Developed by Complie Heart in collaboration with Sega, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is the latest spinoff in the HDN brand. And despite Neptune having top billing, IF takes the reins as protagonist alongside newcomer Segami for yet another time traveling misadventure. So how does it measure up?
Title: Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls
Developer: Compile Heart (Localized by Idea Factory International)
Length: 30-40+ hrs
Looking back at past entries both spinoff and mainline, this one certainly occupies a very weird space when it comes to quality. Borrowing many assets and concepts from the Rebirth remakes, they don’t exactly turn out to look or perform as expected, but when it comes to the writing – it actually fares rather well. While the storyline itself is par for the course – the jokes, gags, and humor are far better than any other entry in the franchise. I can only imagine that the localization team also had an enjoyable time having to set this all up for the western release, considering the jokes are even more outrageous. In fact, if you happen to be a fan of Sega and its era in time, the title also sort of celebrates a lot of achievements and shortcomings of the company through smaller conversations that most players will appreciate, as well as a few frivolous ones that will make you grin. With the Sega Hard Girls (Sega Hardware Girls for short), being a multimedia project started by Sega in order to immortalized its consoles as goddesses, it does also make conceptual sense for them to appear alongside the leading protagonists of HDN that share a similar state. Of course, to quote the Highlander: “There Can Be Only One”. Erm…true goddess that is.
As much as I could go on praising the idea and humor, Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls does come with its fair share of annoyances and the combat in particular is a major one. Being based off of the Rebirth template, the game does make a few minor changes to the formula, but without going into great detail, both the speed and flow of battle does feel slower compared to the mainline titles. Not only that, but many of the mechanics and features from the Rebirth titles don’t appear in this one further adding to the tedium and limited toolset players have to work with. Granted it doesn’t take much effort to win random encounters, you will find yourself spending a significant amount of time grinding to be able to take on bosses, especially the final boss that has more going for it and brings me to another frustrating addition to this series.
Quest are nothing new to HDN, yet in this one they happen to be timed – meaning that once you complete a quest or proceed with the story, others will begin to countdown and disappear after a set number. Once they do, they serve as a buff to the final boss, Time Eater which is already strong enough on its own and really creates urgency to clear as many quest as possible. This usually means neglecting quest of lower importance and trying to clear the storyline bits as quick as possible, too. And while you can take on the final boss at anytime (which leads to different endings depending on when it is defeated) and don’t have to take on a single optional quest, the boss still has more than enough power to trounce you. Of course, if you lose, you are given a chance to complete any quest you missed as well as new ones cropping up. Seeing how you don’t receive much of a reward in the quests and they only serve to open up new areas or get other small trinkets, the timed element really doesn’t make any sense and just makes the player rush through the game without any real purpose. Then again, the storyline quest do the same thing: once you go to a point on the map, they are done with and aside from a few, ones that actually have you participate in combat or enter dungeons are rare. You will have to do most of that on your own. Just don’t be startled if you blaze through the story and come across a boss fight you can’t win without extra experience grinding.
Besides having to deal with a few mind-boggling issues, Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls does have a few cool additions, but again, they are just too underutilized to make much of an impact. For example: the character class system give the characters a chance to use new abilities and learn new skills, but aside from minor traits to distinguish them (ex: low vitality for greater attack strength etc) and adding extra points to the base stats upon leveling up, it really doesn’t make a world of difference and you can easily go through the entire game without using the mechanic once. Then again, there are a few additions like the action system that make exploring dungeons a little more exciting and quicker – something I wish the flagship titles would include. The plan system from the Rebirth games also makes an appearance and don’t require a bunch of fuss to obtain or use, however, most plans come down to cosmetic changes.
As aforementioned, for a title that was made for the Vita and considering the quality that went into the Rebirth or even other spinoffs on the system, this one looks like a budget PSP title. When you are roaming around fields and dungeons, the visual still look passable, but when you are in combat, fighting certain monsters, or playing around in the menu – the visuals aren’t at their best. Seeing how the game does reuse/repurpose a few of the assets, this one seems like it didn’t have the time required to really make them look the part or like they even belong in the game. Even though it goes without saying, these issues on a larger screen via PSTV will make them all the more noticeable. All that being said, the game does at least boast a nice and varied soundtrack and once again, has a few more unique tracks – especially factoring in the ones for boss fights. And last but not least, the game does have Japanese and English voices, so no need to worry about downloading the former track separately. However, I urge you stick with the English track for the jokes – they come across way more clearer in it.
When it is all said and done, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls isn’t a terrible entry for the series, but when you have been through the past titles, this one definitely seems like it wasn’t given the time and care you would hope or expect. Even with Sega allowing the use of its characters and mention of property, I don’t doubt that was all the collaboration was good for. If you are getting this one, you probably won’t be sticking around for the gameplay, but at least the trademark banter and humor makes it more than enough reason to soilder on.
Pros: The humor and writing of it has really improved – best in the series so far in that respect, plans require very little work to get/use, dungeon exploration is more easy/enjoyable, concept makes sense, can beat the game at any time.
Cons: Strips out a lot of improvements found in the Rebirth combat system, timed quest really add nothing to the game and forces players to rush for no reason, visuals look terrible, requires a lot of experience grinding for the first playthrough.
Final Verdict: Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls has very a bare and simplistic battle system, unflattering visuals, and even more baffling additions that don’t work within the games tempo, but ultimately, it will be humor and jokes that will keep players coming back.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This by my own volition. A review copy of the game was kindly provided by Idea Factory International. All images and rights to them belong to Idea Factory International/Compile Heart and only for review purposes.