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July 2022

Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: May 11, 2022


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PC Review - 'Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars'

by Cody Medellin on May 5, 2022 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a crossover action RPG where, once enemies, the nations of Heartland and Marveland must forces to defeat the invading mechanical ninja army!

Buy Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars

The Hyperdimension Neptunia series premiered in 2010 on the PS3 by Idea Factory and Compile Heart. The Senran Kagura series made its debut on the Nintendo 3DS in 2011 by Marvelous. Despite the obvious differences, people tend to associate both games with one another. Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars feels like an inevitable crossover. As is customary, the game debuted on the PS4 in 2021, and after a pit stop on the Switch last month, it finally made its way to the PC.

Like a number of the Neptunia spin-offs, this one doesn't take place in Gameindustri. In the land of Gamninjustri, two countries have been at war for close to a century. The ninja of Heartland practice the Compa style, while Marveland houses those who practice the Honeypa style. One night, as another fight is set to commence, an airship fires cannons at the castle of Heartland before deploying robot ninjas. A new entity known as the Steeme Legion has entered the fight with the duo of Yoh gamer and Tatsuko determined to put everyone under their rule. Setting aside their differences for now, the Honeypa and Compa schools join forces to take down this new threat.

Fans of the Neptunia games know that the story is fine but not spectacular. The characters and the dialogue are the highlight. There's a brief explanation of each of the goddesses and their personalities as told by Neptune breaking the fourth wall again, so even those coming in for the first time can get up to speed. Longtime fans will find that no one has really changed. Neptune is still the goofy protagonist, Vert remains the ever-affectionate big sister, etc. Most of the stuff is silly and designed for laughs, and it works in keeping people engaged to see what comes next.

That praise can only be given to the Neptunia cast as well as the new characters created for this adventure. If you're more of a fan of the Senran Kagura franchise, you'll come away slightly disappointed. To be fair, the cast of Senran Kagura is vast, and the decision to choose four of the shinobi from warring clans (Asuka from Hanzo Academy, Homura from Homura Crimson Squad, Yumi from Gessen Girls' Academy, and Miyabi from Hebijo Clandestine Girls' Academy) means that it'll feel strange for longtime fans, who expect tension among the group. The personalities are only briefly touched upon, and each acts as observers of the Neptunia cast's antics.

There's a decided lack of fanservice in Ninja Wars. This hasn't been present in the Neptunia series for a while, but Senran Kagura fans will notice that everything is rather tame. Characters still have large breasts that jiggle in combat, but the amount of bounce has been toned down. Special attacks focus on the flashiness of the attack minus gratuitous shots, and cut scenes have also been toned down to match the game's "Teen" rating. You can chalk it up to Sony's newfound stance on issues of this nature, or an indication that the Neptunia team was more in charge so this entry had to match those standards. Of all of the games in Marvelous' shinobi series, Ninja Wars is the one you could show non-fans without getting too many questions.

The gameplay can be split into two distinct types. The cut scenes take on a visual novel flavor; you get large portraits of the characters speaking, each one in various poses to display emotions. It isn't as involved, as you don't use these moments to make choices that can change the direction of the narrative, but they catch your attention. Both the Senran Kagura and Neptunia games have used visual novel cut scenes to tell their tales before, but it feels more pronounced here. Finish the game, and you can safely say that half of what you went through was a cut scene in this style. Unlike the other Neptunia games, there isn't much in the way of animations. You see mouth movements but no body sway, which is a tad disappointing for those who loved those extra touches. It is rather telling that the game features the ability to progress through the dialogue, fast forward it all, or outright skip it. That's a boon for those that want to get to the action.

Before you get into the fights, you must first explore an overworld system that's reminiscent of the mainline Neptunia RPGs. Everything from town exploration to entering a new dungeon is menu-based, which makes things go quicker when you're shopping or changing out orbs and talismans for your characters. Chatting with villagers is also done here, and while some of the stuff is fluff, other chats go into full-blown visual novel territory, regardless of whether the dialogue is essential.

Getting into actual gameplay places you in dungeons similar to Neptunia; they're decently sized with only a few branching paths. The fighting is closer to Senran Kagura, as you have a basic attack that can be chained with kunai or shurikens for combos. You can pull off super moves with your special meter, and you can also use jutsus that start with basic attacks but can be chained to deliver bonus effects, like poison damage or a quick defensive buff. There's some depth to the combat, as you can easily wipe out enemies with a well-placed combo, but button mashers will still feel at home. As a bonus, the game uses a tag system where you can switch out protagonists mid-fight to deliver combos and have someone heal up. Neither series has ever had this feature.

The combat system works despite its simplicity, thanks to how quickly you can bust out your moves. Everyone in the party levels up without being in a fight, so there's no need to grind whenever you switch party members. It isn't perfect, though. The number of enemies present on-screen during any fight have been toned down, so you're getting fewer monsters to work with. The lock-on system works decently some of the time, but the camera often hides a few enemies that are willing to take potshots, so you'll occasionally be surprised that your combo is broken by a stray attack.

More disappointing is the fact that the roster of enemies is decidedly small and most of them stand around waiting to get hit. The behavior is the same as in the Senran Kagura series, some of the Neptunia spin-offs, and the Musou series as a whole, but it's overlooked because of the sheer number of foes you face at once. With the numbers being reduced here, the lack of intelligence is more apparent and can sap away the excitement of busting out a multi-hit combo in a fight.

The campaign clocks in at around seven hours, which can be considered short. For those seeking to extend the experience, there are a countless number of missions you can take from the shrine goddess IF to receive some good rewards, but it really is just you revisiting old levels with new objectives, like eliminating a certain number of a certain enemy type. You also have a minigame that requires trying to stay balanced on a giant peach in a lake for as long as possible while matching positions for bonus stat upgrades. It's decent, but the analog triggers on a controller (not the analog stick) aren't intuitive. Having to pay to participate also takes away incentive from frugal players.

There are a few advantages to the PC version, but they've been the same ones that fans have enjoyed on the platform for a while. 4K support is in, and the system requirements to run the game at a level equal to either the Switch or PS4 versions are quite low. Loading times are also quick enough that you'll barely have a chance to read the text in the loading screens; that's a rarity on the other platforms.

However, one issue makes this much worse than either console port: the crashing. You can't go for any longer than 90 minutes without encountering a crash that returns you to the desktop. Those crashes always occur during cut scenes, and when you consider how long those scenes are, it's a gamble about whether you have an autosave that'll skip most of it. Trying to manually skip cut scenes is imprecise, since they aren't always divided by every black screen transition. The game time ends up being unintentionally longer because of how much stuff you have to repeat. We've pointed this out in our preview of the game earlier, and it bears repeating that this needs a fix ASAP.

The series has always had a good showing on the PC in terms of presentation, and Ninja Wars is no different. The characters still have a distinct anime look, but with more details as the costumes have more flowing elements when you move. The animation is slick, and the environments are well done with nary a smudged texture. It isn't exactly a high-end masterpiece, but the look is clean, and the solid frame rate never dips. As far as audio goes, the music is nice and the vocal performances are on point. There's no English track here, but you'll only mind that omission if you want all of your cut scenes without text or a heads-up display.

At best, Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is strictly for fans. The combat is good, but the lack of major enemy intelligence and variety dulls any fun one can have. The game is brimming with visual novel-style cut scenes, and the characterization is great, but the emphasis on Neptunia characters can be disappointing for those who want more of the Senran Kagura girls. The constant crashing during cut scenes makes the whole affair messy, and it needs some patches to address this before we can recommend it.

Score: 5.5/10

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