Monday, October 17, 2016

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls (PS Vita) Review

The latest entry in the expansive Neptunia series of games stars IF as the protagonist this time.  In Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls, IF sets off to find a long lost library, meets a new friend in Segami, and the two travel through time to fix whatever has turned the world into a wasteland.  In this strange mix of Groundhog Day and Chrono Trigger, the goddesses will clash with their properly named counterparts.

In dungeons, the game plays similarly to Neptunia ReBirth and its sequels.  You move around a 3D plane, jump up ledges and can attack to get the pre-emptive strike in battle.  This time, there are coins and baseballs to collect...for some reason.  The symbol attacks have been tweaked yet again, meaning returning players have to learn the timing and distance to actual pull them off instead of getting yourself thrown into an ambush (even if you are behind them...sigh).  Anyway, more movement options have been added, with ladders, rope lines and crawl spaces to traverse.  They work fairly well, except for the character's disposition to jump off a ledge if they are close to it, rather than letting you walk to the edge.  The crawl spaces seem more for fan service than any other reason, though.

Battles look very similar to previous entries, but have some big changes.  When a character gets her turn, there is an action gauge that fills up with each action.  Any movement takes a chunk, but you can move as much as you want for the same cost, until you take another action.  Each attack raises the gauge.  There is also a charge attack that sacrifices the rest of the meter for a powerful attack, and the more the meter is filled, the longer it takes for your next turn.  It's not a terribly unique system, but it does work well, and adds some strategy to fights.

SP, used for special attacks and transformations, has to be built up by attacking enemies.  This is a double-edged sword.  On one hand, as long as you are using characters, they can fuel their abilities.  On the other, it doesn't pay to swap characters around a lot, since you will have to slowly build up the SP again.  I ended up just saving the SP to transform during boss fights, with the occasional AoE attack to clean up a normal battle quickly.  Other than that, it just sat there, as normal combos and charge attacks seemed to do the job just fine.

Landing attacks in battle will fill up a Fever meter.  Once it is filled, a special star gem appears on the screen.  If you jump into it, the battle enters Feter Time.  This allows your party to keep taking turns until it runs out, effectively locking the enemy out of doing anything.  This is very important to abuse on bosses, since they are overpowered damage sponges.  Also in Fever Time, your characters can sacrifice a chunk of the meter to use their EXE Drive for a lot of damage.  Fever Time is definitely a nice mechanic, and worth learning to make the bosses less of a pain.

For better or worse, the game is pretty much entirely mission based.  You take a mission, complete it, then turn it in.  Some missions involve dungeons or boss fights, and some are just dialogue.  They do a good job of moving the plot forward.  However, they are timed.  There is a number next to each mission, and every time you do one, the counter goes down by one.  If the counter on a mission runs out, it is destroyed by the Time Eater, which in turn powers it up.  It's actually a well-thought out mechanic, even if I'm not usually fond of time constraints in video games.  While you cannot complete every mission available in time, there is a built-in mechanic to recycle them for you when you run out.  If you have seen Groundhog Day, then you should understand the basic premise: keep trying until you can win.  You still need to make choices about which missions you should complete and which to leave, so there is strategy involved.  Plus, you will want to find time to do the missions for new classes and skill slots.

I was able to get to the final boss of the true ending route in about 21 hours.  I didn't get a chance to complete every mission, and I did have to grind for almost another two hours just to be able to beat the boss.  There is thankfully a very good new game +, which allows you to keep pretty much everything, except access to the characters.  They will retain all their levels and skills, you will just have to re-equip them.  There are a few endings to get, too.  The game didn't feel short, but was short enough that I could see myself going through it again, at least to do all the quests.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is a fun RPG.  I really liked playing through the whole game, save for the grinding to beat most bosses.  The mission structure is fairly non-linear and forgiving.  I actually really liked using some of the new characters, and I'm sad they likely won't be in another game.  Regardless, Neptunia fans and RPG players should check the game out, as prior knowledge of Neptunia and her friends is not required at all to enjoy the story and humorous dialogue.

The Good:
Fun RPG with a fresh take on the Neptunia universe.  Mission structure gives a very fluid feel to the game.

The Bad:
Bosses require grinding to beat most times, even with abusing the Fever mechanic.

The SaHD:
Massive HP bosses that regen health can die in a fire.

(Review code for Superdimension Neptune was provided by the publisher)

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