Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hardgirls is the latest installment in the Neptunia franchise making its way to PC. As a cross-over between the Sega Hardgirls and Neptunia franchises, we see IF finally taking a spotlight role. Drawing from the Neptunia format with revamped combat and exploration, be prepared for a pleasant surprise on the classic Neptunia system.
The main character this time around is IF, the self proclaimed “gust of wind through the wasteland”. Enter the post-apocalyptic style setting as IF catches mysterious amnesiac girl Segami as she falls from the sky, and explores the great library, known to house the entire worlds history. It turns out that history is being destroyed or lost, so Histoire, the curator of the library, tasks you with finding out why as you travel back and forth through time using Ifs fancy supped up bike. Honestly, the storyline is a little…cliché, and not very inventive. You’ve got an amnesiac girl who knows a lot about the worlds history for some unknown reason, pieces of history disappearing, and time travel.
If you don’t have a relatively solid grasp by now, at least the plot twists will be surprising for you. Fortunately, the writing isn’t bad and the voice acting is really solid. While the main story is a little stereotypical, the interactions between characters and most of the dialogue that isn’t particularly pertinent to your end goal was really well done. The gags are great and I found myself laughing aloud or snorting at least once or twice, and the voice acting was well done so that even the really corny or slightly cringe-y scenes didn’t come off as particularly forced. What was really interesting is that Neptune (the usual protagonist) is usually more of a gag or slapstick character, but in this game she is actually a lot more harsh or abrasive, which fits both Ifs personality and the world setting better, and I thought was well done by the developers.
So, what’s new about this latest installment? Well, for starters, gameplay progression is marked by a quest system. You take a quest from Histoire, travel to the era you need to, complete your requirements, and then turn the completion in to Histoire. Rinse and repeat. To spice it up, however, quests have time limits, denoted by a little counter next to the quest name on your list. As you complete quests, the counters will decrease every time you turn in a completed quest. If a quest hits “zero”, that quest, or moment in history, is “eaten” by the last boss, and turns into its strength. Either completing the game without the true end requirements or losing to the last boss will start you on an extra “cycle”, where you get a chance to complete all those quests you missed out on because there were to many or they were to tough, taking that strength away from the last boss, quantum paradoxes be damned.
This system is interesting for two reasons: the first being that you have to decide whether you want to complete the quests with more “weight”, or complete a lot of smaller quests with less “weight” to them, especially considering some main quests have multiple parts that may “run themselves out” if you decide to take them last minute. The second reason it’s so interesting is that you can effectively aim for the skills you don’t want the last boss to have, presuming you can recognize what quest is granting what skill. Really helpful when you find out the last boss is regenerating 40% of his health per turn, or at least that’s what it feels like.
The field exploration is also revamped, allowing you to not only perform the series staple jump, but also to run, climb, crawl, and shimmy across ropes. This adds a fresh new feeling to the field exploration, making it less of a time consuming segment and more of an adventure. Combat has also gotten a major upgrade. While the turn based system is still there, you now have a “turn order indicator”, where a little icon will show where you’ll be going after completing you action. Gone is the combo creation system, instead opting for a more common “revolving wheel of choices”, except they’ve also added an action gauge.
This gauge is separated into three segment, color coded for your convenience: blue, green, and red. Ending a turn in blue allows you to guard, while red has a greater delay before your next turn. The gauge starts empty and fills as you perform actions, such as initial moving or jumping. Yup, that’s right, you can now jump in battle, and it’s actually useful. While in battle there are these little floating gems that you need to jump to grab, and they can restore health, SP, or frenzy meter. The frenzy meter is similar to Mugen Souls, if you’ve played it. If not, the basic idea is that once full, you can grab a rainbow colored gem to start frenzy mode, and all your stats go up 10%, it is always your turn, and you can use EX skills during this mode, although the gauge will deplete every time you perform an action.
Combat is further enhanced through two other brand new additions to the series: a class system and battle formations. The battle formations are basically just start-of-battle character placement, but depending on the formation used, it can increase stats or item drop rate, for instance an early formation gives you 1500 extra max HP, which basically doubles your health at that point in time. The class system works similar to most other games: as you level a class you learn new skills and get stat bonuses. In this case, character level and class level are individual, so you could be level 99 with a job level of 3, especially since some classes are unlockable, so you might not get them until much later. Skills now have to be manually equipped, except for the class specific skill which is always available while using that class. This is really nice because it allows you to use the characters you want, not necessarily the characters you need to.
Unfortunately the game isn’t without fault. 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 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. Additionally, I found that continuously having to travel back to the library in order to travel to a new era started getting really annoying, especially if I wanted to visit different eras, I always had to return to the library first.
Superdimension Neptune Vs. Sega Hardgirls may be my favourite in the series. Compile Heart/Idea Factory really did well revamping the core gameplay, and despite a few small hiccups here and there, I thoroughly enjoyed playing. There is a good replay value, especially for completionists like myself, and considering that I got the platinum trophy in the Vita version and still played the PC version for this, I think that speaks well for how much I enjoyed it. The graphics are sharp, and the CG intro sequence when you start a new game was really cool, despite the fact that my 6-year-old laptop could barely handle it. The music is a solid combination of remixed old tracks and new songs, and I’m sure that returning fans will recognize at least a couple. Both newcomers to the Neptunia series and returning fans will be sure to get a lot of enjoyment out of Superdimension Neptune Vs Sega Hardgirls.