Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls Review

Part of me is absolutely amazed by how the Neptunia series continues onward despite the games being only average to pretty good and the target audience for these titles being a niche among niches.  In spite of this, the series proved popular enough to justify a crossover with an anime and manga series centered around the personifications of Sega consoles, or Console-tans as they are colloquially known, called Sega Hard Girls or Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls.  In theory, the crossover sounds incredibly sensible, but as I should not be surprised by at this point, it is kind of a mess.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), PS Vita
Developers: Felistella, Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International

To recycle a series synopsis from a previous review, the Neptunia franchise is set in the world of Gamindustri, and revolves around the adventures of the CPUs, a pair of four goddesses who represent the three major consoles, with a representation of the unreleased Sega Neptune thrown in for… reasons.  However, despite featuring a variety of characters based off of game companies, and nods to other franchises and series, the link is tangential, and could be removed quite easily.  Well, excluding this game.  In the case of Superdimension, the link is there, but mostly on a broad conceptual level and referenced through a few gags and characteristics.  As one would expect from Neptunia.

Sega Hard Girls, meanwhile, is a series about the representations of various Sega systems, most notably the Mega Drive, Saturn, and Dreamcast going to a high school wherein they are placed into various Sega games and are given tasks to overcome in order to receive medals that are needed for the students to graduate.  Much like Neptunia, the series is centered around goofy anime nonsense, humor, and assorted shenanigans than it is video games, but the way it incorporates video games as more of a main driving point allows it to do what I think Neptunia originally wanted to do, but could not for whatever reason.

Now throw all of that right in the garbage, as Superdimension Neptune Vs. Sega Hard Girls takes place in a completely different continuity and universe that defies many of the conventions established in both series.  The game centers around series staple character IF, the personification of series developer and publisher Idea Factory, as a lone adventurer in a post-apocalyptic landscape who discovers a mysterious library that compiles the collective history of the world.  Said history has been altered by a tentacle monster by the name of Time Eater, and IF decides it is up to her to prevent her present day from being either worsened or just destroyed altogether.

In order achieve this, she must travel back to four different eras, Mega Drive, Saturn, Game Gear, and Dreamcast, and correct what went wrong with history.  In her journey, she is partnered with Segami, a brash amnesiac who has hidden knowledge of the past, and series protagonist Neptune, whose consciousness now resides in a time travelling motorcycle that apparently fits ten.  

From there, the storyline consists of IF, Segami, and Neptune bouncing around the four aforementioned eras in a nonlinear fashion, in an attempt to understand the conflict and eventually solve it, earning the era’s respective Sega Hard Girl and a goddess from a prior Neptunia game as party members in the process.  All before culminating in a final battle with the Time Eater, though you can admittedly fight them at almost any time, not unlike Lavos from Chrono Trigger.  And much like Lavos, the party is probably going to die if you fight them early.

As for the quality of the storyline, while it is kept sensible for the most part, and there is some effort made to differentiate each era from another, none of the settings are fully realized and the core strength of the Neptunia series, the bickering and dialog between party members, is greatly restricted by the linear nature of the game.  What this means is that each instance of dialog throughout the great majority of the game only concerns IF, Segami, Neptune, and the respective goddess and Sega Hard Girl from that era.  

This greatly limits what the writers could do with each conversation, and results in them falling back on the same basic formula.  Neptune says something silly, Segami tells her to shut up, IF agrees with Segami and tries to maintain order, Segami says something brash to the goddess or Sega Hard Girl, they are confused or irritated, and so forth.  This also means that the Sega Hard Girls are never shown interacting with other Sega Hard Girls and the goddesses are never shown interacting with other goddesses, outside of Neptune, until the very end of the game.  It is a creative decision that greatly limits these characters and really goes to undermine both the concept of a crossover and a core appeal of both series:  Seeing cute anime girls get involved in silly shenanigans while being friends.

Oh, and to further sour the broth, the Sega Hard Girls themselves are greatly mischaracterized compared to their anime counterparts.  I went into Superdimension only a few days after I finished watching the Sega Hard Girls anime, and can safely say that Mega Drive, Saturn, and Dreamcast barely even come close to their actual personalities (Game Gear was not in the anime).  Mega Drive is shy and bookish, very skilled at certain tasks and unskilled with others.  Saturn is supposed to be a more serious character, yet she does go into outbursts when her flow is disturbed.  While Dreamcast is bubbly, friendly, energetic, and finds herself often absorbed in wild fantasies.  None of these descriptors really fit these character in Superdimension, and the simple fact that the developers got something as crucial as this wrong is downright baffling.

Going back to the game’s structure for a moment, progress in the game is measured by a tickering log of various quests that eventually expire and are consumed by Time Eater, embedding them with greater strength.  Once all quests are devoured, the player must fight off against Time Eater, lose, and then restart from the beginning of the game, with all devoured quests reset and all progress saved.  A move that makes the entire mechanic kind of pointless, as the player can never fully lose a quest, and Time Eater does not retain the power it gained after history is reset.  I suppose it does add some tension, but in my experience it just discouraged me from upgrading characters with their own special quests until I have reached the end of the cycle.  

Also, as a side note, this game finally introduces a feature to track down where to find the monsters and materials needed to complete certain quests.  It is something that was absent from the prior Neptunia games and should be included in any game with similar quests, because otherwise you practically need to consult a fan-made wiki.

There upgrades pertain to the newly revamped gameplay of Superdimension, which does away with the combo system from the mainline games in favor of something simpler and not as well balanced.  Not straying too far from the basic setup, changes are only apparent while in combat.  Characters still move around a 3D field in a turn based order, but each character has a meter that limits their actions in their turn and can be left somewhat empty in order to ensure they reach their next move more quickly.  The meter is filled by moving, using items, skills, and a simplified attack command that can be charged up in order to deal additional damage and fully fill the character’s meter. 

It is a fairly simple combat system, and that is the problem.  Within ten minutes, I began establishing a general strategy of placing characters near several enemies so they are placed in their attack range, attacking them several times, doing a charged attack at the last opportunity, and have other characters do the same with other enemies.  This dirt simple strategy was the only effective way I could think of to play this game, it requires minimal button inputs, and is generally really boring to execute several hundred times.

Combat is only really shaken up in boss battles, which serve as major difficulty spikes, and are only overcome by two mechanics that I always reserved for boss battles.  Fever Time, a mode that buffs characters and allows them to attack an opponent without interruption until a respective meter is emptied, and transformations, which further buff characters at the cost of some SP, and cannot be used by the Sega Hard Girls, making them significantly less useful in boss encounters.

By abusing these two things, I was able to defeat most bosses before they could even attack once, and that I needed to regain Fever meter and SP before the next boss encounter.  Both of these are earned by attacking enemies, but they only increase marginally with each hit, and therefore take quite a while to build up again, desensitising their usage.  However, I truly did need to rely on them, as some bosses could mop the floor with my party unless I adopted my cheap methods.  Not due to their superior abilities or such, but because their numbers are so darn big.

While the Neptunia series has never been very well balanced, Superdimension is exceptional for being so poorly handled with regards to its difficulty.  While my characters were often able to defeat enemies without taking much damage, assuming I got a preemptive strike, when facing off against certain enemies in certain dungeons it was not uncommon for my characters to go down in two hits.  Characters are bizarrely vulnerable to hits, their individual attack strength never feels like it grows high enough, and leveling up them up, leveling up their classes, or giving them new equipment did little to change that in a meaningful way.  

Even after abusing the automatic victory and bonus EXP abilities to boost my characters up to level 95 to 99 near the end of the game, they were still taking substantial damage from enemies they encountered at level 30 and some were not reliably doing thousands of damage to them with each strike.  Even after getting the best equipment I could find and maxing out every character’s job levels, which are part of a mechanic for gaining equippable passive skills, my characters still felt weirdly underpowered against certain foes, and I have no idea how that is even possible.

Part of me kind of wishes they copied over the gameplay system from other Neptunia games instead of trying different.  Seeing as how the developers are clearly not bothered with copying over dungeons not only from other games, but recycling them up to four times in this one, creating one version of each dungeon for each era.  Sometimes this results in a meaningful change in the environment, such as how the Dreamcast-era Virtua Forest dungeon is decaying and filled with fallen trees, but most of the time, I genuinely forgot which era I was in.  After having traversed these environments in three prior titles, going through the same named environment four times in a single game is just confusing on a whole other level.  

They have been revised slightly, with some new paths that make use of the enhanced mobility mechanics introduced in Superdimension.  Which is a nice way of saying that characters can now climb across ropes, crawl under passageways, climb up walls, and dash or dash jump their way through the environment.  These all exist to supposedly spice up the act of mobility, but they contribute very little to the process of exploring the tiny dungeons this series boasts.

Also, possibly as a result of these new features, out of combat the only playable characters are IF and Segami.  To further this line of minor detrimental and irritating oversights, there are very limited character customization features, meaning that only a few characters are given the ability to change outfits or accessories, and none of them are the Sega Hard Girls.  Heck, IF still did not get a second outfit for some reason.

Blatant recycling aside, the game still looks good.  The anime aesthetic of this series has always been well done, and the newly added environments really do look better than anything featured in the three Re;Birth games.  Aside from all of its blatant recycling of environments, enemies, character models, music, backgrounds, and character portraits, the Superdimension is certainly a nice game to look at, but I truly wonder how long it will be before the developers feel the need to at least move on to recycling the assets from Megadimension Neptunia VII.  

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls falls in line with the norm of the series, meaning that it has a lot of interesting concepts that could have been better executed, yet still manages to achieve enough of a baseline quality to assume the mantle of alright.  The way the story was handled and the lack of emphasis on the inherent concept truly put on the crossover is what truly irks me about this game, and the less engaging and needlessly differentiated combat system does not help.  A crossover match made in heaven that largely boils down to a lot of repetition and little that fans had not seen before from one of the eight other Neptunia games.

 

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