The folks at Idea Factory and Compile Heart have been ferociously supporting the Vita with new games over the last few years, the latest of which being another JRPG crossing over their Neptunia series with the Sega Hard Girls.
I spent the better part of six hours with the PlayStation Vita exclusive over the weekend, so let’s talk about its opening moments for a bit.
Rather than focusing on the titular Neptune, though she is featured in the game in a significant capacity, Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls follows the motorcycle riding adventurer IF (literally pronounced I.F.) as she travels through various time periods based on Sega’s game consoles in hopes of righting the past.
Joining her adventure is Segami, who unlocks the ability during combat to transform in to any of the Hard Girls you’ve met in-game. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Neptune is in the game as her usual fourth-wall breaking, overly verbose self, but it isn’t long before she becomes IF’s talking, time traveling motorcycle. This is a Nep Nep game we’re talking about, so that last bit shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
For those unfamiliar, the Sega Hard Girls are humanized versions of the Sega family of consoles, like Master System, Mega Drive (what we in the States know as the Genesis), and Game Gear, who have been featured in light novels and anime. From what I’ve gathered, based on the brief intro and throughout earlier bits of the story, the Sega Hard Girls battled the Neptunia team at some point, which lead to a sort of catastrophe that you need to prevent.
Though the game is wordy, even unnecessarily at times, it’s mostly repetitive banter between characters rather than furthering the plot at a desirable pace. When it stays on track the writing can be quite good, eliciting a few laughs in the early hours.
My problem, however, is the frequency in which you’ll revisit the same locations with the same goals, time and time again. There’s a lot of menu surfing at the main hub, which isn’t always fun, but the first three hours is mostly a basic assortment of “return to the same area and find the same NPC, engage in a meaningless conversation, and do that a few more times” quests.
What I’m getting at is that while the narrative may improve later on, I found nothing to latch on to within the first six hours. I did find a lot of enjoyment in the game’s approach to turn-based combat, though.
It’s very similar to Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force, where upon each character’s turn they can move about an outlined section of the battlefield to strategically position themselves around enemy targets. Every action taken requires a certain amount of stamina, with some, like magic, also using up an action point resource. AP can be restored by killing an enemy with a charged attack, which throws all of your stamina behind a massive burst of damage. The more stamina used during your current turn, the longer the wait before your next one, so this isn’t something you can just spam at will.
I also liked the Tales-style class system, which allows you to specifically target statistical upgrades and damage output by unlocking and changing your character’s title. I’ve only managed to open up two or three, with one being more balanced while another is more melee focused.
When you’re not duking it out with floating robots and military frogs, you’re navigating semi-linear maps in search of your current objective marker. You can climb walls, crawl through narrow spaces, and traverse across hanging ropes, though it’s not all that exciting. It’s different for the Neptunia series, sure, but it didn’t add to my enjoyment at all.
The game doesn’t run particularly well during these segments either, which lead to a few unnecessary surprise attacks when I’d whiff an enemy trying to initiate a battle. Surprise attacks essentially allow the enemy group to attack twice, which is never a good time. It’s just a minor frustration on top of mostly uninteresting exploration segments, since frequently revisiting the same areas had me growing tired of the backdrops rather quickly.
At this point in the game, I’m mostly enjoying the high quality 2D storyboard segments, the voice acting, and the turn-based combat system. Sometimes I just want to pick up my Vita and grind XP for 20 or 30 minutes before bed, and that’s when I’ve had the most fun with it.
I’ve played my fair share of Neptunia titles, but Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls just isn’t holding my attention like the others. Hopefully the narrative picks up soon, or the quest structure becomes far less repetitive, otherwise I’ll happily put it aside in favor of something else. Lord knows there’s a plethora of other new releases to pick from.
RPGs can certainly take a while to get the ball rolling, with my earlier example of Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force being one that I ended up enjoying immensely. With so many games releasing in the last quarter of 2016 though, I’m just not sure I’m willing to gamble my free time on a “maybe.”
Full disclosure: A PlayStation Vita copy of Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls was provided by the game’s publisher, Idea Factory. The latest spin-off of the Neptunia series is available now exclusively on PlayStation Vita for $39.99.