The Neptunia series is a trademark franchise for Idea Factory, with it spanning many releases across Sony’s family of consoles over the years. Sony’s PS Vita is no stranger to Neptune and her friends, as the series has many releases since the release of Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection back in 2013.
As of now, the series has over seven games, with the series eighth adventure being a cross-over with a SEGA franchise; The SEGA Hard Girls. This title retains many of the role playing game mechanics and settings that the Rebirth games offered while also adding in more exploration, deeper mechanics and the trademark humor Neptune is known for.
But does this new adventure meet the quality of past role playing game adventures in the series?
The story takes place in a new continuity where IF is exploring a ruined wasteland, as her world is in shambles. While looking for an important library to read up on the history of her world, a mysterious girl falls from the sky. IF catches her and heads into the library when something dangerous happens; history is being erased! After Historie modifies IF’s bike for time travel, IF and the mysterious girl (known by Segami) go on a time-traveling adventure to restore history and save the world.
While the set up is simple, it retains the strong sense of humor that past games in the series offered. Neptune breaks the forth wall like it’s nothing, IF is the levelheaded leader of the group, one character introduced later in the game is really funny and the game as a whole is well-written.
Segami being a new character is well realized, as her role in the story has greater motivations then to just restore history. She has a connection to the SEGA Hard Girls and really wants to stop the fighting between them and the Goddesses (the main characters of the Neptuina series, though some of them aren’t present in this game). She also lost her memory and gets it restored over the course of the game.
What I enjoyed the most from this story is just how funny the game is, as despite the title not being afraid to get serious when it needs to, it has a blast making fun of itself at various points. Neptune turning into IF’s bike is a great example of this, as a lot of the games jokes come from Neptune just rolling with the situation and joking around like nothing happens.
One element to the story that I could see people getting annoyed with is that while the story has a set goal for the four era’s you explore, there is no set ‘order’ you have to complete everything in. So you could visit the Saturn Era first and go to the Game Gear Era second….but you have options to visit the Dreamcast or Mega Drive Era’s as well. While the stories in each era are self-contained, it limits the character interactions people from those specific era’s have with the rest of the games cast. You won’t have situations where Mega Drive comments on something happening in the Dreamcast Era for example. I didn’t mind this much, as the dynamic between IF/Neptune/Segami is quite strong to begin with, but it does limit things a bit.
Overall the story is strong and is quite funny, making it enjoyable throughout the entire adventure.
This title is set up different compared to past games in the Neptunia series, but somethings from past games are still present here. Our main hub is the Library where you can check up on the various missions you have to complete, talk with NPC’s that pop up sometimes (even having a little event every now and then), purchase items & weapons for your party, and check out media you unlocked (like art work and music). Missions return from past games in the series and they have a major role in this title.
You need to complete various missions to restore history and once you complete a mission, you report it back to Historie. It raises up your Orbs Meter, which I will touch on soon. But missions are not just collecting materials or killing X amount of creatures; they include story missions that progress the plot. Your main goal is to complete every main story mission before they get erased from history and specific missions (side missions or story missions) greatly raise the power-levels of a major boss.
What your goal is in the game is to stop a creature called the Time Eater. I have no idea if this is a reference to the creature of that same name included in Sonic Generations but his appearance mirrors Perfect Chaos from Sonic Adventure to a degree…..so will count it as a Sonic reference. Anyway, the more Time Eater ‘eats’ history, the stronger he is and the more difficult fighting him becomes.
You will fight him before you complete all the story missions…..and you will die. But unlike the game’s other boss fights, you do not get kicked to the main menu but rather resume back in the library with your Orbs Meter and prior progress remaining intact. This presents you with a very different style of design compared to other role playing games; do you completing missions and fully restore time before fighting the final boss or do you rush through lesser missions and take him on to reset his power level again.
I enjoyed this dynamic a lot and uses the mission mechanic from past Rebirth games in the Neptunia series in a creative new way. It also opens the doors to very open-ended structure regarding how you tackle the game, making it more personal. However this presents the issue of game balance. Some story missions require you to be higher leveled compared to other story missions but it does not inform you of how strong the party has to be before taking on the mission. This could be an issue if you want to play the game on your specific path but you can drop missions (non-story missions) with little issue. The game even tells you where items/monsters are for the side-missions, so you will have no issue getting what you need to complete those missions.
So despite some issues, the design of this title is very solid and far more open compared to prior games in the series.
Neptune vs. SEGA Hard Girls is a title that sticks close to the template to past games but does a few things differently. The basics of most role playing games are present; you can equip items/gear for your party, explore dungeons, and talk to NPC’s. When you enter an era, you are presented with a 2D Map with various NPC’s to talk with and dungeons to enter. Once you pick a dungeon, you are thrown into a open 3D map where you can smash objects to get items and enter fights.
But what makes this title unique compared to past games is the exploration element. IF and everyone has far more interactivity with the game world, as you have a lot of moves to play around with when in the dungeons.
You can jump, run super fast, jump even higher when running, climb on walls and more are part of your move-set. What makes this work well is that level design is more open, as various locations have interactive elements that make use of these movement abilities. I greatly enjoyed this part of the game, as it takes elements of 3D platformers and apply it to the level design of the dungeons. Later dungeons in the game make great use of these mechanics and I had a blast running around inside them. This is further empathized with coins and baseball’s to collect across the game’s dungeons.
Combat is in this title and it is an evolution from prior Neptunia games. In past games, you and your party would move around in a 3D battle map and have a set-timer for how many actions you can pull off. This comes back here but done a bit differently. You have a lot of options when in combat; you can press R to guard attacks, mash the X button to do attacks, hold X to do a powerful ‘charged attack’, press Triangle to use SP Attacks (moves using SP points) and press Square to open up your items menu.
Every action you make builds up your ‘Fever’ Gauge, which when filled up spawns a star object in the battlefield. You jump into the star and the screen goes all Yellow, indicating you are in Fever Mode. When in Fever Mode, you can pull off special EXE Moves for each character, have a higher amount of moves to pull off, and your attacks get a bit stronger. This can be a life saver in harder boss fights, creating a great risk-reward system for battles.
The game has a class system, where each character has different classes you can place them in. This offers different attacks and stats depending on the class. They level up alongside the normal leveling, so you are encouraged to play around with the class system as you get through the game.
Formations is where your party is positioned when in battle and you get these from NPC’s you talk to across the game. They can offer advantages to fights such as higher Health Points for your entire party for example.
Overall the gameplay here is enjoyable as it improves the dungeon designs over prior games in the series all the while evolving the combat system to add more depth.
Neptune vs. SEGA Hard Girls is a long role playing game which can take up to 20 hours to fully complete but you have different endings to unlock and the different paths you can take when playing through the game can offer further replay value.
You also get plans which can be modifiers. Examples include raising the difficulty of enemy encounters, instantly killing weaker enemy’s when you hit them on the fields, and unlocking different dungeons across the various eras. Getting every plan will take a long time but it offers added content to the title.
The Neptuina series is known for being very colorful and lively titles, with this title being no exception. Characters have a Cell-Shaded edge to them when in the dungeons and battles, animations are well done and the textures are mostly high quality. Most impressive parts of the game are the EXE attacks that you can pull off; they are flashing, detailed and bursting with color.
Voice acting for the English cast is spot-on, with many of the voice actors from prior games returning. Neptune, Segami and IF are well acted for example, with the dynamic between the three of them working so well with the English cast. The English dub adds to the humor for me, making the story even more enjoyable. If you prefer the original Japanese cast, that is an option as well, so you can pick that if you prefer the dub.
The music of this game is solid, as despite some tracks getting stale over the course of the game (specifically the two battle themes) some tracks stand out a lot. My favorite track is the Library theme and the theme that plays when you explore Toypolis. Both are so lively and match the game very well.
Sadly the game has some performance issues but thankfully they are minor. I noticed slowdown at some points in the game but they did not last very long.
Story: 4 out of 5 / Design: 4.5 out of 5 / Gamplay: 4 out of 5 / Lasting Appeal: 4.5 out of 5 / Presentation: 4 out of 5
Hyperdimension Neptune vs. SEGA Hard Girls is a well done spin-off that blends the series role playing roots with evolution to exploration, open-ended mission format and some refinements on combat mechanics. While the difficulty is not the most balanced and the has minor performance issues, they do not effect the game greatly. Neptune vs. SEGA Hard Girls is a rewarding role playing game that continues the series strong success on the PlayStation Vita platform.
Overall: 4 out of 5
This title was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita with a review copy provided by Idea Factory International. It is out now for the PS Vita and PlayStation TV platforms as of this writing in North America. All music used and referenced in this review is owned under the trademark & copyright of Idea Factory International and Complete Heart.