Saturday, October 29, 2016

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (Nathan Green)

If you know anything about me as a person then you’ll probably know I love retro gaming. I have a growing collection of consoles and games which I regularly add to and play and I spend a lot of time reading up on retro gaming related topics. For me though the thing that got me into retro gaming was the console legacy left by a little company called Sega. Ever since I started collecting I have been a Segahead through and through so when I heard that the retro gaming inspired Hyperdimension Neptunia series was going to be having a spin-off crossover game with characters from an animated series based entirely on old Sega stuff my interest was immediately piqued.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls ever since I learned of its existence, and now having sunk around eight hours into the game I feel I can finally answer the all important question of “Is it any good?” So, without further fanfare let's start off by covering the story.

Story and Characters:
The Neptunia series is known for having oddball plots already, but Superdimension's plot is certainly one of the odder once.
For starters our hero of the story this time round isn’t Neptune, but rather her level headed explorer friend IF. At the start of the story, IF stumbles across a place called the grand library which turns out to be a place where all the worlds history is recorded. All seems fine and dandy until a girl falls out of the sky and history starts to just… disappear. Yes history just straight up starts to disappear and IF and the girl who fell out of the sky (who incidentally is named Segami) are the only ones who can do anything about it.
One time travelling bike later and it becomes your mission to visit various eras of history in order to correct what was lost. It’s a relatively simple plot on paper, but in practice Superdimension does more than enough to spice things up despite the premise being a bit cliché.
Character-wise, most of the Neptunia cast is present (apart from Noire, Blanc and Vert mainly due to how they represent non Sega consoles) but along with the regulars we also are joined by the Sega hard girls.
Now for those of you out there who have no idea what I’m talking about let me explain. The Sega Hard Girls were characters that first appeared as a Dengeki Bunko imprint before getting their own light novel, and eventually their own animated television series in 2014 entitled Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls (If you’re a fan of retro gaming especially Sega retro gaming then I highly recommend you give a few episodes a watch. It’s jam packed full of references to old Sega video games and consoles).
Basically each of the Hard Girls is an anthropomorphized Sega game console. It’s a similar idea to what Neptunia did but the way the Hard Girls were designed makes the references a bit more obvious.
Superdimension features quite a lot of the Sega hard girls but only 4 play a major role in the story, those being Dreamcast, Saturn, Mega Drive and Game Gear. Each of the Hard Girls has a Neptunia universe counterpart. Saturn’s is Neptune/Purple Heart, Dreamcast's is Uzume/Orange Heart, Mega Drive's is Plutia/Iris Heart and Game Gear's is Nepgear/Purple Sister.
In typical Neptune fashion the writing is what really takes the stage here. The game is full of retro gaming references, one liners and dialogue scenes between characters which consistently left me with a giant grin on my face.
Overall, Superdimension does a pretty good job with its characters and writing. The story is a little bit cliché, but it throws enough curve-balls to keep me interested. If you’re looking for a game to play for the story though then this really isn’t it.

Now for the meat and potatoes of the game, and oh boy there is quite a bit to talk about here so lets not waste any time.
For starters, Superdimension sports a new battle system. You still move around a free roaming circle and attack enemies and all that but instead of picking from one of 3 types of physical attack and using strategy to do stuff such as getting 2 or more enemies in the path of your attack you instead are treated to something new and honestly refreshing for the series.
The combat system works like this, similar to Megadimension you have a circle that you can move your character about in. You can attack, use skills, use items and surprisingly, jump. Yes, jump. I’ll come back to that in a second.
The combat is turn based which doesn’t sound all that interesting on paper but the game implements one major mechanic which makes the system very interesting in practice. Basically when your turn begins you are shown a gauge on the right hand side of the screen. This is the action gauge and it is what determines how long your turn will be and how many actions you can perform. At the beginning of your turn it is completely bottomed out however actions like moving and attacking will increase the action gauge. Once the action gauge fills enough to reach the red area you turn is over.
It’s a simple system but how it is implemented makes it incredibly strategic as well. Firstly unlike in previous games when you start a physical attack you are not locked into having to use a physical attack until your turn ends. When you perform a physical attack a bit of your action gauge gets filled back up but as long as it is below the red area you will still be able to attack, use skills and use items along with moving. This small change means that the variety of actions which can be performed in a turn increases dramatically. You’re given the potential to heal an ally and then attack an enemy or use an item followed by a skill. It’s a simple change but one which adds a surprising amount of strategy to the battle system not seen in previous games. There’s even an element of strategy around how much of the action gauge you think you should use before ending your turn because the further into the red zone your action gauge is when your turn ends the longer it will be until that character gets to have their turn again
As for other battle mechanics there’s your ability to jump for starters. It sounds pointless on paper but bear with me. During battles gems will regularly pop up floating in the air which can be picked up to help recover HP and SP. On top of that after you have dealt enough damage to enemies and have filled the fever gauge (which fills when you perform actions on your turn) up on the right of the screen a fever gem will appear in the battle field which can be picked up to activate fever time. Now when fever time is active all characters will receive a slight stat buff, enemies will miss a turn for the duration of fever time and EXE drives will be able to be used. Fever time ends once the fever gauge runs out though which happens as you perform actions during battle.
The important thing to note is that a full fever gauge carries between battles so if you finish a battle with a full fever gauge it will remain full at the start of the next battle. What I’m getting at is SAVE FEVER TIME FOR BOSSES. The stat buff combined with causing the enemy to miss a turn means that fever time is not only great for dishing pain out but also for recovering since the enemy won’t be able to attack as long as fever time is active.
Apart from fever time you also have access to a charge attack which can be used by holding the X button until the action gauge fills up fully. This deals quite a bit of damage but also results in the fever gauge being filled entirely meaning a longer wait until that characters turn rolls around again.
Skills behave somewhat like they do in other Nep titles however each character has a select number of skill slots which can accommodate either an active or passive skill. As the game continues on you’ll be able to expand the number of slots you have access to allowing for more skill equips.
Also noteworthy is the class system which allows you to gain new classes for characters and swap them to change the type of focus that they have in battle. Importantly this also effects their skill pool and the skills that they will learn as they level up.
Overall the new battle system is something I find quite enjoyable. It refreshes the gameplay style that has been present in the Neptunia series for quite a while and it does a good job of making something both new and enjoyable.
Outside of the battle system there are many changes that have been made in places like the overworld. For example IF is far more acrobatic in the game field than Neptune was in previous games. Not only can she jump but she can also climb ladders, run, enter crawl spaces and swing across ropes.
Now on paper this sounds like just a gimmick and I’ll admit I didn’t think much of it at first, however these new skills are actually used quite a lot throughout the course of the game thanks to the larger variety in dungeon design as well as brand new dungeons made specifically for this game.
The addition of new dungeons is quite nice and they’re designed pretty well however even the dungeons that have been recycled from previous games get a revamp treatment with them having different terrain layouts and routes that you can take depending on the era. In one era a part of land may not be accessible but in another era that same dungeon may have a swing rope or ladder placed in order to allow you to make it to this new area.
It’s a simple system but despite that it is an incredible breath of fresh air as it makes the dungeons that are recycled feel quite a bit more fresh instead of just copy pastes from the previous titles. It also allows for IF’s increased dungeon acrobatics to be used more and make them more than just gimmicks present in only the new dungeons.
Also new are collectibles that are present in dungeons. Inside dungeons you can find medals which are scattered all over the place. Now while collecting them all does give you a little message I’m honestly unsure as to what their real purpose is except for getting 100% completion. The same applies to the baseball collectible which are usually tucked away somewhere in the dungeon. These can be given to the robo pitcher back at the grand library but again, I don’t really know what these do per say.
Game progression is mission based. You select a mission and complete the objective listed. Missions however have a time limit on them in the form of a number to the right of the mission on the mission select screen. If this number reaches zero then the mission disappears. Without spoiling anything this system does lead onto an important plot point which the game explains pretty well so I’ll leave that for you to discover.
Overall, Superdimension is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the gameplay department with the new battle system and dungeon actions really making the game quite fun and quite unlike other Neptunia games we have seen before hand.

Graphics and Sound:
Graphically the game does indeed look nice but it is plagued by one problem, performance. Granted the performance issues present in Superdimension are nowhere near as bad as the performance issues present in say, Re;Birth 1 on the Vita (which has one of the most unstable frame rates I have ever seen). In comparison Superdimension is far more stable in terms of being able to hold a frame rate however it does tend to stutter a little bit in some areas. Compared to the earlier Neptunia Vita titles though the performance is far improved so that’s a plus at the very least.
Art wise the character models look quite nice on the field with nice detailed 3d models and smooth animations. Cut-scenes also use the now Neptunia standard Live2D system whereby 2D characters have idle animations that play while in text scenes. I really can’t fault the game much in this area.
In the sound department the music is a mixture of tunes present in previous Neptunia titles and a few brand new tunes which are OK but nothing to really write home about (although the new battle themes and especially the boss theme are pretty darn catchy). On the front of voice acting I played using the English dub and once again I can say that it is another incredible English dub from Idea Factory. Kate Higgins does an amazing job with voice acting IF and the English voice actors they got in for the Sega Hard Girls all do a top notch job as well. A special mention should also be made to the fact that the lip syncing in cutscenes now syncs properly to the English voice track which is something that wasn’t present in previous Neptunia Vita titles.

Superdimension Neptunia VS Sega Hard Girls is an example of a spin off title which does all the right things in order to make it stand on its own as a great game. Out of all of the Neptunia spin off titles, I’d have to say that this is probably the best one in terms of quality. It has a lot of fresh new ideas which it pulls off quite well which is certainly commendable considering the number of games released these days which have great ideas but never really do anything with them (See my last review on MeiQ Labyrinth of Death to learn more about that).
As fun as the game is though I did notice a few issues here and there mainly with the translation. Some tutorials had certain sentences repeated twice while some items had formatting issues that caused the text to go off the edge of the screen. It’s a minor issue but one that is still noticeable non the less. Here’s hoping that Idea Factory release a patch to fix it up sooner rather than later.
Translation bugs aside Superdimension is a fun time and gets a Highly Recommended.

My apologies for the lateness of this review, I’ve had a busy past few weeks and haven’t had much time to really sit down and finish this off. Hopefully this should go up in time for the European release of the time though. As for upcoming Vita titles there’s still a lot coming so stay tuned for more Vita goodness in the coming months!
If you liked this review, please consider contributing to our Patreon! This is BDVR Author Nathan Green signing off.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls releases on the 18th of October in North America and the 21st of October in Europe and Australia.
PEGI: 12