Indie Spotlight: Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls
In the not too distance future,
In a post-apocalyptic Gameindustri,
There was a nomad named Iffy,
Trying to repair history.
She rode her bike across the wasteland
Seeking out the Grand Library where she can lend a hand.
With the aid of a lady who fell from the sky,
She travels through time to stop history from eaten by some bad guy
It’s time for the mysterious Indie Spotlight 3000!
Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is the latest spin-off of the Neptunia series from Idea Factory to hit Steam. It features the Protagonist of Protagonists as someone who isn’t actually the protagonist this time… don’t tell her that though! I think they managed to trick her into giving up her protagonist roll by putting her name as top billing in the title. It is actually IF’s turn to shine. As implied by the parody of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 opening lines, Gameindustri is in ruin. The Goddesses are battling it out against the competition in a war that spans across the generations and ultimately leads to the ruination of the world as we know it. No one is quite certain what started the war back in Plutia’s era, but that didn’t stop all the future generations from picking up where their predecessor left off. The Goddesses this time around feature only the Planeptune representatives: Plutia, Neptune, Nepgear, and Uzume battling against the Sega Hard Girls: Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, Game Gear and Dreamcast respectively. Noire, Vert, and Blanc seem to be sitting this game out perhaps because their part of history has already been erased. IF (Iffy) and Hatsumi (Segami) meet up with Histoire in the Grand Library where they quickly learn that historical events are being erased from time. With a few modifications to her precious green bike, they travel back to the past to figure out exactly what is going on. After encountering Neptune and Sega Saturn battling it out, they quickly find that the history they are now part of is also about to be erased as well. After returning to the present they quickly discover they did not exactly return alone, Iffy’s green bike now sports a spiffy eggplant coloured paint job and is now possessed by Neptune. See, Neptune just can’t stand not being the protagonist, so she managed to find yet another way to break the fourth wall and weasel her way back into the spotlight!
After the first little bit of the game, you are pretty much free to tackle the rest of the game however you want. While visiting the Grand Library, you are able to interact with a number of NPCs. Some of them just want to talk while others will offer you services such as the store to restock your supplies or buy new gear from. It’s also where you are made aware of the missions that are available. These missions can be tackled in almost any order you wish, but you do have to be careful since some of them will get eaten faster than others. With every mission eaten, the boss of the game gets stronger. If you ever played Trillion (another Idea Factory game), it’s a sort of similar concept. You try your best to do as much as you can before battling the boss, but eventually you are forced to battle it and odds are you will lose. Unlike in Trillion, your character doesn’t die forever, time is just reset back to when Iffy first caught Segami falling from the sky. All the missions you completed stay completed, but all the ones that were formerly eaten become available again after the reset. This allows you to progress through the story as quickly or as slowly as you want simply by focusing the main story elements or picking off all the secondary ones. Finishing one mission may very well unlock another, so it can sometimes get tricky to know exactly when is the best time to start picking off the missions that are about to be eaten. This game does have a bit of Déjà vu to it, especially when you fail to kill the Time Eater after a few attempts or when you have to revisit an area, this time possibly in another era. Still, the concept works well for this title. Neptunia games often have you revisiting areas. You may either go directly to the exact same area or a modified version of it. This time there is an excuse to do that, after all, you are simply travelling through time! Typically, each time you visit the same area but in a different era, the map has been altered to show the ravages of the war and time. For example, there is a temple that is badly damaged in the most future timelines but in the eras back further in the past, it is in far better shape. As you complete missions and unlock new ones, new areas will appear that are not actually necessary to complete the story. If you are rushing though the game and only going where it told you to go, you would miss out on these areas which would be a mistake. You are encouraged to visit every possible area in every possible era simply because it is fun and because there are collectibles for you to hunt down there. Collecting them will unlock additional treasures such as new formations for your characters to use.
Formations in this game are the starting layouts for your characters when it comes to battles. It serves three purposes: One, it lets you control who is at your front line and who is slightly more safely behind. It also offers certain bonuses depending on which formation the characters are in, and lastly, it defines which characters are Lily linked and therefore will help boost each other by raising their Lily Rank. Once the battle launches, you are able to run around freely within the movement range for the character. Here is where things start to get really interesting! On one side of the screen is a character’s action bar which is broken into three sections, on the other side there is a turn order that shows when each of the characters or enemies will have their turn in relation to everyone else. To keep things interesting, these two bars are related to each other. The more actions you perform be it moving, attacking, or using skills, etc. your character’s action bar will increase. Once it hits the end area of the action bar, the character’s turn will be over. As you perform your actions, you will also see your character slide down the turn order bar until it finally comes to rest when its turn is over. However, just to make things more interesting, you don’t actually have to burn out your character’s action bar each turn. Therefore, if you are careful, you do not have to just let your character’s turn slide to near the bottom of the list. If you limit yourself to just a few actions per turn, it is quite possible for all your characters to get multiple turns up to bat prior to the enemy even getting to make its first move. You might be wondering just what exactly might the purpose of doing that could be. Well there is something else you need to know to truly understand such tactical planning. That knowledge is that if friendly characters have their turns consecutively, that is to say one after the other without having an enemy turn interrupting them, you can have them do devastating chain attacks called Lily Assist against the enemy without using their turn. This can really help you strategically take out the more difficult to beat or troublesome enemies.
What would a Neptunia game be without transformations? All the Goddesses retain their ability to transform into their HDD super-hero-powered mode, and that even includes the non-divine pretender protagonists, Iffy and Segami. But wait you are saying “Iffy can’t transform!” Oh, contraire dear reader… Iffy has hung around with the Goddesses enough to have learned how to do her own fiery transformation (that or she just gets really, really angry and the fire is a metaphor for her hot headed nature). When transformed, besides the stats increases, they also gain new or different abilities. Some of these abilities can be quite interesting to watch unfold especially with how stark a difference some their personalities can be when the change takes place (I’m looking at you Plutia). There is one last element of combat that I feel I should share with you to get a good feel for it. Actions you perform also help push up the Fever Gauge. Think of it like a Limit Break. Once that gauge reaches 100% and you activate the ability, your team will get to spam attacks without fear of enemy reprisal until the gauge reduces back to zero. If one was to transform all transformable characters into their HDD forms (or equivalency) and then activate Fever mode, you will have yourself one nigh unstoppable team.
Speaking of teams, as you progress through the game you will unlock more characters. You are able to take up to four characters into battle at any given time with Iffy or Segami being mandatory, but you are able to select anyone you want to take the last three spots on your battle team. Each character available is unique enough that it does change up the gameplay a bit when you swap them in or out of your party. Still, it isn’t really possible to make a team that isn’t capable of tackling anything you need them to. Selecting your favourite Goddesses or Sega Hard Girls and playing through the game with them exclusively can work out fine for you if you really wanted to, but I found it more interesting to swap them around whenever they maxed out their Lily Rank with someone. Characters not in play still get experience too so it really isn’t possible to render any given underused character unplayable later.
There is something else to talk about in relation to characters that is new and interesting: Character Classes! Each of the characters in the game has their default role in the game. As you progress you can unlock new classes for them to take. Switching to a new class changes their stats as well as changes the classes’ fixed skill. Unfortunately, when you first change classes your stats will invariably take quite a hit, but as soon as you level that class up you will soon be back into fighting form. To help encourage you to change your classes, you will unlock new equip-able skills that you can easily transfer to whichever next class you want to be. These skills can really help you customize exactly how you want each of your characters to be. While Classes really don’t impact the individual character’s gameplay all that much, they do help add an extra layer of enjoyment to the game.
Besides just changing your class, as with previous Neptunia games, you have the ability to change clothing as well. It is these kinds of small details I very much enjoy as they certainly add interest and enhance the fun and playability of a game too. You can buy or find appearance altering pieces of clothing that you can dress each of the characters up with in anyway you choose. You don’t even have to do a matched set; you can do pretty much anything you want. This lets you customize your team to truly be your team, spiffy or rag-tag or peculiar looking or not! You also have the ability to choose which style of armor you want to equip as well. Do you want something that offers more physical protection or more magical protection? Choosing the correct armor can really help you survive some of your more difficult encounters. Similarly, weapons generally offer the standard upgrade path where you acquire a higher ranked version of the same weapon. Sometimes you will also find alternate weapons for your character to make use of. Unlike equipping a higher rank of the same weapon where all relative stats receive an increase, these alternate weapons will impact the stats differently, sometimes boosting some stats considerably at the expense of some other stats.
Let’s talk about gameplay for a little bit. When you gain the ability to control your characters for the first time, you will find yourself in the Grand Library hub. You are able to move your cursor around the screen and select where you want to go. At this point, the game is displayed to you as a sprite of your chosen main character against a backdrop with a few points of interest on the map. Those points of interest include NPCs who have something to say, give, or services to offer to you and marker points for dungeons/zones to visit. Once you choose your destination dungeon/zone in your target era you will be taken from the 2D into the 3D world. The 3D world is considerably more interesting and luckily is where you will spend most of your time. I say luckily since the 2D world simply acts as a means to move between destinations quickly and effectively and isn’t exactly meant to be wowing you. While in 3D you will control a single character that you need to navigate through the level to reach the target/exit. Those of you who have played previous Neptunia games will feel right at home here. When you first enter a zone you are placed in a fairly safe area. Monsters will shortly spawn in and begin to visibly patrol the map. If you are careful, you could avoid all of the fights and just rush to the destination, however, you are much better off picking fights as you go as you will gain valuable experience and usable items from the battles. When you revisit the area later you can always just skip the weak fights. Experience goes towards both the character herself and the class she is in. When you do enter combat you will be bringing your main character into the fray with up to three other characters backing her up. You have the ability to control each of the characters yourself so you don’t have to worry about the AI being silly and needlessly costing you the matches Nope! If that happened it would be purely on you! To help encourage you to fully explore an area, treasure in the form of small medals are scattered through the level as well as, of all things, a hidden baseball. Each era will have its own version of each of the levels and all of them will contain plenty of interesting collectibles for you to hunt down. Moving around the level is done through a mix of walking, running, jumping, run-jumping, crawling and hanging from ropes as you move across a gap. I must say though that crawling places the camera in a slightly awkward position, not awkward in the sense your view is obstructed, but more along the lines of you have the point of view of a person crawling behind the character and looking straight forward.
You will constantly find yourself running back to the Grand Library after visiting an area and that is because you are only able to hold one mission at a time. I can understand why that is, but I have to admit I did occasionally find it a little annoying. For example, you have two missions that involve killing enemies in the same era. It is possible they may even be on the same level in that era. Odds are you could actually be fighting them at the same time due to the fact that enemies usually fight you in mixed groups despite whatever monster was walking around the map. Since you can only carry one mission at a time you have to travel to the same place twice just to fulfill both mission requirements. It does help pad the gameplay out a bit though and it doesn’t advance time in game at all to spend a lot of time jumping around history so it really isn’t that big of deal. It just isn’t really very efficient particularly if you are anxious to move on. Regardless, you will visit each era and most levels within each era a number of times. This happens especially if you are trying to clear all of the missions or want to unlock all of the available upgrades in the game. The Grand Library itself serves the role of central hub and is where the only store in the game is located. Talk about cornering the market and having a monopoly! Luckily, the shopkeeper gains new gear as you progress through the game and money is seldom an issue if you are careful about it. It is also in the Grand Library where you are able to change your classes and adjust the various plans you may have. Plans being unlockable abilities that change some aspect of the game. Such as a plan that lets you quickly kill a weak enemy without actually going into the fight screen at all.
Graphically, the game is similar to its predecessors. While in 2D you look at a sprite for your character and see pictures of NPCs that have something to say and all of this is set on a static backdrop. It works well and makes navigation very easy. When getting into the real gameplay of the game, your characters gain a lot of details. It’s obvious that a lot of attention and care went into designing the 3D models for all of the playable characters in the game. That plenty of effort was put in to make each one a unique character with her own personal flair and to have her own unique personality clearly shines through. For the Sega Hard Girls, their default outfit was inspired by the console they represent, similar to how Neptune wears a D-Pad crosses in her hair. As it was with the earlier Neptunia games, when the story is being progressed, all of the characters revert to a detailed, flatter, 2.5D style version of themselves reminiscent of Visual Novels. These are not just still images on the screen though. As the characters speak, they can display an array of emotions with the image updating to reflect this. I’ve always found this means of story delivery to work well in the Neptunia series and that is no different here.
The audio in the game also works quite well. The music is typical to that of the Neptunia series, fitting the level design themes that it is accompanying. It is great at helping to keep you in the zone as you play though. When the characters actually speak as opposed to times when it is just dialogue boxes on the screen, each character’s voice matches the personality of the character delivering it. The moodier characters sound moody, the peppy characters sound enthusiastic. Neptune is her usual self… charming, self-centered and annoying to others…all the personality that fans of the series have come to know and love. All in all, the voice acting was very well done for this game.
So should you get Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls? If you are a fan of the previous Nepunia games, especially the Re;Birth series, then you should know what to expect and enjoy Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls. Given my choice, Megadimension Neptunia VII is still my favourite Neptunia game, but I am definitely glad to have had the opportunity to play Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls. It’s a little sad that only Planeptune’s Goddesses showed up, but we can only imagine that the rest of the Goddesses are off playing 4 Goddesses Online or perhaps wiped from history due to the conflict. Either way, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is likely worth your time if you are Neptunia fan although I would say it doesn’t offer the best first impression if you are new to the franchise. For a new player, I’d still suggest Megadimension Neptunia VII for that despite being a sequel to Re;Birth 3: V Generation. With that said, even if you are new to the franchise, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls does a great job reintroducing some of the iconic characters of the series. It stands alone from the rest of the series enough to let you pick it up and not feel like you are missing important information or details but still gives plenty of nods back to the other games for the true fans to enjoy as well.
From the Steam Store Page:
About this game:
A collaboration project between ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki Bunko and SEGA, the Sega Hard Girls are made up of various Sega consoles, including the Dreamcast, Sega Saturn, and Mega Drive! These anthropomorphized consoles are girls with an array of personalities and spunk, and this time they are teaming up with Neptune and IF for an all-new adventure!
- Introducing to the series, Hatsumi Sega, Dreamcast, Sega Saturn, Game Gear, and Mega Drive!
- Give the team special stats and skills unique to their class using Class Change!
- Maneuver through treacherous dungeon terrain by jumping, dashing, climbing or crawling!
- Grab the Rainbow Gem in battle to unleash Fever Time! This reduces enemy turns during battle, enables transformations, and boosts stats by 10%!