Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Compile Heart in collaboration with Tamsoft and published by Idea Factory International, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is the action JRPG crossover years in the making. Take on enemy ninja and Yokai in dungeon crawling, hack and slash action, with characters from the Neptunia and Senran Kagura franchises. This version of the game is available for Nintendo Switch, with a link to the game at the bottom of this review (discounted on both the EU and NA eShop services for up to a week post launch).

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Idea Factory International for providing the copy of Neptunia x Senran Kagura that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story. When discussing the gameplay, I will only be covering the basic mechanics as there are some features that I feel players must experience first-hand.

Story – in the land of Gamninjustri, a struggle has arisen between the Daimyo of the two strongest nations, each of them being home to a major school of martial arts. The Heartland nation has the Compa style, which are Ninja Arts that are based on the Command Technique. Their rivals are the Marveland Nation which uses Honeypa Style, which use Ninja Arts based on the Action Technique. These two nations have been locked in a battle for dominance for a long time.

During one of their battles, an army of mechanical ninja appeared and made their assault. These ninja are part of the Steeme Legion, led by Yoh Gamer, a ninja who is a master of the Headshot style of Ninja Arts. The mysterious ninja made an announcement to all the nations of Gamninjustri, the “Super NINJA War” is about to begin to decide the strongest ninja school in the world.

Gameplay – the core of the gameplay for this title is focused on dungeon crawling, hack and slash combat with objective based missions. To accomplish these tasks, the player deploys teams of two ninja from the available roster to various locations. When the game begins the player will only be able to use two of the four Compa ninja, with additional characters joining the party over the course of the story, up to a total of 10 characters.

While inside the dungeon segments, the player will combat yokai and enemy ninja, using a variety of attacks and skills to deal maximum damage to foes. With experience being gained for each enemy defeated, leveling up that character and increasing their base stats, including attack, defense and total health. all characters that are in the party will gain experience even when they aren’t in battle, so there is no risk in unbalanced leveling with the party.

Each character has their own unique fighting style, with different weapons and special attacks, giving different pairings a unique feel as each character have their own strengths and weaknesses. The types of mechanics that players can use in battle are as follows;

  • Basic Moves – the basic move set for the ninja are made up of normal combo attacks, ninja weapons that consist of shuriken/kunai and jump attacks. Attacking enemies from behind deals additional damage, with a lock-on mechanic which shows the health of the target.
  • Defensive Options – players can dodge enemy attacks, making them invincible for a moment afterwards, with the ability to dash by holding down the dodge button. The dodge and dash use up the stamina meter, which is refilled over time or by attacking enemies. There is also a guard system that can deflect damage from most enemies, with perfectly timed guards reducing damage and filling the stamina gauge.
  • Ninja Arts – by holding down the Ninja Art button, one of four special attacks can be activated, using up stamina in different amounts. When activating the Ninja Arts, a special bar called the Trigger meter will appear. This meter allows up to four special attacks to be chained together, with each successful chain potentially adding new effects to attack.
  • Shinobi Extreme – during battle the EX gauge will fill up, outlining the portrait of their active character with a prompt appearing when the meter is full. When the Shinobi Extreme skill is activated, the active character will unleash an all-powerful attack that deals massive damage to their targets.
  • Fuurinkazan Drive – this ability has four unique skills called Awakenings, with each one having different features in battle, including increasing attack power and defense when fighting enemies. These skills can be used a limited number of times per character, with the number of uses refreshing when the dungeon is completed.
  • Items – in battle players can use items to heal damage, refill stamina and provide various effects. Some of the effects that can be applied include strengthening the active character, reducing the cost of stamina for dashing/dodging and removing negative status ailments from enemies.

While in the dungeon, barriers will appear and prevent the player from progressing. There are two types of barrier, a red barrier that can’t be bypassed and a yellow barrier that can be removed by completing objectives like defeating all enemies. The red barriers will also change depending on the mission, with different areas being opened or closed to fit that challenge. These barriers do restrict some of the exploration possibilities, but do make returning to areas rewarding.

At specific points of each dungeon, a marker will show the destination for an objective within that zone. When reaching the marker, more often than not, a story segment occurs setting up the next sequence, either setting up the next stretch of the mission or even a big boss battle to end the dungeon. The boss battles that occur feature powerful enemies, with a lot of health and a special break meter, which will weaken the boss and stun them temporarily when depleted.

The boss fights can be very challenging, with unstoppable attacks that can’t be guarded against, multiple health bars for boss enemies and extremely powerful attacks. This is where the partner switch mechanic is the most useful, as during combat the player can freely tag their partner character into battle, with extra damage done if switching during a combo. The reserve member can also recover used up stamina, with health regenerating if dropped below 50% when switched out.

It is important to use the partner switch system effectively and tag out often, as once a player character has been defeated they can’t return without using expensive items. If the partner is knocked out, they will also be unable to earn experience from battling enemies, which prevents the character from leveling up until they are revived.

Outside the dungeons, there are several things that the player is able to do in the main home base. These include the ability to talk to various characters from the world of Gamninjustri, take on special missions and organize the party with equipment, items and skills.

Here are the things that you can do while in the main home town;

  • Shinobi Base Functions – here the player can change their formation, setting the lead and partner character for the dungeons. The player is also able to equip characters with new gear, change Spirit Gems, special items and swap their Ninja Arts with new ones that are earned through leveling.  
  • Spirit Gems – during play, special items called Spirit Gems can be bought from the market or earned from defeating enemies. These gems can be added to a board in different patterns, the variety of which increasing over time and specific patterns can provide increased benefits. Spirit Gems can also be combined to create stronger gems, providing increased bonuses.
  • Market Street – in the market, players can buy/sell items which include ninja weapons, consumables and Spirit Gems. There will be new items added to the store over time, increasing in strength and overall effectiveness. A limited number of items can be taken into the dungeons, so excess amounts will be put into storage.
  • NinChat – this is where the player is able to gather information and talk to NPC characters in the game world, gathering information between missions. Certain characters will have events attached to them, which can add extra story details, give shrine requests and even item rewards.
  • Kumotsu Shrine – at the shrine, missions can be taken on sending the player to a specific point directly from the shrine. The challenges vary in difficulty/objective, with rewards that are provided when the mission is cleared. There is also the treasury, which has galleries of story scenes, character information and more.
  • Peaches and Cream Meditation – the player sits cross-legged on a giant peach, trying to stay balanced while filling up a peach meter on screen. Successful completion of this challenge provides rewards that last a preset amount of time, while also giving items that can be used. New levels of challenge will be available over time, with each one costing a fee to challenge. Controls for this can be either gyroscope motion or the triggers depending on the player choice.

The home base is also where the world map is located, showing the different areas that players are able to explore, with a training area and all previously cleared zones available. The player is also able to freely save and load at the home base, with an auto save that prevents a sudden loss of progress during play. While in the base the player can look at records and check tutorials, with various settings that can also be changed, with the ability to set difficulty, change controls and adjust the sound levels.

Now with the gameplay covered, let’s get into the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.

Controls – the controls for this release are relatively simple to pick up, with all the key functions for basic combat set to the face buttons and triggers. The menus for Fuurinkazan Drive and Ninja Arts are set to the front shoulder buttons, the item menu, partner tag and target switch systems are set to the d-pad. All of the inputs work together well when using either a pro-controller or the Joy-Cons, with smooth movement for characters and camera with the sticks.  

Difficulty – this title offers three difficulty options, with easy, normal and hard being selectable from the options menu. The main difference between each setting is the amount of damage that the player receives and deals to enemies, with other subtle differences that aren’t immediately noticeable. The overall challenge feels balanced, without the feeling that the game is punishing the player, along with points before boss battles where health is replenished and equipment can be altered.

Presentation – visually this title looks very good running on the Nintendo Switch system, with well rendered 3d models and environments that are animated very well. The level of detail is impressive given the limitations of the hardware, with little in terms of lag or slowdown aside from rare instances when a lot of elements are loaded in at once. There is also the fanservice element that both Neptunia and Senran Kagura series are known for, with a “softness” to the movement of the characters.

The game uses traditional 2D anime art for story scenes, character portraits and menus, which have the signature styles of both Tamsoft and Idea Factory. With each character beautifully drawn and given several expressive poses/faces, appearing in the story scenes. There are also CG art scenes that will appear through the story, showing the characters interacting and to set up events, which have the usual high quality that is attributed to the two developers.

The soundtrack for this release has a mix of styles that all work together well. These styles include the usual guitar focused rock based compositions used in Idea Factory releases, combined with traditional Japanese instruments and even orchestral pieces that fit the theme for the game world. There is only a Japanese voice track for this title, featuring the vocal talents of each characters long time VA including Rie Tanaka as Neptune, Hitomi Harada as Asuka (Senran Kagura) and Asami Imai as Noire (Neptunia).

Final Thoughts – as a longtime fan of both the Senran Kagura and Neptunia franchises, this crossover was very exciting when it was announced and I am happy to say it did not disappoint. The action flows at a fast but smooth pace, with enemies that would fit either series well as a standalone title without the other characters. I had a great time playing this game, as the story is cohesive and well written, with the usual self-aware commentary that Neptunia is known for and fanservice that isn’t excessive.

I am very happy to recommend this release to fans of the Neptunia and Senran Kagura franchises, with easy to pick up action and a diverse roster of play styles to select from. The game requires little knowledge of either series to be able to enjoy, so it can be a good first experience for new players, before jumping into the more complex standalone titles. If you like action based JRPG titles with a little humor and some light fanservice, this is for you.

In the end, I give Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars a final Score of 5/5. This action JRPG combines the best elements of both franchises, with an engaging story, the signature humor of the Neptunia series and the action of Senran Kagura to balance it out. I hope we get more games like this in the future and if you want to check it out for yourself, links to the game will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

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