The Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise has been pretty extensive since 2010. Including the mainline games and the spin-offs, there have been over a dozen games released for the franchise spanning various genres, from online card games to side-scrolling action games to hack-and-slash games with rhythm elements. There was even an anime adaptation that came out back in 2013, which was a reasonably OK show for both fans of the series and those unfamiliar. I am a passive fan of the franchise, and while I have not played even half of the installments out there, I am acceptable to the reception many of these games have received. Neptunia: Sister VS Sister is technically another spinoff game, but how does it hold up?
Neptunia: Sister VS Sister is an action RPG where you take our colorful cast throughout Planetune and the PC continent to access important dungeons or side areas to level up your abilities. You have a three-person party system where you can switch between each character in real-time and even perform combo attacks based on button prompts appearing in the middle of combat. As you level up your abilities, you gain access to more features, new equipment, and even new comrades that you can use in whatever way you desire. Almost every character is assigned a designated class, like a swordsman, magic user, gunner, etc.
By modern RPG standards, the game admittedly doesn’t do anything new or extravagant to differentiate itself from similar games on the market. The most distinct thing about the game is its art style and color palette. I’ve noticed the Neptunia franchise has always leaned very hard into the bright pastel colors with an overall adorable anime girl aesthetic. Even a lot of the enemies come off as almost innocent at times, given their designs, but at least it never goes too far to the point where I feel bad for killing them. I found the color palette very refreshing and genuinely loved the character designs. This world’s characters take a lot of inspiration from PC and computer aesthetics. We have cute little icons and accessories added to each character that you would find associated with computers, and I like how this design philosophy evolves when the characters change forms for combat finishers.
I also liked many 2D segments where the characters talk or exposit the story. The character models are very well drawn with slight motion tweening to give them rather subtle yet noticeable forms of expressiveness. It’s nothing extremely involved but a step above the usual visual novel quality of cut scenes like we’ve seen in other games. Even the voice acting helps everything move along nicely, with a solid-sounding dub. I can’t say much about the music, unfortunately. Whether it’s in combat or cutscenes, all it sounds like is noise.
The game is flashy, using various particle effects to show off strikes and combat abilities. In dungeons and combat, the game runs in 3D at a smooth frame rate. Unfortunately, I will knock the presentation a little bit with the game’s lighting during the 3D sections because it can make the characters look too plasticky, like dolls. That probably wasn’t helped because some 3D models are not extravagantly detailed.
Thankfully that doesn’t often happen as the game seems to stick more to the 2D art style when the characters interact with each other both for main story sections and even some side quests. While I have yet to explore everything fully, there is a surprising amount of content here, with various side quests for extra goodies and a relatively well-balanced learning curve. There never seemed to be any instances where it felt like the game was particularly unfair. The strongest compliment I can give this game is that it’s probably one of the best introductory action RPGs I could recommend to people. The actual combat is easy to understand, the world aesthetic is pleasant, and there is a solid balance between combat and customization options.
The thing that holds the game back is its story, actual contents, and how it is told. Now, this is a spin-off game of the mainline Neptunia franchise. Sometimes the game seems conflicted on whether or not it wants to be for the main fans of the franchise or if it wants to also open itself up to those who have never touched a Neptunia game at all. Starting up the game, it throws you right into the middle of things without much explanation for who or what anybody is. However, once you get past specific tutorials, characters will break the fourth wall and try to get the actual player invested in the story’s contents. I think the game would’ve benefited more if there was some prologue explaining what the goddesses were and what the overall structure of the world is like before we dove into our first cutscene. However, that might’ve ended up being redundant since the story is that the world has changed for the main characters after they were put to sleep for two years.
On the one hand, this creates a good situation for exposition because we learn things at the same rate as the main characters. However, because the game doesn’t establish what the world was like before everything changed, it doesn’t necessarily feel like a lot was lost if you’re a new fan. It’s hard to recommend what feels like a beginner-level RPG with a lot of informed history behind it, which is a shame because I think the narrative progression of the story has a pretty solid air of mystery. It does play up the whole idea of a character just stopping themselves from saying something important before something else interrupts, but I was genuinely interested in finding out who some of these new characters were and how they tied into the bigger picture. But again, I probably only felt that way because I have some passing knowledge about the franchise.
It’s bizarre because, on the one hand, I can see the effort in making this a game that can stand out from the other spinoffs with its presentation and structure. If you’ve been a fan of the original Hyperdimension Neptunia games or have been waiting for a solid addition to the spinoff library, this game will probably be right up your alley. As simple as it is, there is a lot of enjoyment and hours to grind out of it. However, a few glaring elements make it a bit of a hard recommendation for anybody outside of those fans.