What a time to be alive.
Let me get the obvious out of the way first: If you’re a fan of Neptunia games, you’re probably also a fan of the Senran Kagura games, and vice versa. Both are similarly tongue-in-cheek, both are franchises where the localization takes center stage, and both feature a wellspring of Grade A Waifu. The Neptunia series is mostly known for its RPGs—two are on Switch—but it’s branched into other genres as well, including a dating sim, tactical RPG, musou, multiplayer action, and bullet hell shooter. The Neptunia Goddesses have also crossed over with the SEGA Hard Girls and Azure Lane. Senran Kagura is a bit more conservative—gameplay-wise—as most of the games involve musou-style action, but they have branched out into genres like rhythm, third-person shooter, pinball, and…whatever Reflexions is…
The Neptunia musou game, Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, was developed by Tamsoft, who also developed most of the Senran Kagura catalogue. So it might come as no surprise that these two waifu heavyweights (sorry Blanc) would have their own crossover game—Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars. The game has been out on PS4 since October 2021, but this Switch port will allegedly include some new features, including new difficulty settings and all the PS4 costume DLC.
I’ve gotten a fair way through the game, so why not post a short preview?
The game’s plot does something unexpected for Senran, but pretty standard for Neptunia: this is a one-off title with no connection to previous games in either series. The world of Gameinjustri (instead of Gameindustri) is home to two warring ninja factions: Marveland, for the Senran cast, and Heartland, for the Neptunia Goddesses. Their unique methods of transforming are called Honeypa Style and Compa Style, respectively. As usual for a Nep-Nep game, there are meta-game references like this throughout. When a new threat appears—the Steem Legion—the two factions come together to battle their common enemy and meet new allies on the way. The plotline and non-Senran characters definitely fit into the Neptunia series more than the Senran games, which seems to be par for the course.
While Neptunia X Senran Kagura is a crossover game first and foremost, it’s pulling more from the former much more than the latter. There are no transformations in Ninja Wars: the girls all enter combat areas in their Goddess (or Shinobi) attire. The maps for action stages are relatively maze-like and it’s extremely easy to get turned around—another Neptunia standby. You can chat with townspeople and other characters from the main menu and doing so may produce new quests, which is pulled from Nep-Nep.
In fact, there’s just not a lot of Senran DNA here. Probably to mirror the four Neptunia Goddesses, there are only four Senran girls present—Asuka, Homura, Yumi, and Miyabi. As the heads of their respective clans (in other games), this works, and while it does make narrative sense, it also feels distinctly anti-Senran, which has a ridiculously large cast. Senran is also known for its unique leveling mechanic, where a character’s stats change depending on whether they’re fighting in normal clothes (Yin), Shinobi clothes (Yang), or skivvies (Flash). That’s nowhere to be seen here. There’s also no dressing room option, another standard feature of Senran games—even the pinball one.
All of the girls do have multiple special attacks, though, and that is borrowed from the Senran series. Here, those attacks can be rearranged to create different combo effects, and that is pulled from the Neptunia games. The special attacks are a great example of two distinct parts of these series being combined into something new, but that might be the only real melding.
Like both series, there are secondary missions through already-completed stages to get items and zenni. Instead of “light” and “heavy” attacks, everyone does melee attacks with the Y button and throws a shuriken or dagger with the X button. This took me awhile to get used to. Every button on the controller (even the D-pad) has a specific function, but thankfully it’s never confusing. You can only take two characters into each stage, which you switch between, but fortunately the entire cast seems to level up together. The game lacks the fluidity and technicality of Senran games—you can block and parry, but the latter feels inconsequential. Standard enemies rarely put up much resistance, even as you begin to encounter palette-swapped stronger versions. You can buy better shuriken and daggers from an in-game store, but more powerful versions are unlocked slowly through story progression.
There’s also an interesting, if confusing, Spirit Gem system. Here, you equip each girl with Spirit Gems (more spaces unlock as they level up) that apply various buffs, like more attack power, more experience gain, more Ninja Arts damage, etc. Linking three or more of the same type of gem gives a bonus. Sometimes. It's not explained very well. However, as each girl’s gem grid becomes quite large, and since they have to be equipped individually, it’s quite a time sink. You can find gems in the field or as subquest rewards, but you’ll also need to buy them from the store. There’s a way to synthesize gems, but I haven’t really figured out how yet Again, it's not explained very well.
There's also a cute minigame where you choose a girl to sit on a giant peach (I know) and use motion controls to try and keep her balanced while making the peach tip left to right. It's weirdly hard and fun to watch. Success lands you a buff to your stats that lasts several missons. There are three difficulty settings, each one an order of magnitude tougher than the last. You can also just buy tickets that will give you the buffs without going through the motions (ha!). But I enjoyed watching the girls panic as they began to slide off the giant peach.
I’ll have more to say in the full review, but so far this is an enjoyable, but not especially ambitious crossover game.