With plenty of comical conversations and absorbing combat, the meeting of Goddesses and Shinobi is a triumphant crossover. But there’s a strong likelihood of wishing you could spend just a bit more time with both factions.
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developers: Tamsoft, Marvelous, Meteorise, Honey Parade Games
Publisher: IFI International
Release date: October 26th (US), October 30th (EU), 2021
Availability: Physical & digital delivery
Language: Japanese voice, English subtitles
Both the Hyperdimension Neptunia and Senran Kagura franchises have spawned an assortment of spin-offs. But disappointingly, quality has varied wildly. While titles like Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart and Senran Kagura: Peach Ball have successfully pushed both properties in new directions, clunkers like Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection and Senran Kagura: Reflexions have blemished each respective series.
Fortunately, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a victorious crossover that should please fans of both franchises. Although the title favors the perspective of Gamindustri’s goddesses and enjoyment is rather fleeting, Tamsoft’s capable direction results in a title that delivers a pleasing mix of comical conversation and engaging action.
When Worlds Collide
Quite often, the explanation behind cross-over narratives can feel forced, as writers struggle to fuse two different fictional worlds. Adeptly, Ninja Wars doesn’t create a convoluted backstory, reimaging characters from both factions living on a shuriken-shaped island named Gamninjustri. Here, there’s a rivalry between the Daimyo of Heartland and Marveland, putting Hyperdimension’s Neptune, Noire, Blanc and Vert in one faction, while Kagura’s Asuka, Homura, Yumi and Miyabi serve as their sworn rivals.
Although there’s a lot of boasting between the groups, deep down Nep Nep and the gals just want to be friends, eat pudding, and play games with their adversaries. And when a group of metallic ninjas from the Steeme Legion shows, the two groups are united by the threat of a common enemy. Referencing Hyperdimension Neptunia’s allegorical console wars, the robotic practitioners of the ‘Headshot” martial arts, represent both Western gaming and the attitude surrounding PC elitism.
Where’s the Terraflop Showdown?
And while the script is playful, with mentions of DMCA takedowns and the prevalence of amnesia as a plot device, it does squander a few opportunities. I had hoped the resentments between the Console Patron Units and Steeme Legion would have replicated the absurdity of keyboard warriors defending their hardware choices. Yet, the plot eschews adding fuel to the fire, often hiding the heated rivalries between a veiled representation of market share. It’s all ambiguous enough to not offend anyone but also squanders abundant opportunities.
While there’s the requisite hot springs visits and conversations on boob sizes, Ninja Wars can feel like it was reverse engineered around PlayStation’s inequitable stance on decency. Sure, there are hints of sexiness but this is a long way from the clothes shedding, scrolls-in-the-cleavage puckishness of Senran Kagura’s past outings. There’s still plenty of laugh out loud moments but the sexuality is notably muted this time out. One last issue surrounds the length of the conversations. Changes are you’ll be itching to get out there and start hacking during some of the longer sequences.
A Successful Spin-Off Thanks to Absorbing Combat
This urge for confrontation is rooted in the quality of the action, which ranks as one of Tamsoft’s better efforts. Here, you’re able to take out a pair of any unlocked characters, where you’ll batter familiar foes leading on the way to the obligatory stage boss. While there’s not much distinction among the cast of playables, there’s accessibility and even a bit of autonomy in Ninja War’s control scheme. For those interested in button-mashing their way through encounters, you can create painless combos with the attack button. But if you’d rather speed up the process of pummeling, you can bring up the game’s Ninja Art Skills with a hold of a shoulder button. Time will slow to a crawl and you can issue four different assaults via each face button. While a stamina meter prevents overuse, it refills swiftly, allowing for plenty of eye-pleasing, hit point-draining power moves.
Enemy counts lack the numbers of most musou titles and adversaries tend to shamble around before attacking, providing plenty of possibilities for attacks from behind. Alternatively, you can maintain distance, pepping opponents with shuriken or kunai. Once the EX Gauge is filled through a succession of attacks, characters can unleash their Shinobi Extreme assault. This devasting nearby adversaries while rewarding players with a dramatic animation.
As Swift as Wind, as Gentle as Forest…
Additional variety found in the Fuurinkazan Drive mechanic. This gives character the ability to activate different stat-altered states, potentially providing qualities like additional striking power when facing tougher foes. It’s largely optional, by its inclusion helps keep Ninja Wars’ treks interesting by allowing for experimentation. The one caveat with combat is found when facing bosses who are a higher level than you. Here, Ninja Wars can be punishing, with a single hit reminding players they should have undertaken those noncompulsory missions.
Supplementary stat-boosts can be earned by slotting in found Spirit Gems into a gridded board. Pleasingly, there’s a bit of strategy to placement, with the positioning of identical types of gems activating bonuses. While there aren’t many role-playing elements in Ninja Wars, being able to increase the speed of stamina meter recovery or dimmish damage from certain kinds of foes offers a bit of customization. In keeping Kagura’s trend of mini-games, Peaches & Cream Meditation tasks players with balancing on a giant fruit. Using either the accelerometer in your controller or the shoulder buttons, success is rewarded with stat boost for your next mission.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars journey is woefully brief, with a total playtime of about ten hours. Although there’s post-game trials found in Yomi Training mode, these tests merely escalate the difficulty by adding in modifiers, rather than contribute anything that feels fresh. On one hand, it’s gratifying to see a game that offers such a succinct length. But on the other, Ninja Wars enjoyment is fleeting, especially for a near-full priced purchase. Think of Tamsoft’s latest as an 88-minute movie brimming with humor and action. While devotees of either franchise will want to be there opening night, less fervent fans might want to wait until Ninja Wars hits the discount theatres.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars was played on
PlayStation 5 with review code provided by the publisher.