Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars Review
As we enter year five of waiting for the next mainline Neptunia game (that isn't a remake), the spin-offs continue to release like clockwork. For the latest entry, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars, Idea Factory once again tapped the shoulder of Tamsoft to collaborate with Compile Heart on another Neptunia spin-off. Tamsoft has already developed three other spin-off Neptunia titles: Hyperdimension Neptunia Action Unleashed, Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies, and Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. However, this time it would be for a crossover with another series developed by Tamsoft.
Tamsoft is primarily known for their big-breasted-ninja action game series: Senran Kagura. Neptunia has represented Senran Kagura in the past in the form of cameos from the Senran Kagura protagonist Asuka, and a Neptunia character, MarvelousAQL - who shares many traits of Asuka as well as her Japanese voice actor. This crossover seems like a natural fit, given the history of Compile Heart and Tamsoft on the Neptunia series already, and I wanted to see how they would pull it off.
In Gamninjustri, there are multiple countries that train ninjas in different fighting styles. The two biggest countries are Heartland which practices the Compa Style, and Marveland whose ninjas are practitioners of the Honeypa Style. The two nations are rivals, and their ninjas are often fighting one another. During one such encounter their fight is interrupted by the Steeme Legion, an unknown school led by the belligerent Yoh Gamer. Alongside her manager Tetsuko, Yoh Gamer announces that she is starting a great war to determine whose ninja school is the best in the land.
Heartland is represented by the four main Neptunia characters of Neptune/Purple Heart, Noire/Black Heart, Blanc/White Heart, and Vert/Green Heart, while Marveland is represented by the 'leaders' of the four main schools in Senran Kagura: Asuka, Homura, Yumi, and Miyabi. There are two other playable characters: Yuuki, an original character for this game, and a female version of Goh the Crow, a character from the PS2 game Shinobido: Way of the Ninja. Goh has convenient plot amnesia, likely so they can avoid the topic of how she ended up in this game in the first place. My guess is because in Shinobido, Goh is part of the "Asuka Clan", and there just happens to be a character named Asuka in this game. Why not throw Goh in this game just because they can?
As the game was mostly developed by Tamsoft, it features a lot more action elements that the studio is known for. Combat generally comes down to balancing your stamina gauge and skill usage to effectively deal the most damage. Regular attacks fill your stamina gauge, as well as perfect guarding. You have access to a variety of skills, the most prevalent of which are Ninja Arts. These skills are mapped to the L1 and face buttons, and use of part of the stamina gauge. The trick to being successful in combat is utilizing each skill’s special effects. Each one used will cause a "Trigger", which will activate certain effects if the skills are used in a certain order. You might want to start off with a skill that gives "Attack Up", then followed by one that causes "Add Poison" to the enemy, and so on. The Trigger timer only lasts for a few seconds, so you need to manage your stamina gauge and timing to make the best use of them. This simple system keeps combat flowing quickly.
As you can imagine, some characters just feel better to control than others. I've never been a fan of spear weapons in these kinds of action games, especially if they're your standard spear (with a single-tip point). Spears simply don't have big sweeping attacks that you would prefer in an action game when facing off against multiple enemies. So, White Heart quickly found herself at the bottom of my list of characters that I wanted to play as. Meanwhile Homura's Charge skill is a godsend that can strike multiple enemies in a wide sweeping attack that also makes her invulnerable while performing it. There are different Ninja Arts you can get when you level up, so it does help diversify the gameplay with each character. Each character has their own unique quirks, so feel free to play whoever you feel most comfortable with.
As with most Neptunia games, the gameplay is broken up by visual novel story segments that mostly serve to advance the story or just provide some fun back-and-forth dialogue for each of the characters. This is an aspect Neptunia has always done well at, and it's half the charm of the series to its fans. Regardless of who the Neptunia girls cross over with, it's usually a good time. Watching other characters try and keep up with the wacky antics of the Neptunia cast is always fun.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is the second series game in a row without an English dub. My guess for the lack of an English dub here is the fact that the Senran Kagura games have never had one. However, all of the Japanese voice actors return to voice their respective characters, so if you've played the Senran Kagura games or the Neptunia games in Japanese, you won't feel like anything is missing. There's even a joke or two about Homura considering Noire to be her big sister, which is something of a meta-joke, given that Noire's younger sister Uni shares the same Japanese voice actress as Homura. For those concerned the next game in the series should hopefully act as a true indicator on what Idea Factory’s stance is on English dubs going forward.
Reflecting back on the series' now ten-year history in the West, Tamsoft has made the best Neptunia spin-offs. Much like the other Tamsoft spin-offs, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is nothing special, but it's also not a poor game outright. It's a decent action game without a lot of depth, but its simplicity allows it to be fun in small bursts. Neptunia and Senran Kagura fans will most likely find this game an enjoyable addition to the family of both series. I played on PlayStation 4, but the game is also coming to Nintendo Switch and PC next year, so even more fans will be able to check the game out.