat an enemy/collect a thing (screw the wriggling gels and god souls, by the way), and then return to Histoire to turn in the mission.
After turning in a mission, a counter will decrease, and any mission that has reached a ‘1’ for its counter will be “eaten” and add to the final boss’ strength. This mechanic is really interesting, as you have to decide whether you want to complete all those low priority missions that end really early, or if you want to complete the lengthier chain quests with higher priority. Once you completely run out of counters, you’re forced into fighting the final boss. No worries if you lose though, as you start again from a relative “checkpoint”. Every time you fail to beat the last boss, you get sent back to this “checkpoint”, retaining all your items and levels, as well as quests completed. There’s some quantum mechanics at work here, but trying to explain it would probably just make everyone cry so, I’ll restrain myself. Interestingly enough, it actually does sort of make scientific sense. So at this point you’re probably wondering what the benefit of repeating is, since the boss is still sitting there. Well, since you’ve already completed quests, the boss can’t “eat” them. Furthermore, you can complete quests that were already eaten to reduce the boss’ power. Something I only realized during my second playthrough, not repeat cycle, was that the boss doesn’t actually get “weaker”, he just loses the passive skills that he earns from eating the quests. He actually does get passively higher stats every failed cycle. While incredibly interesting, this can become extremely frustrating when you realize that some of the skills he can earn make him regenerate an absurd amount of health every turn, turning a decently difficult fight into a test to see if you run out of healing before your minimal cumulative damage can best him. I honestly took this as a challenge and beat him for the first time on my second cycle. This was a “wonderful” almost two hours spent spamming healing and revive items that I honestly should have just let him win to start a new cycle. Pride up, sanity down.
As you complete progressively more missions, you get an “observation level”, which is a relative value for how much history you have observed. As the level increases, more chirper events become available, new items appear in the store, and new plans are made available. Yup, the remake system is still around and kicking, but this time its so much more friendly. Plans are instantly available as soon as you acquire them. No more hunting down obscure enemy drops, or spending hours in a dungeon hoping that those items available only through breakable objects will spawn (wriggling gels, I’m looking at you). All you need to do is either visit the person in charge of the in-game library, or access them from your own start menu. If you aren’t a returning player, the chirper events are usually just random comments from in-game character, like chatting with NPCs, although they can give you some interesting things, such as remake plans. I gotta say though, I literally just finished getting the platinum trophy for rebirth 2 and 3 just a few days before I started reviewing this, and when I saw the Stella chirper, I nearly had a heart attack. No Stella’s dungeon this time, though.
Roaming the field maps has changed greatly as well. No more is it just standard “walk from point A to point B”, we now have an expanded repertoire of actions to perform. While jumping has been a staple standard, we now have other actions such as: wall climbing, crawling through holes, and even traversing hanging ropes. My personal favorite, though, is the addition of being able to run. Not only does this speed up traveling through dungeons you’ve already explored, but jumping while running actually gives you extra height and distance, allowing you to reach areas you wouldn’t have been able to previously. This adds an extra depth to the exploration, as these new actions aren’t only gimmicks, and actually remain throughout the majority of the dungeons. So what do you need these new actions for? Well, apart from the feeling of more exploration, there are also short platforming segments, as well as credit medals and baseballs to collect. Yes, baseballs. Apparently you’re supposed to collect and give them to someone, but if you get things based on how many you’ve collected, I have no idea how to differentiate between baseball gifts and observation level gifts. The credit medals are an interesting new idea as well. There are a bunch of little coins scattered throughout the stages, and collecting them gives you money; which is nice because it keeps you with enough cash to comfortably purchase almost anything you may need. Collecting all the medals will give you a fancy crown symbol next to the stage name in the library.
The battle system has also been changed a fair bit. The battles are still turn based, where the highest agility character goes first, but the system has evolved. Turn order is now clearly indicated, and performing action, or preparing to perform actions, will show you where in the turn order you will move to after performing your actions. Instead of the standard “make-a-combo” system, you have an action gauge. Different action will fill the gauge different amounts, with most skills and movement filling the gauge faster than standard attacks. The gauge will always start at zero, and actions always fill the gauge. The gauge is divided into three color coded segments: blue, green, and red. If you end your turn in the blue segment, you will defend for the next turn. Normally you can either move or get a few attacks in before the gauge moves out of the blue zone. The green zone is an intermediary zone. If you end your turn in this segment, your turn ends. That’s about it. The red zone is a forced turn end. If you move into the red zone, then that ends your turn there if you performed a skill or attack, but will still allow you to move or jump if your last action was movement based. That’s right, you can jump in battle, and it isn’t just for fun. When in battle, there are these little floating gems that appear: some are heart shaped, some are teardrop shaped, and some are star shaped, and they appear at varying heights. In order to collect these gems, you need to jump at them in battle. There are higher and lower leveled gems, where the higher ones can only be obtained after transforming. The heart shaped ones restore health, the teardrop ones restore SP, and the star ones will the fever gauge. The fever gauge fills at a relatively slow rate, but filling it spawns a rainbow star on the battlefield that fill allow you to enter fever time. During fever time, it is always your turn, and the fever gauge will deplete every time you perform an action. This is also the only time you can use your EXE drives. The fever gauge can be filled faster with certain passive skills or class based skills.
Yes, that’s right, we have another new introduction to make: the class system. First, let me explain how the skills in Vs Sega Hard Girls work: they can only be acquired from leveling your class. Class level starts with a cap of 20, but can be increased through completing certain missions. Class and character experience and individual, so you could be, say, level 32 with a class level of 19. As you level your class, you earn more skills, as well as getting a class specific skill that is always available. What I mean by always available is that you now have to actually equip skills. You start with three slots available, and you can increase them in the same way as you increase the class level cap: through specific missions. This adds a lot of customizable options to your characters, as not only do different classes provide different stat bonuses, but the always available skills and the equipped skills may turn the same character into either a powerful warrior or a squishy healer. There are also hidden classes available to find, and they provide some very interesting stats and skills. Hidden classes can only be found if you have the real character traveling with you, instead of their clones.
Yes, that’s right, you get these quasi character clones, which unfortunately brings me to the portion of the review where I have to mention the negative aspects involved. First up is the clone thing I mentioned. While not inherently a bad idea, nor does the clone thing actually detract from gameplay, there is a bit of a… concern, shall I say. I imagine that it may be patched on official release, but the game states that the clones won’t be able to transform. Well, they can, which was quite confusing, to say the least. One of the aspects I used to love about the series was that weapons would change appearance when a new one was equipped. Unfortunately, this seems to have been taken out, or dropped. In all fairness, most of the weapons follow the format of “weapon name” + “number”, so most of the weapons would probably look similar, but this feels a little lazy after playing the rest of the games. As like what happens with many games associated with time travel, expect to see the same stage, or at least four different variations of it, a lot. Although there is the interesting aspect of dungeons changing depending on if they are visited further in the future or past, such as lava drying up in the future or ruins becoming less decrepit in the past, the fact still remains that the layout is pretty much the same, and you keep visiting the same places. Speaking of visiting the same places, I personally found that continuously having to travel back to the library in order to travel to a new era to start getting quite annoying, especially if I was completing a mission that required more than one item, and they happened to be found in different eras (once again wriggling gels, I’m staring at you).