It’s often been said that “There’s nothing wrong with a little titillation,” but if what Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars does is ‘a little’ titillation, then I’ll eat my hat. The Senran Kagura series has always been a flimsy pretense upon which to watch large-breasted ninjas beating each other’s clothes off. Still, when you throw in Hyperdimension Neptunia, you also get a game about living video game nations to contend with too. Does it add up to a dream team or a gamer’s worst nightmare?
If you’ve not heard of either series, the concepts of both might require a little explaining. Senran Kagura is a series about competing ninja schools who fight each other a lot, but they also have water fights and rhythm-based cooking competitions. Oh, and their clothes have this tendency to fly off during battle.
Hyperdimension Neptunia, on the other hand, is a series of turn-based RPGs that are set in a world governed by kingdoms based on video game consoles. Each character is some sort of gamer stereotype, and they all have the ability to transform into more powerful forms so they can attack their enemies with devastating power.
Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a 50-50 (ish) blend of the two franchises crossing over. From Senran Kagura games, we get the 3D hack-and-slash action that the main games tend to follow, and from Neptunia we get a relatively complex RPG system that makes your character more powerful as you kill more people. You also unlock special abilities, equip weapons and use items, but it’s not obvious just how similar these RPG elements are to the game they came from.
I can imagine that if you’re a fan of either or both of the franchises in this crossover, then you’ll have a great time seeing the characters together and getting into wacky hijinks. If you’re not a fan, then you’ll probably wonder why everyone won’t shut up so you can get back to running around dungeons killing bad guys. It’s not like there aren’t some funny moments here or there, but the dialogue does just drag on and on, and even if you’re a fan of visual novels, it’s a pretty shallow excuse for one.
That aside, the gameplay of Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is at least a bit more interesting. The action is mostly made up of exploring progressively tougher dungeons, as well as completing missions and side-quests to level up your characters. The combat is janky as hell but relatively fast-paced and functional, but the old hack-n-slash button mashing gets a bit tired quite quickly. Instead, the real spice of the combat comes from your special abilities and your battle modes.
Each of the game’s many playable characters start out with special attacks. They’re each unique, and you can even learn and equip more as you get stronger. Your special attacks can be devastating, with impressive animations showing you pulling off some crazy flips and ninja magic. Just playing around with these special attacks really keeps combat fresh, and your stamina recharges so quickly in most cases that you barely have to use the single melee attack button before you’re pulling another column of ice out of your butt.
The other side of the combat coin is the transformations. These are four different palette swaps you can use during combat based on four different elements. These modes do things like recharge your health over time, boost your attacks, boost your stamina recharge, and you get several charges each time you enter the dungeon. They’re kind of cool, but I honestly ended up just using the green mode with health regen whenever my health got low, like I was using a “get out of having your butt kicked free” card.
The final thing that might make Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars worth your time are the finishing moves. When you build up enough energy, you can perform a super strong finishing move that typically does an incredibly large amount of damage, even to bosses. On their own these attacks might keep you interested for about two minutes, but the sheer number of different characters saves it. If you ever find yourself getting bored with the combat, you can always switch to one of the many other characters who will have a dramatically different set of special attacks and finishers.
Aside from the combat, gameplay is relatively average but not exactly offensive. The dungeon design is basically the same as you’ve seen in a thousand other mid-range dungeon crawlers: little clusters of rooms connected by thin passages and then palette swapped between various different themes. Like I said, it’s not too offensive, but it’s not exactly ground-breaking or anything.
The visuals and music are both pretty much more of the same. It’s all standard mid-range fair, but it’s well put together. There’s a decent amount of variety with numerous costumes for the wealth of characters, but everything feels consistent at the same time. At the end of the day, the graphics do their job well enough, in the fact, that they conveyed everything they needed to and were never unpleasant to look at.
One thing that might be a bit upsetting to some longtime fans, at least fans of Senran Kagura, is the fact that the fan service is pretty tame by that franchise’s standards. Yes, my joke from the opening paragraph not withstanding, this is mostly about the action and the silly ‘scantily-clad-ninjas-fighting’ dialogue in-between. Clothes mostly stay resolutely on, and there are no hyper-suggestive poses when someone loses a fight. Still, there is a meditation mini-game where your chosen character only wears a towel, so hopefully, that’ll tide you over.
Overall, Neptunia X Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a decent enough experience if you’re in the mood for a shut-your-brain off hack-n-slash gameplay because it certainly serves that purpose. It’s not about to set the world on fire, but at the very least it’s a fun distraction from reality for a few hours. On the other hand, once you’re done with it, it’s unlikely to leave much of an impression unless you were already invested in the characters or worlds.
Developers: Compile Heart, Tamsoft, Idea Factory, Acquire
Publisher: Idea Factory
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 11th May 2022