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 had 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 having heard so much about it over the years.
The Neptunia series itself 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 in a world that is 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 competing with various other groups of female shinobi warriors for dominance. When I said grounded, I meant as grounded as you possibly could in the world 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 are 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 itself, 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 it was unlike in most Neptunia games and spin-offs, where Neptune himself would play the role of an amnesiac protagonist who needed to explain everything, as this game’s story unfolds as if both groups of characters have been. living near 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 is not 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 regards her with an air of aloofness. Look, the jokes are still pretty cringe-worthy and they’re still at dad levels funny, but Ninja Wars wears them proudly on its sleeve to the point that 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 series of both art styles blend together beautifully, and it is 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 quantities of text and dialogue, and it breaks up with real-time action in combat segments.
Unfortunately, this is where things start to fall short, as far as the Switch port is concerned. I played the game recently 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 would expect.
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, as well as charged skills that can be chained into some pretty powerful combos. Overall, the combat system is pretty simple and it lacks 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 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 both series of fans, as well as newcomers like myself who might be interested in 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.