Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS Vita
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release: 28th October 2016 / 12nd June 2017
What´s the first image you have in your mind, when you hear Sega Dreamcast or Saturn? Some old-ass retro consoles, which games are recently brought to your smartphone through Sega Forever? Of course not! Surely, you´re thinking about cute, colourful anime girls! Well, at least, that seems to be the case for Compile Heart, since I don´t know how to explain Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls otherwise. Yes, you heard right, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls transforms your favourite Sega consoles into pure cuteness, along some major changes in the game and now this weird mix finally came to PC!
Obviously, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls doesn´t feature a rich or tense plot, accompanying our beloved Ide- I mean IF on her quest to restore the history of neptunia´s world, slowly collapsing in itself. During one of IF´s motorbikes trips through the wasteland she witnesses how a girl falls from the sky, quickly saving her and bringing her to Histoire´s library. Coincidentally, Histoire also just finished her work on a time machine (what else?). After finding out from our newly met girly, that the Sega Hard Girls destroy their worlds in mindless fighting, witnessing how Neptune becomes one with IF´s bike, cuz whatever, we´re going on a journey between time and space, in order to save the Sega worlds!
In combination to the well-known silly plot known from previous Neptunia games, that always suffered from uninteresting characters and conflicts, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls can successfully add new ideas (Idea Factory had their hands in her after all).
On the one hand its main gimmick, the cute Sega girl consoles, can add some needed new flavour to the slowly bland becoming mix of the same characters. Not only are they written as good as the rest but also gain a charming comedious sense by just existing as girlifications of consoles. Combined with the lack of Neptunia´s huge main cast, mainly focusing on IF and the 4th wall breaking Neptune-bike, we still have our well-known Neptunia comedy while the game focuses on the newcomers. Surely, it´s still a half-baked, cliché-y plot full of unfitting, yet charming dialogues and general charme, however, the story-telling and characters can refresh this ageing formula once again. As a whole, I enjoyed the story way more than the most recent “classic” titles, due to the focus on other, unknown things and characters.
The worlds we´re traversing in Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls also add some new spice to the bland forest, industrial etc. zones of previous games. Since we´re traveling to the different time eras of the most famous Sega consoles, every world features its own unique artstyle and direction, influenced by the graphics of each generation. From retro-themed worlds to the more modern Dreamcast. Each of the three worlds can offer visuals unseen before, breaking the game free from repeating green/grey areas. Who got some nostalgia left may even be reminded of his childhood from time to time, truly a great change.
Additionally, we´re also offered an expanded range of movement options. Where jumping was pretty much the only thing possible, we can now use a variety of moves, like dashing, sliding on ropes and running that gives us momentum for jumps. Due to these changes every level/area now feels way more dynamic than ever before, featuring a way better design than simple corridors. Even tho they feel kinda clunky, I had way more fun, exploring some territories than before.
Meanwhile, the combat remains basically the same, a turn based JRPG combat with free movement. The only change in contrast to previous games being the lack of scaling MP, locking all MP-points at 1000 for every character, while HP still scales. Since MP now only recovers after a certain time, special attacks became a way more strategic element in battle. Naturally, special attacks got bumped up both in power and presentation, letting them resemble more of actual epic attacks, able to turn the tide of battle, rather than just more powerful slashes. A neat addition to an already great system.
Unfortunately, not everything got improved in Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls, leaving one of my biggest points of criticism untouched, the grinding. Every now and then I got simply annihilated by tougher enemies, bosses in particular, or even normal dungeon enemies, leading me either to the conclusion that I´m in a super hard dungeon or simply underleveled. However, because of the mission design overhaul, transforming them in time limited ones, we´re constantly put under pressure, both in completing and choosing the missions. Grinding becomes an even bigger pain in the ass now, since we need to be able to complete a mission in a certain time.
Luckily, on a technical side Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls can truly shine again. Featuring the bright, vibrant and stylish look from previous games in a nearly unchanged way, the PS Vita doesn´t get more powerful after all. Surely, it may not be the best looking JRPG but I always liked the simple, happy artstyle of Neptunia, now combined with some neat retro worlds and new cute girls, it´s everything you would expect.
The PC-port is also pretty great, running on steady 60fps without weird frame drops, even able to go beyond the 60fps treshold. Even tho it doesn´t feature a whole lot of settings, I would call the PC-port a damn fine one, due to the very solid performance and support for resolutions up to 4K. During my time I only encountered the problem of not being able to select 4K as a resolution for some reason, which somehow got fixed by itself.
Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is nothing else than a pretty big overhaul/extension of an already beloved series. Adding not only more interesting and diverse areas but also new ways of exploring them, allowing for a way better level design and visual diversity. In combination with the extended battle system and well-known silly, yet adorable plot, it may very well be the strongest entry in the series to date, no matter how grindful it still is.
[A Review Code was provided by Idea Factory International]