With the immense number of Neptune games to hit the market, some series fatigue can be forgiven. RPGs, action titles, even a freaking diva management sim have hit the market under the moniker of the franchise. Yet, somehow, I have yet to grow sick of them. This is probably due to the insistence of writing the scenarios and dialogue in the most idiotically self referential way possible. Maybe it’s the novelty of seeing how the developers manage to use the same assets over and over to create different games. No matter the reason, there is a medically questionable space in my heart that allows a level of enjoyment for the games well past what they deserve. Such is the case with Idea Factory, Compile Heart and Felistella’s Superdimension Neptune Vs Sega Hard Girls.
This entry puts IF square in the spotlight as the primary protagonist. The game opens with the heroine speeding across the desolate plains of a world destroyed by war. Her search quickly brings her in contact with Segami, a young woman with, say it with me, amnesia. Not long after that, a place called the Grand Library is discovered. It is here that the adventurer learns that history is not as it should be, with vast swaths completely missing. It is up to Iffy to travel back to different eras and put the timeline right, so that the world may recover. The Sega Hard Girls, anthropomorphized representations of classic Sega consoles, do show up in quick order. Initially, it might seem that their inclusion is ancillary at best, with them taking the place of shops, media collection, and so on. As history is explored, their role in the tale does become larger and larger.
As a set up designed to excuse the reuse of existing dungeons, this is acceptable. There is a sense that the story was created as a reason to pardon what would normally be seen as a ridiculous cash grab, but the game refuses to take itself seriously, and it’s a simple matter to allow one’s self to get snared into the ride. The writing is rife with the trademark fourth wall breaking goofiness and bizarre inside jokes. (Seriously, why has a supposed difficulty to pronounce a word like “Neptune” become a long running talking point of anything?) If people are only looking to confirm that this new Vita title has the same overly sugary charm of the previous titles, they can rest assured: cavities are a guarantee.
It’s not like there are no differences to this iteration. Superdimension has added some light platforming to the proceedings, something that is very welcome to this reader. The existing stages have received a slight reworking to allow for long jumps, rope crossing, and wall climbing. Rendered in a way to avoid mishaps that could occur in the hands of less coordinated players, it serves as a welcome series of interludes from the typical turn based RPG mechanics and longish talking head story segments.
The actual battles have seen a welcome update from the Hyperdimension norm. While still turn based, each player is granted a meter that functions similar to an “Action Points” gauge. Beginning to walk and targeting an enemy begins to fill the meter. Each attack or spell used fills it more The goal is to keep it in the blue or green to allow the next turn to come sooner. Throwing it into the red ends it sooner. So, managing the gauge, doing as much damage as possible while keeping it just a hair away from going into the red field becomes an active, closely watched strategy that helps keep the player engaged in what could otherwise become tedious battles. Adding in small health and special point (mana) refills that require jumping to collect adds a bit more interaction to what could become overly rote.
Some of the reappearing elements can become frustrating, though. For example, the “mission” structure. To progress the story, IF must take missions from the diminutive librarian. As the game goes on, many become optional. Some dull ones, however, are not. For example, one mission that was required tasked the player with collecting four “bits.” No hint as to what enemy drops the item nor a clue as to the region to search isn’t given. Returning players won’t have issues with this, but players enticed by the Sega Hard Girls name will find themselves flummoxed, unsure where to begin the hunt.
Whether or not Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is a recommendation comes down to the individual. Players who can’t get enough of the series are probably only reading this to reinforce a purchase decision that was already made. They can rest assured knowing that this is a worthy entry in the series, giving an enormous dose of the quirk and charm that earned the series its place. Fans who enjoy the series but need a change might want to pass this one up. Some work was done to make it different, but it still smacks of a quickly developed title that uses too much from previous games. Finally, series newcomers should approach carefully. The story and most of the game mechanics are welcoming to a neophyte, and well explained immediately before they are needed, but some online hint searching will become required to complete some simple missions.