So I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of a new mainline Neptunia game coming out, but at least with this spin-off we got something kinda unique: a collab with Senran Kagura – another fun series that shares the same “never having a proper sequel” problem.
Alright, so I think it’s important to set expectations here. This may be a crossover, but this is ultimately just another Neptunia spin-off and it brings pretty much all the usuals associated with that label. The gameplay that has a good base, but some flaws on top of it, the story that takes up around 75% of the game’s play time, and the overall “not really taking itself seriously”-kind of attitude. This doesn’t make it a bad game though – just a Neptunia game.
Starting with the gameplay though – I was honestly a bit surprised. It’s a full-blown action-based combo brawler that is kind of reminiscent of the Ys games. You have your one basic attack string per character, but then a handful of character abilities that can be comboed together in different ways. Start with a few basic attacks before popping a multi-string ability and then finish it off with a launcher just in time to avoid the enemy’s incoming damage, for example.
The core to the combat here is fine – there’s a good amount of feedback and it’s not as weightless as it appears. That said, the flow can be a bit iffy. The basic strings feel great to use and the character abilities too, but I was not a fan of how the game is effectively paused when you’re selecting which ability to use. You have all of these flashy moves and whatnot, but a completely jarring pause in-between them. The game should have gone with the system from Ys or even Tales of, where you pop these abilities on the fly and the combat feels much more smooth as a result.
That and I also did not like the fact that these abilities cannot be canceled mid-animation. I guess it’s a way of balancing difficulty, but most of them have so much ending lag that it’s like the game is actively encouraging you not to combo them together. The entire combo system is effectively useless against bosses anyways since they do not stagger like regular enemies and you only ever have enough time to really get off one ability before the boss starts attacking again.
And on the topic of those bosses – they’re actually pretty good. Like, genuinely much better than what I would expect from a Neptunia or Senran Kagura game. Multiple unique attacks, cool designs, and some surprisingly high difficulty. I won’t deny, some of the bosses took me multiple attempts, but it never reached the point of outright frustration – except for maybe the final boss with his two-hit death moves. You’re able to take two party members into each stage and have access to a bunch of healing items, so there’s at least that to fall back on if you do run into trouble. That said, what started off as a relatively easy game became less so as it went on – granted, I also was a bit of a pro gamer taking on dungeons that were higher level than my characters.
As for the dungeons – they’re just okay. I mean, it is a Neptunia game, so I can’t say I was expecting much, but yeah it’s pretty much just the usual long hallways, bigger rooms to accommodate enemy fights, and only a couple branching paths along the way. The loot you find is mostly healing items and the occasional weapon upgrade – beyond that the exploration is extremely limited. Again, expected, but still disappointing.
This can be seen in the overall game loop as well. You basically: enter level, watch cutscene, kill some enemies, take on a mid-boss, kill some more enemies, take on dungeon boss, and then watch another cutscene. Repeat this for about ten hours and you’ve completed Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars. It’s a fairly barebones overall package and the extra stuff on top of that isn’t really all that exciting either.
There’s this peach-balancing minigame, which, while fun for maybe a few rounds, is nothing beyond that and honestly reminded me of the gimmicky fishing minigame thrown into Neptunia ReVerse. There’s also the Kumotsu Shrine, which adds a bunch of side quests that have no story component and are simply stuff like “kill all the enemies” or, the more daring version, “kill all enemies within the time limit”.
You unlock more of these as you play and an entire extra “training mode” after you clear the game once, but these felt more like copy-paste filler than actual content. Maybe fun if you want to grind out more levels and equipment, but I cannot say I enjoyed them.
That and there’s also a “NinChat” feature, which basically just adds more character events – as if the game did not already have enough dialogue. These events don’t even give new CGs – you already get all of them by just playing through the main story – so I can’t say I was too excited about this feature either.
Customization-wise, Ninja Wars is actually a bit weak compared to past games. You can’t change character appearance and the only customization you gave is with your two equipped ranged weapons and your two charms per character – basically passive upgrades. The most advanced it gets is with the spirit gem feature, which allows you to align spirit gems on a board, each providing some passive buff that is only increased depending on how you lay them out on the spirit board. It’s a nice feature to have, but again, nothing too major here.
All of that said though, at least the main story is fine. I wouldn’t say it’s… great, but if you like the usual Neptunia comedy-adventure duo, that is on full display here – just with the Senran Kagura girls as a bonus. The setting is this neat mix of Japanese history, but with that classic Neptunia sci-fi/video game twist and it kinda reminded me of Cyberdimension Neptunia. Par for the series – the story does not take itself seriously and you will get the usual bad guys turning good and other predictable plot developments.
It’s told in the same way as other spin-offs, using a bunch of different visual novels scenes where the only actual animation is character’s mouths moving – which isn’t even synced with the dialogue and just moves freely. Most of the dialogue is voiced (Japanese only), so this is something you’ll notice right away.
The plot progression is also copy-pasted from previous spin-offs, introducing the cast quickly, and then becoming this much bigger thing by the end of it, but never going so far as to break from the typical Neptunia or Senran Kagura mold. It takes up a good 75% of the playtime, so I can’t deny I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t do anything to really break away from that mold, but if you liked the story in literally any previous Neptunia spin-off, you’ll feel right at home here.
And that’s pretty much all I gotta say about this one. I have some more minor complaints, like the boring weapon upgrades or the camera lock-on that could be better, but I don’t want to turn this into some super-long video. For a Neptunia or Senran Kagura game, it’s fairly standard – okay graphics, okay music, fun gameplay, but not without its faults.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars takes elements that make both series great and combines them into something just… okay. The combat is pretty involved as far as those two series go, but it doesn’t flow all that well. The boss fights are cool, but the aren’t enough of them and the game is over in just 10 hours – of which roughly only 2-3 were actual gameplay. The story, which makes up the rest of those hours, is also nothing special beyond the typical Neptunia fare. It’s not bad, just average – which is at least better than what I can say for the past few Neptunia and Senran Kagura games.
Quote: Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars takes elements that make both series great and combines them into something just… okay. Okay graphics, okay story, fun gameplay, but not without its faults.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars retails for $50 USD on the PlayStation store.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.