Hyperdimension Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls Import Impressions

The Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls logo

Recently I imported the latest Neptunia side game, called Super Dimension War Neptunia VS Sega Hard Girls Dream of Coalescence Special AKA Cho Jigen Taisen Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls Yume no Gattai Special AKA 超次元大戦 ネプテューヌVSセガハードガールズ 夢の合体スペシャル

AKA We’re just calling it Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls okay. I’ve been enjoying it and thought I’d write up a post about the highs and lows so far.

If you’re interested in watching gameplay, I have 6 hours of video from livestreams on my Youtube channel, you can find the first Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls stream here and the second livestream archive here. That should give you a pretty clear look at the start of the game. I’m also working on a guide for the game I’ll publish soon.

As this is an “import impressions” post, note that I have not fully completed the game (I have played about 10 hours and I would approximate possibly half the game) and I may not properly understand all aspects of the game as it is in Japanese. I do not speak Japanese so I play these games via a combination of Google Translate, trial and error, dumb luck and Determination. If I say something is missing it’s possible I just haven’t seen it, and I may miss otherwise obvious hints in UI text/etc that would have prevented me from making certain mistakes.

Also note the game released last week in Japan–there’s a possibility there will be some patches. Neptunia Victory II actually got quite a few patches to address issues and improve a few things.

Characters and Story

 

Key art from the official site
Key art from the official site

Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls is a turn-based RPG developed by Felistella (creator of the Neptunia Re;Birth remakes) obviously made as a crossover between Sega Hard Girls.

The game features IF (Idea Factory’s mascot), Sega Hatsune (referred to casually as “Segami”, a Sega representative created by Idea Factory), the four main Sega Hard Girls (MegaDrive, Saturn, Game Gear and Dreamcast) and their Neptunia counterparts (Plutia, Neptune, Nepgear and Uzume Uranus respectively). Note that Neptune isn’t exactly a Saturn analog but rather a non-existent 7th gen Sega console but close enough, right?

Our ragtag band of surprisingly attractive hardware and company surrogates.
Our ragtag band of surprisingly attractive hardware and company surrogates.

The story is basically history is being erased but Histoire seems to be immune to such events or is able to reset time anyway. So you must travel to different eras of time and…met the Sega Hard girls and their corresponding Neptunia CPUs…for some reason. I don’t understand everything, but you travel between eras and meet the CPUs/SeHa girls along the way. There’s been a lot of dialog but it’s mostly personal interactions I haven’t bothered translating. Story is usually the hardest part to glean from an import.

The way the new characters were integrated is a bit odd; basically IF and Sega Hatsune are the only “real” characters, and the rest are “copies” created by Segami and can’t be used as party leaders and don’t seem to have access to the class system IF and Segami have either. Segami can also transform (using 20% of max SP) into one of the Sega Hard Girls at will in order to instantly change her style of play in battle. This can also let you use two of the same Sega Hard Girl–I actually fought Real Saturn with Copy Saturn and Segami Saturn just for maximum confusion.

You can make a party of anyone you like except either IF or Segami must be in your party, so you can’t use all 4 Hard girls (or all 4 CPUs) at once, kind of an annoying restriction. There’s also no “switch” feature in this game which made the battle party limit a bit more tolerable in most Neptunia games. Personally I wouldn’t mind being able to use a party full of “copies” even if it meant that IF/Segami still have to visually lead the party.

There is, predictably, a massive degree of Sega fanservice (even moreso than usual in a Neptunia game), and even though the “main squad” of MegaDrive, Saturn, Game Gear, and Dreamcast are the only playable Sega Hard Girls, at base you’ll see many of the more obscure consoles’ representatives pop up to deliver quips via the game’s “chirper” interface (a twitter analog mainly used to deliver jokes or game advice). As an english speaker I surely missed a great deal of the references in the game, but many are apparent just from visuals/themes/etc.

Wise from your gwave
Wise from your gwave

Among the Sega references I’ve noticed are the very Altered Beast looking MegaDrive era, the Time Devourer (basically an amalgamation of Perfect Chaos from Sonic Adventure, the Bio Lizard from Sonic Adventure 2 with a little bit of Biollante in there), and a location that’s apparently a reference to some famous Sega arcade or something (my livestream chat noticed this, not me. Honestly, I’m not a huge Sega fan though I had a Dreamcast and Genesis).

Gameplay

Swinging, jumping, crawling and climbing let you traverse maps.
Swinging, jumping, crawling and climbing let you traverse maps.

Possibly the reason only IF/Segami can lead the party is there’s lots of new movement options on the map (and thus a lot more to animate): IF and Sega can climb walls, run, take running leaps to reach higher, crawl though tight spaces, and swing across conveniently placed ropes to explore. Most maps allow access to extra areas by using these methods, and there’s lots of medals floating around to be collected by completionists. Moving around the maps is a lot more fun now with these additions, and collecting all medals is oddly satisfying.

There’s also respawning destructible objects that drop items, including cosmetics and weapons for the characters that match the present era, non-respawning Mario style Coin blocks with items in them hidden on each map in lieu of the awful Scanning system from old Nep games, and a baseball hidden in each map. One of the SeHa girls seems to be a baseball machine, TBH I’m not sure what’s up with that.

Gotta go fast.
Gotta go fast.

The way the general game works is you get Missions back at home base (Histoire’s library–I’m surprised it took her this long to have a library come to think of it). History is under attack by a massive creature called the Time Devourer, and you can visit each Sega Hard Girl’s “generation” and see maps in different states depending on the time period.

My Great Capture Screen Shot 2015-11-30 07-34-14
The vibrant Virtua Forest of the past.
The desolate Virtua Forest of the future.
The desolate Virtua Forest of the future.

It’s all deliberately very Chrono Trigger, to the point that Dreamcast’s era looks a lot like the future era in Chrono Trigger. Considering Sega Hard girls are based off Sega’s Hardware which stopped existing mid Dreamcast era…it’s kind of implied the Apocalypse/Day of Lavos is in fact, Sega’s exit from the console business. I’m kinda surprised Sega let themselves be burned that hard.

My Great Capture Screen Shot 2015-11-30 07-33-18
Day of Lavos, January 31, 2001.

Much like Chrono Trigger, after a certain point you can challenge the final boss at any time, though you’re probably going to still want to finish the story anyway if you want a chance in hell of winning.

Combat gameplay is turn based with Neptunia/Quest 64 style movement/positioning on your turn, though there’s now a “turn gauge” that fills with each action. Each action you take also adds to your turn delay (Neptunia has always used a variant of the delay-based turn system from Final Fantasy X). This results in a surprisingly strategic process as you try to take out enemies without filling your turn gauge completely or unleash “charge” attacks that use the whole rest of your gauge for extra damage (and major delay).

While there are new enemy types, a majority of them will be familiar to Neptunia diehards.
While there are new enemy types, a majority of them will be familiar to Neptunia diehards.

A second gauge called FEVER fills up as you hit enemies, acting sort of like a Limit Break deal. Once it fills a rainbow star item appears and you can go into FEVER state, where enemies don’t get turns, your stats are buffed by 10%, and you can perform EXE skills. Fever reduces bit by bit every action you take in the state, and the fever gauge is maintained between battles so you can charge it up before bosses.

SP works sort of like it does in Mk2 and Rebirth 3–you have a max of 1000 SP, not restored at save points/base, but it’s preserved between battles and rises for each normal attack you land. I’m not a huge fan of this system as it causes me to be very cautious about SP use. As always you can use SP chargers to get SP out of battle, but they’re uncommon early on.

Graphics and Performance

The game is clearly running on the same engine as the Neptunia ReBirth series, making use of some of the same maps and models. Visually speaking it’s no more or less impressive than the other Neptunia Vita games; characters look good and clear though poly count is visibly a bit low in some areas . Most characters have a nice toon-shaded outline with either black, grey,white or no outline–it actually looks rather good. Framerate is mostly solid 30 FPS, though the game fails to lead with it’s best foot forward–the very first tutorial map has the worst performance I’ve seen in the game so far.

As usual, the character models are by far the best graphical assets. Also, optional bunny ears.
As usual, the character models are by far the best graphical assets. Also, optional bunny ears.

Note all the screenshots in this post are taken from a PS TV, which is 544p upscaled to 720p–on a PS Vita the images will be cleaner.

I will say that, frankly, Tsunako’s art for the Sega Hard girls looks a lot better than the official SeHa art, and I even prefer how the ingame 3D models look (even realtime rendered at a lower resolution) than the models from the show. it’s to be expected though, it’s hard to beat Tsunako.

Image from the Japanese website for Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls
Image from the Japanese website for Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls

Cosmetic customization is pretty limited, and I have to suspect the Sega Hard Girls are most of the reason why–so far none of them have had cosmetic items nor weapons that differ visually. I suspect they are meant to stay “on-model”. The Neptunia characters (less Segami) have some cosmetic items from prior games, but oddly all weapon models have still been the same so far. On the plus side, cosmetic items are relatively cheap and are found for free in destructible items on occasion.

Polish

The game reuses assets from prior games as one might expect, and frustratingly it’s oddly limited in its reuse, reusing certain monsters and maps many times, but not making use of any palette swaps (that already exist from the mainline games) and also not reusing a great deal of different enemies.

On the plus side some of the map reuse is done to show different versions (past, future, present) of the same maps as shown above. Unfortunately it’s mostly reused maps that get these treatments, so even though I was really excited to see an aged, dead Virtua Forest, I was still pretty unimpressed by seeing plain old normal Virtua Forest.

Even a change like the cooled lava on this old map can help break the monotony, but it's done a bit too rarely.
Even a change like the cooled lava on this old map can help break the monotony, but it’s done a bit too rarely.

Since climbing, running and jumping have been added, several reused maps have been edited to now integrate those new features and are actually a lot more fun to get around in now. The map movement features are something I really hope the mainline games integrate.

I’ll note here that it really seems like Felistella and the main game team don’t communicate as much as they should, with several improvements in the Rebirth series or Victory II not being reflected in the other. The same is true here with a few niceties of Victory II being absent, such as the markings right on the map to show you where Quest target enemies are. The polish of both main and side series takes a bit of a dip as a result, as some nice fine polishing one game makes is seemingly ignored by the other team.

Music

Music-wise, I will admit I’m disappointed so far. The Opening theme is probably the weakest to ever grace a Neptunia title and all the new music sounds…different. Lots of orchestral stuff and it’s just not as good as I expect from a Neptunia title’s music, even as a side game. The new music isn’t especially bad, but it’s still a low point in the series for music.

Also speaking of improper reuse, the amazing Lava Cave music from Neptunia Mk2 is totally missing, and the lava caves in this game use a less-awesome theme from a different location. Disappointing.

Considering Sega’s often known for great music (Sonic, Jet Set) I would have liked a bit more.

Conclusion

All in all, Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls is solid but feels very experimental, and it still has that feeling that Compile Heart doesn’t really understand how popular/valuable Neptunia is at this point.

The core here is great but some fairly low-effort polish passes and better/more varied use of old assets would go a long way to making the game feel and present better. It may be a side game, but with the Sega Hard Girls tie-in it’s likely this game will be quite a few people’s first experience with Neptunia, so refusing to use (good) past assets is extra odd. Many people might not even know the assets are reused but they’d still add a lot more variety, whether you recognize the assets or not.

For me the biggest question is always the humor value, which I expect the game to deliver on but I’ll personally need a localized copy to properly judge that. From what I can tell the game seems to have the same sense of humor as always (which should be at least half of your buying decision on a Neptunia game IMO).

Should I import it?

Well, the game is very playable for an RPG though you’ll need to bust out Google Translate for images on your phone a few times and might be confused by some quest requirements. There’s probably at least a 90% chance this game is localized though so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a super fan or want the nice limited edition.

The Sega Hard Girls licensing is the only reason I would even slightly question the possibility of a localization. As you’re hopefully aware, Sega isn’t especially known for their timely and aware localizations. Hopefully the wealthy and knowledgeable Compile Heart being the publisher rather than the poor and inexperienced Sega means the game has a better chance of being localized*.

*Massive sarcasm warning because someone will surely not get the joke.

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Author: Sir TapTap

Opinionated gaming spikeball dedicated to showing cool games and making games more enjoyable for everyone.