Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars Review
Our Score: 8.5/10
Our review of this game will contain NO SPOILERS. I will explain a synopsis of the plot and I’ll only reveal what happens in the first hour of the game. I’ll also explain game mechanics unlocked later in the game and show early custom graphics (CGs), but I won’t be spoiling any plot events and none of the CGs will include spoilers.
This game is a collaboration between the developers of the Neptunia franchise and the developers of the Senran Kagura franchise. The game is set in feudal Japan in a new fictional land, called Gamninjustri. The Neptunia games were actually set in Gamindustri, a reference to the phrase “video games industry”, but now the developers have made a pun on the name by putting the word “ninja” in it.
Two major countries in Gamninjustri include Heartland and Marveland, the latter being a reference to the company Marvelous. These two countries are at war with each other, and they each have a team on each side: the four Neptunia girls and the four Senran Kagura girls.
Like a martial artist school, these two groups have their own fighting Styles in the lore of the game. The Neptunia girls in Heartland, comprised of Neptune, Blanc, Vert, and Noire, are referred to as the 4 Ninja Goddesses who follow the Compa Style. They are led by the Daimyo Histoire. The other team in Marveland has the four school leaders in Senran Kagura (Homura, Asuka, Yumi, and Miyabi), who are called the Honeypa Shinobi in this game.
Shares are also present in this game, which represents how well the public favors the 4 Ninja Goddesses. In this game the shares are called Share Crystals, which has been seen before in some of the Neptunia games.
In the beginning of the game, the Neptunia and Senran Kagura girls are about to fight, when new enemies from the Steeme Legion and the Headshot Style appear. The Neptunia and Senran Kagura girls decide to work together to defeat these new enemies before continuing their fight with each other.
The Senran Kagura girls are still drawn in their regular style and don’t look out of place in this game at all. The Neptunia girls have also gotten a redesign, and their outfits now resemble the wardrobes of what was worn in Feudal Japan.
For instance, most of the girls have “obi”, or Japanese sashes on their outfits, which I found fascinating. They don’t necessarily have kimonos or yukata though, they generally still have skirts, so it feels like a blend between old and new fashion styles. Instead of D-pads in her hair, Neptunia now has flowers in her hair. The characters are not just limited to regular ninjas either. Compa appears as a ninja medic, while IF appears as a shrine maiden.
The backgrounds during cutscenes also match the setting of the game, with many castles, mountains, and temples being shown, with detailed exteriors and interiors. There are many references to real-life landmarks as well, such as the game using the fictional location Mount Fugi, a reference to Mount Fuji.
I’ve played through the games of both franchises and I don’t believe you need to have played either the Neptunia games or the Senran Kagura games to enjoy this game. This is because early on you’ll get an exposition from Neptune about all of the characters in the game after the first battle scene, which is very useful if you’ve never played the games and you’re not familiar with who the characters are.
At the same time, if you’ve already played Neptunia and Senran Kagura games, the characters stay true to their traits without detracting from the plot of the game. For instance, Noire will still be a tsundere archetype character (tsundere meaning that she acts mean to her friends, but is actually a very friendly person deep down). As well, Compa will always end her sentences with the word “desu” (roughly translated to “isn’t it?” in Japanese), and Vert will always want a younger sister and especially enjoys meeting characters who are of a little sister (or “imouto”) archetype.
As for the other team of girls, the Senran Kagura girls have their personalities retained as well, such as Homura, who is still a part-timer who loves eating meat out of any kind of food.
They’re all the same loveable cast of characters, and the banter in cutscenes between the four sisters and the four Senran Kagura girls really carries the plot well, breaks up the tedium of the action gameplay, and had me laughing quite often.
The storyline is not extremely serious and appears to be non-canon, but it’s still good fun and they still put effort into the story to give you a balance of story and gameplay instead of making you just fight enemies all the time. If you did play Neptunia or Senran Kagura games before this title though, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the game even more for it because of all the extra references you’ll get, but these references are not crucial for understanding the plot of the game.
The main characters you’ll play as are the four Neptunia girls and the four Senran Kagura girls, but without spoiling there are several other characters you’ll meet along the way, both in the form of playable and non-playable characters.
The cutscenes used throughout the game are shown in the same way as in both Senran Kagura and Neptunia. They are done in a visual novel style, with 2D character portraits completely voiced in Japanese for all of the story cutscenes, but all the scenes are translated with English text you can read along. At certain points in the game you’ll also see custom graphics, or CGs, which are detailed drawings of scenes occurring.
The 2D models during cutscenes still blink and have a wide variety of expressions, but they don’t “breathe” like in Neptunia games, though that’s only a small drawback. The sisters of the Neptunia girls are not featured in the story of this title except for optional one-liners. No other Senran Kagura girls except the four house leaders are in this game either.
The game features a very convenient automatic dialogue advance option, so you can relax as you watch the cutscenes unfold. The English localization of the game was handled very well because I can understand the cutscenes perfectly and the translation flows very naturally with no typos or awkward phrasing.
When you begin the game, there are mandatory story cutscenes and a battle to ease you into the combat system. Afterwards, you’ll get access to the game’s menus, where you can choose several different destinations.
In your Base you can customize your characters’ equipment including their shuriken, charms, and you can also change which ninja art skills they have equipped. You can also manually save your game in the menus, though the game will autosave frequently as well.
In the Shop you can purchase consumable items to help you during missions which includes healing items, stat buffing items, or even items to let you escape from battles. You get currency from completing the story missions or from completing optional requests. You can also buy equipment at the shop as well as spirit gems, which we’ll explain soon.
The World Map has all the stages you can go through, stylized as different places you can go to like in the Neptunia series. As you progress through the game you will unlock more dungeons to go through, and the designs of the dungeons vary significantly from forest to airship themed levels.
The gameplay is extremely similar to the combat found in Senran Kagura, which is musou-style. If you’re not familiar with the term “musou”, it’s an action game where your protagonist is a powerful character, who can easily defeat dozens of enemies at once. Some antagonists and enemies in this game reappear from the Neptunia series, and enemies include dogoos and the nyan cat enemies to list a few.
Though this game isn’t a traditional JRPG like a Neptunia game, this game still has many elements of a JRPG such as gaining experience from defeating enemies and bosses to level up your characters. As your characters level up, they will unlock more skills they can equip and they will increase their stats from leveling.
The gameplay certainly isn’t as fast or hectic as the harder difficulties of Senran Kagura, and this crossover title is very approachable for newcomers who are not familiar with musou or action games.
Although I’d categorize it as a musou game, the levels in this game don’t have too many enemies at once. Usually your character will be facing less than a dozen enemies in a spot on the map. The levels do have mini-bosses and bosses, but they don’t necessarily have bases you need to capture as you would see in a typical musou game.
The levels in this game are stylized like levels in Neptunia. For instance, one of the earliest places you explore is a forest. Your objectives don’t involve defending or capturing bases as in a typical musou and there is no time limit for completing most missions. Instead, you explore it as you would in a JRPG and fight sub-bosses and the main boss to progress the story. To contrast, in Senran Kagura the levels would usually involve going to an opponent’s school and fighting other teams of characters.
The game is also very generous and has Access Points, which will let you heal your characters completely and will serve as a checkpoint in case you get a game over, and are typically found before most sub-bosses and bosses. This is a lot better than older Neptunia games, where you had to be very careful before approaching an exclamation point because you could lose a significant amount of progress from a difficult boss you weren’t expecting.
Although you have many playable characters, when you go into a level you only need a main character and your partner character, who is treated as a reserve character.
You can switch between these two characters at any time during a stage as often as you’d like, even during a combo, and the character in reserve can heal to up to half of their maximum health. If you run out of items, you can still beat a level by strategically switching your characters when your health is low.
The levels in the game are not complicated at all. Sometimes you will encounter barriers, but through either defeating the nearby enemies or by activating a statue you can remove these barriers. The game differentiates between yellow barriers, which can be removed, and red barriers, which cannot be removed. If you want to explore an area past a red barrier, you may need to return to the level later or do a side request that has access to that area.
There are treasures you can find throughout these levels as well, which you can either open normally or open with a Stealth Key. Stealth Keys are either dropped by enemies or purchased at the shop. I never found myself buying equipment at the shop because the treasures contained good equipment that I’d use on my characters. I bought Stealth Keys early on, but later on the game rewarded me with dozens of them by completing side requests.
The bosses found throughout the stages are not hard at all. In general you’ll want to block when the enemy is attacking, and often their moves are telegraphed well in advance for you to react. As well, you don’t want to get too greedy when you’re attacking, and you’ll need to dodge certain attacks that cannot be blocked.
All bosses will have a Guard meter, which will cause the boss to become stunned for a few seconds when depleted. You can build up an Extreme gauge on each character, to unleash a very powerful multi-hitting attack on all the enemies in front of you. There’s also the Fuurinkazen Drive, which changes your character’s properties depending on the element used. For instance, Fire Fuurinkazen for example will increase your attack, but decrease your defense as a drawback.
Fuurinkazen Drive can only be used 5 times per character per level (essentially 10 times per level), which is more than reasonable because the stages are not typically lengthy. Hitting enemies and bosses from behind will also increase the damage your character deals. There are also items that can give temporary buffs, and sometimes they will stack with Fuurinkazen Drive.
My go-to technique was to strategically stun the boss by depleting their Guard meter, make sure my character was behind them, activate Fire Fuurinkazen Drive, use an item to increase my attack power, and then unleash an Extreme attack, dealing massive damage to bosses. If you had the Extreme gauge filled with both characters and you’re fast enough, you can even switch characters and do this all a second time.
Bosses in this game often look intimidating because they have multiple health bars, but with simple strategies and combos, as well as plenty of healing items, it’s really not bad at all, and I found myself knocking off several health bars at once in a combo.
This game uses spirit gems to help add buffs to your team of characters. These are gems with many different kinds of bonuses such as 1% extra attack power to Yokai-type enemies or 1% extra experience from Steeme-type enemies, just to name a few examples, and you get them from either the shop or from enemies as dropped items.
You place these gems onto the spirit gem board, and by lining them up in lines, squares, or crosses, you can increase their effect even further. You can only put five of a type of gem onto the board at once, so once you have too many gems you can synthesize multiples of them into higher-level gems, such as turning 3 level-1 gems into 1 level-2 gem which has a stronger % effect. Early on, the spirit gem board for your characters is very limited, but as your characters level up more of the board will become unlocked for you to fill out.
Although it sounds complicated, it’s really not, and these gems are thankfully shared between all your characters. In other words, you can use the same gem on all characters’ board if you have a really good gem that would go along with all of your characters.
If you don’t want to deal with placing spirit gems, the game has a very convenient “auto” option to automatically set gems of whichever type you want. You can also “call up” the board to quickly remove all gems currently placed on the board, and you can also save presets for boards as well.
I noticed that different levels in the game would usually have either mostly Yokai enemies (meaning demon-style enemies, which I found more often in forests), or mostly Steeme enemies (meaning mechanical and soldier-style enemies, which I’d find more of in an airship-style level), so I’d save and load my spirit gem presets easily depending on the situation I was entering.
After a few chapters into the game, you’ll unlock the Kumotsu Shrine, where you can meet the shrine maiden IF and ninja medic Compa. You can view CGs at your leisure as well as re-watch cutscene events you’ve already seen. You can also complete optional requests on the board in the shrine, which are just optional sidequests.
These requests are performed in the same levels found in main mission but with different enemies, and you’ll get experience for defeating enemies and rewards such as items and currency. Some of these requests will also have you defeat rare Gold Dogoos, which will give you plenty of extra experience.
These sidequests are generic and have no cutscenes, but it serves as a nice opportunity to gain extra levels and practice combos with characters. These requests will also feature different configurations of the levels that may not have red barriers encountered in the story missions, so you can complete these requests to obtain treasure chests that were unobtainable during the main story missions. Although some requests disappear upon completion, you can complete most of them repeatedly if you want to grind for levels. I was able to complete the game after completing most of the requests only once, without the need for grinding.
Another feature unlocked after the first chapter is Ninchat. It lets you see optional cutscenes in each chapter, which helps flesh out the lore of the world. There are also characters who will have a line of dialogue, and they will give out gifts or sidequests on the request board. It’s the same as optional cutscenes in Neptunia, which had NPCs on the world map that would give a line of dialogue and generally give gifts or requests.
A lot of these Ninchats have funny references to other video game series, such as a blond ninja named Soruto eating ramen being a reference to Boruto, as well as references to the Cyborg Ninja from Metal Gear Solid and Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden to name a few. It’s worth noting that if you fail a request and it disappears, you’ll want to talk to the NPC in Ninchat again to be offered the request again, so the Playstation trophy for completing all requests is not actually missable though it may look like it is.
The story took me 20 hours to beat with all optional requests finished, but your playtime may vary depending on how much optional content you pursue such as completing requests and getting optional treasure chests, as well as how good you are at the game. It may be possible to beat the game in 10 hours or so if you rush through the story without doing any optional requests.
There’s also a post-game unlocked upon completing the game, which features more requests being added as well as the Yomi Training mode, which has you complete stages in succession with the hardest enemies in the game. The post-game doesn’t have significant story content, it just adds extra gameplay to challenge yourself.
The soundtrack actually feels like a mix between Neptunia and Senran Kagura. Many of the tracks use Neptunia’s techno sounding instruments, but the way it’s played sounds like music you’d find in Feudal Japan.
One of my favorite tracks in the game is in the Peaches and Cream Meditation Training minigame, where you balance a character of your choice on a peach using the Dualshock’s motion controls to get battle bonuses. That track features beautiful Japanese vocals and instruments that really sounds like folk music you’d hear in Feudal Japan.
Overall, the game was a very pleasant experience. You can get into it perfectly fine if you don’t know about either franchises, but if you’re a fan of either or both you’ll definitely have a good time.
Even though the story is not too serious and feels non-canon, the dialogue always had me laughing and the banter between the Neptunia and Senran Kagura characters was handled very well and their characters would act the same as they would in their respective franchises.
The gameplay is not difficult nor grindy, is very addicting, and the game is also very approachable with full heals and checkpoints before bosses as well. The artwork and CGs are all very well-made too. It’s not the most graphically impressive game, but for its scope it does a very good job of being a fun game and the 2D character art is very well-made.