Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars Review
- Action RPG
- Dialogue only voiced in JP
- Short game overall ~10 hours for main story
- Very few side content
Neptunia and Senran Kagura are both relatively long-running series with their own spinoffs. The Neptunia games have generally been more RPG focused, while Senran Kagura has been more action focused. Probably expected by no one, these two unrelated series have a crossover game in Ninja Wars. It is, however, more focused on the Neptunia side while mostly featuring the Senran Kagura characters.
For those new to the Neptunia universe, the games revolve around the four Goddesses who are personifications of video game consoles. The original mainline game dealt with the “console wars” and the rivalry between the goddesses. The stories have, since then, revolved around other conflicts within the “video game industry.”
The Senran Kagura series revolves around teenage ninja girls and the ongoing rivalry/conflict with each faction represented by their high schools. That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge on the series.
The plot of the game is a simple one, and takes a lot of elements from the Senran games regarding the various ninja factions and their conflicts with each other. Ninja Wars follows the ninjas of the Compa style (Neptunia) and the Honeypa style (Senran). The two factions have been fighting each other for a long time, trying to conquer the opposing nation. The two sides have been deadlocked throughout their various battles until a new group, the Steeme Legion, makes their appearance and attempts to conquer both sides. The ninjas from the two factions are left with little choice but to join sides against their new enemy.
Despite the seemingly serious premise, the story is quite laid back and full of comedy. The story never really becomes serious, which follows the spirit of the Neptunia games. It remains simple and predictable, but surprisingly entertaining at times. Expect a lot of fourth wall breaking and comedic quips.
The cast includes the four main Neptunia girls, some of the minor Neptunia members, the four Senran Kagura characters and a few original ones. For those familiar with the two series, the main characters are nothing new. They are pretty much identical to how they were originally portrayed—tropey, but strangely amusing at times.
I’m not too familiar with the Senran Kagura characters—compared to the Neptunia side—but here, they aren’t fleshed out and don’t receive any actual character development. They also don’t stand out as much either, despite each of them having their own quirks. The Neptunia girls are just more quirky and exaggerated in comparison.
The original characters including the antagonists from the Steeme Legion have their various quirks which I found entertaining as well. Just like the main characters, don’t expect anything deep from them.
The graphics have always been a weak area for both series. At least compared to the other Neptunia games, the game does look better…slightly. The textures on the character models do look cleaner and not as faded as Neptunia‘s general models. The same applies to the enemies, where even the common Dogoo looks better too.
The map designs are also an improvement. They have more details, decent variety and do an acceptable job hiding the reused assets. They are all still on the linear side, with only a few branching paths that lead to small areas and rooms.
For a game that’s on the very low budget side, the game at least looks better than the standard Neptunia games, but still pales in comparison to other bigger titles.
Composed mostly by Yuki Sugiura, the music takes a lot of cues from traditional Japanese music which fits well with the ninja theme of the game. The music standouts make use of traditional Japanese instruments like the shamisen, koto, and drums in combination with rock elements like guitar. The overall result sounds good in-game and certainly fits with the game’s theme. That said, there are only a few tracks that I would bother to listen to outside of the game. The rest are good, but not that memorable.
The main story is advanced through a world map with a list of locations you can pick. The main objective in each level is usually just to get from Point A to B. Along the way are scattered enemies and treasure chests. You can blitz through a number of sections and avoid the enemies along the way, but a few have locked obstacles which may require beating all of the enemies in it or hitting switches to open them.
You can bring any two characters to battle, but only one character appears on screen at a time. The character that’s in reserve will slowly heal their health during that time, but can be switched back any time.
The combat here is simple to learn and understand. There’s only one attack button which you’ll use a lot for the standard combo chains. There’s also another button for special ninja art skills which consumes part of the stamina gauge. The gauge itself will recover over time as well as when dealing damage. You can even chain multiple ninja arts in succession if you have the stamina for it.
There’s a special EX gauge that fills up throughout the battles. Once it is completely filled, you can unleash the Shinobi Extreme skill which is essentially a flashy super move.
Fuurinkazan Drive is an awakened mode that temporarily buffs characters with various effects depending on which version is chosen. For example, Mountain type is a defensive form that makes it so that you don’t flinch and take no damage from guarding. Fire type is an offensive form that greatly increases attack power at the cost of defense. Forest type prevents any status abnormalities and constantly heals you. Wind type increases stamina recovery and ninja arts skills. Fuurinkazan Drive lasts only for a few seconds, but can be activated at will. The only drawback is that you’re limited to using it five times per level.
Other than the character’s main weapon, you can equip both a shuriken and kunai that that can be thrown at enemies. These are essentially unlimited, but do have their own cooldowns to avoid continuous spam usage.
Despite the simple combat, this isn’t a game where you can mindlessly hack away at the enemies (most of the time). This is in part due to the high recovery frames from the standard combo chains as well as ninja arts. Furthermore, not every hit will stun the enemy, so it’s better to wait for an enemy to finish their attack animation before starting your own. There’s no block or evade cancel here, only cancelling into a ninja art. So once you attack, you have to commit to it. As previously mentioned, you can also dodge enemy attacks, but there are times when simply defending is the more optimal action considering that the damage reduced is significant.
The regular enemies start off simple, but different variations will appear as you get deeper into the game. Not only does their damage increase, but their attack patterns change and are enhanced as well. Some of the larger enemies do present a challenge with their larger health and wider area of attacks, but the true challenges come from the bosses who hit much harder and are mostly resistant to hit-stun.
The battle flow is on the slow side—even slower than a typical Senran Kagura game. It is more methodical and probably won’t appeal to those looking for intense, fast action combat. Instead, people with slow reflexes or who are just not used to high speed action combat might enjoy the slower pace here.
Overall, the game is still on the easier side since you can spam items during battle. The only drawback is that you are limited on how much you can bring, but it’s still not really enough to make the game particularly hard.
PEACHES AND CREAM MEDITATION
This is an optional mini-game that rewards stat buffs upon completion. These stat buffs only last for one stage and the buff amount is dependent on what difficulty level you clear it on. The mini-game involves selecting one character to balance on a rather large peach. Using either motion controls or the controller itself, you have to keep the character balanced as the peach sways left and right until time runs out. You fail if your character falls off.
The game has a decent amount of customization through its spirit gems. These can be obtained from side missions or from enemy drops. The gems themselves are placed into various categories like damage up, defense up, improved drops, etc. Each gem is ranked lv1-10; you can combine two gems of the same rank to get one in the next rank.
Each character has a spirit board where you can slot gems in. You can also gain increased effects based on the formation of linked gems that are the same type. You can even save a few different spirit boards to quickly switch for different situations. Unfortunately, these are only switchable outside of dungeons/levels.
Other than the main story, you can complete optional side missions which reward you with money, weapons, gears or spirit gems. The side missions have no story and they use existing story maps that are often limited in scope. What does change are the enemy placements and various barriers. These missions aren’t particularly noteworthy, but are nice to do when you need a break from the story.
The problem is that these side missions serve as pretty much the only optional content with meat to them.
After clearing the main story, you have access to the Yomi trials which can be quite lengthy. There are nine maps (each with three levels) that are accessible. The mission content is similar to the side mission objectives, but what sets these apart are the significant restrictions.—restrictions like no item use, no ninja art use, no projectile use, constant damage decrease, etc. Some restrictions are more dangerous than others, but overall, require an adjusted approach to clearing these levels which may involve specific spirit gem load-outs. In addition to the restrictions, the enemy damage output (especially bosses) are significantly increased, making it the most challenging part of the game.
Some of the best spirit gems are gotten from these Yomi Trials, so there’s a nice incentive in completing them.
Neptunia spin-off games haven’t been particularly appealing to me compared to the main titles, but Ninja Wars has surprisingly been a fun experience. The story was also entertaining. My main issue is the lack of side content and short story campaign. There’s just isn’t much to do in this game which makes it an easy game to pass the weekend.
Overall though, Ninja Wars is a solid entry for Neptunia fans despite the small Neptunia character count and involvement. Senran Kagura fans may not like it as much due to the Senran Kagura characters taking a backseat to the Neptunia ones, and that combat is slower than their games.