To be frank, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into when I hopped into Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars. I’ve got a little bit of experience with the Hyperdimension Neptunia RPG series, having played a couple of entries before, but I was completely new to Senran Kagura despite having heard so much about it over the years.
The Neptunia series itself has always carried with it a certain tone of lightheartedness and easily digestible gameplay mechanics and story beats. The characters are the highlight of the series, each of them representing a different game console and trying to fight for control in a world that’s constantly ravaged by a console war.
On the flip side, Senran Kagura is slightly more grounded in premise, though just as flamboyant in its presentation. This series revolves around various groups of female shinobi warriors competing with each other for dominance. When I said grounded, I meant as grounded as you can possibly be in the world of over-the-top anime.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars brings both worlds together in a similarly wacky premise. This time, all the console girls have banded together in a war against the shinobi, though that conflict is quickly put to the side when a third part enters the fray. A group of mecha enemies threaten to destroy both factions, and the girls quickly band together and resolve to defeat the new faction led by Yoh Gamer (I’m not making this up) before resuming their own war.
Neptunia fans will be glad to see the return of iconic faces like Neptune herself, along with Noire, Blanc, and Vert. The Senran Kagura side of things is represented by Asuka, Homura, Yumi, and Miyabi, who were the leaders of opposing ninja schools in their own series.
The thing that struck me most about Ninja Wars was that unlike in most Neptunia games and spin-offs, where Neptune herself would play the role of amnesiac protagonist who needed everything explained to her, this game’s story unfolds as if both groups of characters have been living alongside each other this whole time. This cuts out quite a bit of unnecessary exposition, and also allows for more entertaining moments between the characters.
Neptune isn’t the most interesting protagonist on her own, but her air-headed and goofy nature makes her a great foil for the more serious Senran Kagura shinobi, who sometimes regard her with an air of aloofness. Look, the jokes are still pretty cringe-worthy and they’re mostly at dad levels of funny, but Ninja Wars wears them proudly on its sleeve to the point there’s a certain charisma about it that you almost have to admire.
And just from a visual standpoint, Ninja Wars completely hits it out of the park with its presentation. The art styles of both series blend together beautifully, and it’s always a joy to see all the girls striking a stylish pose on an epic splash screen. The story is largely told through visual novel segments where you’re clicking through copious amounts of text and dialogue, and it’s broken up with real-time action combat segments in between.
Unfortunately, this is where things start to fall short, as far as the Switch port is concerned. I played the game mostly in handheld mode and while the visual novel segments looked just fine, the graphics take a pretty big hit once you get into the action. The character models are noticeably blurrier, while the environments look a lot muddier than you’d expect as well.
It also doesn’t help that the combat itself doesn’t feel as smooth as you might like. While the Senran Kagura characters themselves are pretty fun to play — unsurprising considering the developer, Tamsoft, worked on the mainline Senran Kagura games — I couldn’t help but notice that the Neptunia cast felt a lot simpler and lackluster in comparison.
You’ve got your basic and ranged attacks, along with charged skills that can be chained into some pretty powerful combos. Overall, the combat system is pretty simple and it does lack depth, but that issue is definitely more noticeable with the Neptunia characters, who were largely equipped with basic moves, shurikens, kunai, usual ninja fare, and they felt less interesting to play as a result.
Thankfully, because the combat is really easy to get into, fans who are just looking to play Ninja Wars for the character interactions will be able to breeze through the action segments pretty easily. At its core, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is really just meant to be a lighthearted romp filled with fun character moments for fans of both series, as well as newcomers like myself who might be interested in getting into them.
In fact, the more I played, the more intrigued I was by Senran Kagura and its warring ninja schools. I’ve never been a big fan of the Neptunia games personally and always saw them as a subpar RPG series, and fanservice-y elements aside (of which there are many), the Senran Kagura universe just came off as a lot more colorful and interesting.
If nothing else, Ninja Wars has effectively served as a potential gateway for me to look into the Senran Kagura games, and I’d call that a win.
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