I find something alluring about Sega’s retro design. It might be the mishmash of hightech cityscapes and beaches, green fields and clear blue skies, creating something truly unique. Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls tries to capture some of this aesthetic while keeping that Hyperdimension Neptunia atmosphere we all know and love.
As always the story is a bit nonsensical, if not a bit akin to a bizarre fever dream. Still, it ends up being just crazy enough to work. While searching for a way to restore the world from its apocalyptic demise, Iffy encounters a blue-haired amnesiac who fell from the sky called Segami. They both meet up with Histoire who outfits Iffy’s cool motor bike with a full-fledged time machine. Then they hop from era to era in search of the curiously named Sega Hard Girls in order to stop them from fighting the Sega Goddesses, hopefully preventing the end of the world.
Even if you never played a Hyperdimension Neptunia title before, you can dive freely into this one.
In a twisted turn of events they meetup with Neptune who somehow manages to fuse with Iffy’s motorbike, being the first motorbike protagonist in the series. It’s refreshing that all the characters finally dis Neptune for spewing meta nonsense and ruining the bike’s bright green color.
Even if you never played a Hyperdimension Neptunia title before, you can dive freely into this one. Important characters are reintroduced and their relationships start off from square one. The game is a dream come true for Sega fans. Throughout your journey you will team up with and battle against Sega systems and CPU Goddesses, including Mega Drive, Saturn, Game Gear and Dreamcast.
Each era you visit is unique. And while you will retread the same levels multiple times, each dungeon can have minor variances depending on the era. The untouched nature of the Virtua Forest in the Mega Drive era will get a bridge in the Saturn era, while ultimately end up looking like a barren wasteland by the Dreamcast era. The afterburner caves go from a volcanic hazard, to rock solid caves with man-made tunnels as the ages go by.
Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is a dream come true for Sega fans.
For the first time in the series missions are time limited. You can only apply for one mission at a time. Every time you complete a mission, the timer for each of the other missions drops by one. This means that the order in which you complete them is important. It’s nowhere near as stressful as it sounds, since you have multiple chances to complete each mission. At any point in time you can choose to battle against the extremely powerful time eaters, who grow weaker as you slowly repair the timeline.
Compile Heart loves to play around with the battle system in their games. Neptunia titles generally have minor changes from iteration to iteration, however this time the combat system received a beefy overhaul. Each action uses a chunk of the Action Gauge. Because of this, turn orders are far more flexible. You can do a single attack and fallback, conserving your Action Gauge and making sure you can act once again before the enemy, or you can just go all out with special attacks and charges, hoping to take out the enemies before they get multiple turns in a row.
Preventing you going all out bonkers with spells is the fact that MP functions quite differently this time around. Instead of each character having an MP pool depending on their level, every character has a max MP of 1000. Unlike HP, these are not recovered by leveling up, but instead it is very slowly recovered in battles. On the other hand, the spells that you unleash can truly turn the tides in challenging battles.
For probably the first time in the series, boss battles can be really challenging. The game isn’t always explicit about what your best course of action is. The first few times I encountered a boss, it seemed neigh unstoppable, slaying my most powerful members in a single swipe. It was not until I returned to the hub and completed a number of missions, that I saw how criminally under-leveled I was.
The wonky pacing also holds true for regular enemies. Some dungeons have enemies that are a pushover, while others managed to take out my party before I made a single move. My only advice is to save and save often. If you just can’t manage to clear a dungeon, your best bet is to choose a different mission for the time being.
Newcomers and longtime fans alike will be pleasantly surprised by this newest outing.
One noteworthy addition in Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is its much more fleshed out platforming elements. Your character can jump, dash past enemies, scale ladders and walls, as well as shimmy on pipes and crawl through holes. Most of these are actually optional and don’t require too much effort to get around. Don’t expect the level of complexity of Mario or Sonic, but what is here does the job rather well and adds a level of freedom missing from their past titles.
As with other platformers you will be using these newfound techniques not only to evade enemies, but also to collect coins and hidden baseballs scattered throughout the level.
As a Vita exclusive, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls won’t blow you away with its visuals, but it manages to hold up quite well on the go. The game has nice big fonts, so you won’t need to squint to read. It’s only unfortunate that Compile Heart’s horrendous framerate is back in full force. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, but it definitely deters from the otherwise great atmosphere.
Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is a solid title all around. Its weaker aspects are easily outshined by its ridiculous but engaging story, improved platforming and overhauled battle system. Newcomers and longtime fans alike will be pleasantly surprised by this newest outing.