In a world of fan service games, two franchises are at the top of the pile: Hyperdimension Neptunia, featuring a group of man-made game consoles fighting in a literal and fun console war, and Senran Kagura, giving ninjas as impressive assets as their martial arts against each other in almost every conceivable genre. Enthusiastically celebrated for providing fan service in games that do not sacrifice gameplay for jiggle physics, it was just a matter of time before the two worlds collided.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is what you get when two beloved franchises face each other. It’s a hack-and-slash fighting game that should be familiar to players who have played both series before. The plot sees the Neptunia girls put their ongoing battle for console supremacy on pause to engage in a ninja war against the actors in Senran Kagura. Neither side, however, gets to taste the victory. Suddenly, the Steeme Legions army invades by killer robots and threatens to take over the world. It should be mentioned that this world, called Gamindustri, and which is shaped like a giant shuriken.
Subtlety is not in style in this game as you can see. Many of the names are sparsely veiled references to the state of the gaming industry as a whole, although much of the current commentary feels as if it was already dated at the time of release on PS4 in 2021. Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is not a game that will have you take it too seriously; it’s here for a laugh and a joke, and it’s infinitely better for it.
Although the plot is paper thin and only serves to make the two franchises work together, there are moments of delightful writing sprinkled over. Characters on both sides are surprisingly genre-savvy. One will start reciting the lyrics to an AC / DC song, only to stop oneself for fear of getting a DMCA strike. Another will comment that the scream they heard in a forest must belong to a woman who is being attacked because there are also tropics in this world. There is a level of absurdity and tongue-in-cheek humor at play here, but always just the right amount. It becomes a wonderful spice mixed into the gameplay to produce a unique flavor among the countless similar games out there.
The gameplay is a standard hack-and-slash affair, with some flashy moves to suit the ninja theme. Like the previous games in both series, the match is solid if known and dated at this point. If you’re looking for deep combinations and challenging gameplay, it’s not going to itch. The fight is simple, with melee and distance attack options, plus special attacks that can be equipped and changed as new moves are learned. Both franchises built their foundation on this fighting style, making it a comfortable home for fans of both.
Each level consists of a series of corridors and clearings populated with different enemies, marked by an occasional boss fight that is generally about avoiding their clearly telegraphed attacks. Players take two characters into each dungeon, which can be swapped out on the go. Unfortunately, each character plays quite similarly, with very little variation in strength or speed by default. Different combinations and objects can be equipped to change things a little, but none of them will ever play very differently from each other.
Despite being a celebration of both the Neptunia and Senran Kagura franchises, the cast for this game is surprisingly tight, making it feel limited in scope. There are only ten playable characters, which would be a small list for a Senran Kagura game alone; with the Neptunia crew also thrown in, it is positively small. One could argue that this gives each character a better chance to shine, but that’s not what made these franchises amazing. Fans love the many over-the-top designs and wild personalities that are usually offered, and they are sadly lacking here.
We were also hoping for a little more than the seven hours of gameplay we eventually got, making it hard to recommend this title to anyone other than the most voracious fans. Although players do not need much knowledge of either franchise to follow the plot or enjoy the game, it simply will not satisfy those who are not already on board with the stupidity offered.
Although the gameplay is superficial and simple, none of these franchises have ever looked so good. The combination mechanics with a single button can result in a lot of button mashing, but the way the characters move is exactly as chaotic and exciting as we wanted it to be. Character models flow from one side of the battle arenas to the other with effortless grace and speed, making the experience feel more energetic than the basic inputs and limited scope alone.
The character designers that fans of both series will expect emphasize certain aspects of the girls. The unnatural jumping physics that have become a hallmark of these games are fully displayed here, though not as unmotivated as before. Some of the spin-offs of the Senran Kagura series, for example, see them take part in water pistol fights or cooking competitions that put each character in risky outfits and positions. Compared to these games, this is positively decent.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars does not feel like a hasty product with how it performs or looks. What it lacks, however, is enough depth to really serve as a celebration of these two-story franchises. There is no photo mode, extra costumes or the usual mini-games that we have come to expect from both Neptunia and Senran Kagura. Once the main story is over, there is not much incentive for players to return for more. No matter how fun this game is, and just as much as we laughed and smiled, it screams for a little more. More extras. More game mechanics. More grades. Just one little a little more and it could have been something special.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a solid, fun hack-and-slash that does not take too long to complete and looks beautiful while you play it, but it never reaches the heights of some of the classics from any of the The franchises. What’s here feels polished, but the lack of extra modes and features will be disappointing for fans of both series. Still, the game’s charm lies in the Neptunia and Senran Kagura characters and their interactions, with writing delivering amazing, unexpected punchlines that help give the game some focus. If you are a fan of both series, this is definitely worth playing despite its lack of depth. It may just be one to wait for a sale before picking up.