Hyperdimension Neptunia and Senran Kagura seem like a natural fit for a crossover. They’re both series driven by irreverent senses of humour and fanservice, underpinned by much richer characterisation that you might expect from a quick glance. They approach from very different angles—Neptunia is an RPG series built on game industry meta humour, Senran Kagura an action franchise that pushes lewdness to comical extremes—but they share a definite kinship. In other words, last year’s Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars for PS4 was no-brainer, even if the end result doesn’t quite reach the full potential of such a collaboration, and Switch players can now get in on the action.
The backdrop to Ninja Wars is as playfully contrived as you’d expect from any sort of crossover event: a shuriken-shaped world called Gamninjustri (yes, really) where different nations representing Neptunia and Senran Kagura vie for ninja dominance. That is, until the sudden appearance of an army of mechanical ninja start causing a ruckus, and the ninja goddesses of Heartland and Marveland shinobi wind up joining forces to stop this new threat: the Steeme Legion, led by Yoh Gamer, master of the Headshot Style.
So, yeah, Nep-nep’s goofy parody of the game industry is out in full force. Neptune is the protagonist (insofar as there is one in this ensemble cast), with her characteristic random meta comments that range from almost-but-not-quite groan-inducing to surprisingly insightful. The overall plot turns franchise fandom into the narrative driving force, in a way that’s extremely silly—deliberately so—but also more pointed than you might expect. It’s not deep by any stretch, but bringing
Steam Steeme into a crossover between two franchises that have, historically, found their audiences on console but have seen growing support on PC in recent years is an interesting angle to take.
Senran Kagura’s ecchi comedy adds a lot to that mix. Neptunia has never been a series to shy away from some fanservice and raunchy humour, but SK is a series that has made its name on taking lewd humour to ludicrous extremes. Ninja Wars is comparatively toned down—there’s no knocking people’s clothes off or touchscreen minigames here—but it never misses the chance for a joke about boob size or a bath scene revolving around the importance of skinship to cement this newfound alliance. Running gags like Blanc’s feelings of… “inadequacy” find new energy with the crossover, and the mashup of game industry parody and bawdiness makes for some hilarious moments.
(This sort of humour won’t be for everyone, obviously, but anyone who doesn’t like a good boob joke should probably stay far away from anything with either the Neptunia or Senran Kagura name on it, let alone both.)
But beneath all that silliness, it’s the characters that really are the heart of these games. The casts of both Neptunia and Senran Kagura are loveable and full of personality, with a lot more depth than you might assume. Comedy might be the vehicle for letting the stories unfold, but it’s the earnestness of the relationships and emotive beats that let fans connect with these characters the way they do. Ninja Wars is no exception—the casts of both series are as delightful as ever, and the playful interactions between them are the best part of the game. That said, there’s a heavy assumption of existing familiarity with the characters that Ninja Wars builds off, so newcomers might find them harder to warm up to.
As much as it hits the mark in terms of characterisation and humour, the action RPG underneath that is a little wanting. It’s not bad so much as just kind of generic and uninspired, in a way that a game with the Neptunia and Senran Kagura names on it really shouldn’t be. Even with different weapons and special abilities, the characters feel interchangeable in combat, while the simple design and lack of variety among regular enemies makes fighting them mildly entertaining at best. Boss fights are more interesting engagements, putting much more emphasis on mobility, dodging, and trying to keep attacks up on highly nimble foes in order to wear them down enough to stun them, but the controls and hit detection aren’t quite as tight as they need to be to turn those encounters into something really satisfying.
The RPG side of the game is a very light touch, with a handful of extra skills to unlock through levelling up, a small array of equipment, and “Spirit gems” to customise characters’ stats a little bit or give them additional passive effects. The latter part is the most interesting, with each character having a board that gradually unlocks more slots as they level up and various cumulative bonuses depending on how you choose to arrange your gems. Dungeon layouts leave a little room for exploration, but not as much as you’d probably hope.
This amounts to a game that’s fun enough in small bursts, but can easily grow stale—even with the relatively short runtime (compared to the Neptunia RPGs, at least). The biggest problem is that it feels like it misses a lot of the opportunity a crossover like this should allow for: instead of having the best of both worlds, is a compromise between two different series that lacks the depth of either.
The Switch port is better than I was expecting, though. Compile Heart’s previous efforts at porting from PS4 to Switch have come with a lot of technical compromises, but Neptunia x Senran Kagura runs much more smoothly—and in an action game, that’s important. There’s a noticeable drop in visual fidelity in 3D segments, but the colourful anime art style looks good regardless, and the 2D character artwork that features heavily in cutscenes looks as gorgeous as ever. Switch also comes with new Easy and Hard difficulty modes—neither one drastically changes the game, but they’re welcome additions all the same for folks wanting a bit more or a bit less challenge.
In some ways, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is a little disappointing: a mash-up like this should aim a lot higher than what this one does. But missed opportunities aside, Ninja Wars is an enjoyable enough game, with characters that are as lovable as ever, a hefty dose of the humour that both series thrive on, and some downright hilarious moments where they collide. It may not be the dream collaboration it should be, but Ninja Wars is still a worthwhile outing for any Neptunia or Senran Kagura fan, especially with the convenience of a Switch version.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars
Developer: Tamsoft, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Genre: Action RPG
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.