Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters – Steam Review

Overview – developed by Compile Heart and Idea Factory with publishing handled by Idea Factory International, Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters is the latest entry in the long running Neptunia Franchise. In this action RPG hybrid, players take the role of Nepgear as she is tasked with saving Planeptune in the absence of her sister Neptune. This title is available on PlayStation and Steam, with a link to each version of the game at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Idea Factory International for providing the copy of Neptunia Sisters VS Sisters 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. Please note I will be covering the core aspects of the gameplay experience for this review, this is to prevent spoiling the surprises that this game has to offer. Extra note, when referring to the game title, I will be using Neptunia: SVS for brevity.

Story – While the Goddesses were out responding to a distress call from the faraway PC Continent, Nepgear and the other Candidates were dispatched to an abandoned research facility in order to investigate a monster outbreak. It was there that they encountered the Ashen Goddess, who trapped them in a capsule and placed them in a deep sleep. By the time they awoke, they were astonished to discover that 2 years had passed.

After they emerge from slumber, they learn that Neptune has been missing since her mission to the PC Continent 2 years ago, and in the absence of its Goddess and Candidate, Planeptune was ravaged by a series of strange outbreaks, collectively referred to as the Trendi Phenomenon. Suddenly finding herself robbed of home and family, Nepgear is met with the greatest challenge she’s ever faced. This is a story about finding hope in the midst of despair, and the rebirth of a Goddess in the wake of destruction.

Gameplay – Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters is a dungeon crawling action RPG, set in the world of Gamindustri where the narrative plays out over several chapters. The chapters progress through completing main story quests (red [!] markers), exploring dungeons and defeating bosses, all of them accompanied by traditional Visual Novel storytelling. There is also additional side story content (blue [!] markers), expanding the narrative and providing extra depth to the story that unfolds.

The majority of the gameplay takes place through dungeon crawling action, where the player can take an active party of up to three characters (party members will change during the story) into the different dungeon zones. Inside the dungeons the player can roam freely through these areas, passing obstacles and finding hidden treasures. There are also destructible objects that may contain items, as well as alternate routes that can be opened up as the story progresses.

At set locations within the dungeons, players can find safe zones where the game can be saved. These points can also be used for fast travelling between the different safe spaces, using items to keep the party healthy and leaving the dungeons entirely. It is important to use these safe points as much as possible, ensuring that no progress is lost due to circumstances out of the players control (windows forced an update during play that made me lose almost an hour of playtime grinding).

During exploration, the player will encounter monsters that wander around the various spaces which can be avoided or faced head on. When encountering an enemy, if the player is within the line of sight then the enemy will charge them to attack and initiate combat. However, if the player is able to approach from behind and attack the enemy, combat will start with an advantage on the player side.

When battles start, the party and enemies are put into a circular arena where the player has full control of the party leader, with the other members acting independently. The combat itself plays out in real time, with attacks that can be linked together into action combos (which can be customized as the game goes on). All attacks use up different amounts of Action Points (abbreviated to AP), which replenish over time making combat more tactical as the player cannot attack without AP.

To mitigate this issue, the player is able to switch between the other party members, allowing control to be maintained during battle. During attack combos a prompt will appear, urging the player to switch to the other members of the team. When this happens, the character will use a more powerful version of an attack and deal additional damage to an enemy. These switches can be chained together, increasing the damage dealt with each successful use during a battle.

Alongside the standard and chain attacks, the player has access to special actions that can quickly turn the tide of battle. These actions have conditions that need to be met first in order to be used. The first action is Tactical Skill, a special action that can be used when the T-Skill bar is full, with all characters starting with one and more being unlocked later. Next we have the EXE Drive, a powerful attack that can be used at the cost of half of the Goddess Gauge, dealing massive damage.

Last is the Goddess Transformation, an ultimate ability that allows the player to become an all-powerful version of their active character when the goddess Gauge is full. When this mode is active, all standard attacks can be used without consuming AP, while also boosting their stats for a short time. The EXE Drive can also be used while in Goddess mode, providing an even more powerful special attack but at the cost of depleting the Goddess Gauge and reverting to normal.

All characters have their own strengths and weaknesses in combat, with unique skills that can work well with other members of a team. These can be ranged support attacks, control effects like freezing enemies and even healing allies. So it is important to keep those skills in mind as item use is limited in battle, requiring the T-Skill meter to be filled before an item can be used. Now onto the last element of battles to discuss.

Battles can end in one of three ways. Here is a breakdown of the conditions to end a battle;

  • Victory – the most common way of ending a battle is by defeating all of the enemies in combat. When all foes are taken down, players will be given rewards of money, disc coins (explained further below) items and experience points. The EXP points earned will level the characters in the party up at preset points, making them stronger and unlocking new skills over time.
  • Escape – if the player doesn’t believe that victory is possible or they don’t want to fight, they can attempt to escape the battle. To achieve this, the player must run against the edge of the battlefield without engaging in combat until the escape meter is filled. Please note it is not possible to escape from all battles, so it is important to keep that in mind before progressing.
  • Defeat – if all party members are taken out by the enemy, the player will get a game over screen and have four options to select from. These are retry, prepare and retry, load saved data and return to title screen. There is no penalty for retrying, so don’t give up if defeat occurs.

Aside from the main story, there is more to do within the large world map that becomes populated with more places to explore as the game progresses. The player can freely move between most locations, allowing for the ability to grind experience points and other resources. There is also a special system called “Chirper” where requests can be obtained from various NPC characters. These side missions have various objectives to complete, with success providing different rewards.

One of the rewards that can be obtained is a scout, which can be used to develop “discs” for players to generate and equip, providing additional skill boosts in battle. These discs are generated by combining a genre of game (action, FPS, RPG, etc), a scout character and a support item (found in the dungeons) with a timer ticking down after combining. However, one more resource is needed called DC (Disc Coin) to synthesize discs, with the chance for special events at a higher cost and greater yields.

Discs aren’t the only item that can be equipped though. Each character has access to a weapon type unique to themselves and armor that is universal. Items can be purchased from in game merchants that sell a variety of gear for players to purchase, including weapons, armor and cosmetic accessories. Equipping combat items can alter the stats of the different characters, making it important to ensure the right gear is added at the right time for the best results.

Since the party is split into primary and sub characters, players can pair the reserve members with active ones. This provides additional skill boosts, buffs and allows for deeper strategy in combat, letting players augment their party further. Combining the best equipment, party support abilities and the most cohesive combo attacks can grant the player a greater edge in battle, especially when it comes to the boss battles that occur during the story.

The last thing to discuss from a core gameplay perspective is the SHARE system. During the course of the game, a bar called the SHARE meter will change, increasing or decreasing depending on the choices that the player makes. The status of the SHARE meter can also affect the way that the narrative plays out, potentially changing the story in a drastic way, so keeping an eye on the ratio is just as important as anything else.

Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.

Controls – as Neptunia: SVS is on PC the game supports mouse and keyboard inputs, which work well for the most part. However, I found that the controller option made for a much smoother experience, especially during the moment to moment action while in combat. That being said, both control methods are equally effective during play, meaning that it is a case of preference when choosing to use one or the other, as there are no issues with latency or lag with either method.

Difficulty – this title has a moderate difficulty curve, with a challenge that will gradually increase over time. There are moments where the difficulty will spike or seem unbalanced, due to the way that certain enemies can be spawned, but this can be lessened by grinding enemies to level up. The challenge can also be augmented by effective use of equipment, disc production and party management. It is also important to effectively manage consumables and heal the party regularly.

Presentation – visually Neptunia: SVS is very pleasing to the eye, with the art style and character designs that the franchise is known for. The artwork that is used for environments and characters during the VN scenes is excellent, along with the utilization of LIVE 2D for the animations breathes more life into them. The dungeon environments look and feel open and vast, with a lot of thematic details in each area but can look a little sparse at times, but it doesn’t detract from the experience.

In terms of sound, this is another showcase of the stellar quality that can be expected of an Idea Factory release. The opening theme and animation fits the game perfectly, with a soundtrack that is balanced very well and utilizes various musical genres. The game is available with both Japanese and English voice lines, with the localized voice cast containing many recognizable voices from Anime and gaming, with all of them playing their roles perfectly.

Final Thoughts – This is my first PC Neptunia title and I have to say I had a great time playing it (even if my PC just about met the minimum specs). The story resonated with me as it used recent world events in a way that was relatable while not being heavy handed. This is something that can ride a fine line of good and bad taste, which is often missed when narratives or settings attempt to use real world settings, events and/or people.

Another aspect of this title that I enjoyed was the continued use of references to gaming, anime and popular media, which is another trademark of the Neptunia franchise. The lines and parodies that are nods to recent trends is an excellent touch, with references to Pokémon Go, Demon Slayer, Gacha games and VTubers knocking it up another notch. I also really liked the special guest characters that were introduced, but I won’t spoil those since I want layers to discover those for themselves.

I have no issue recommending this title to fans of the Neptunia series, JRPGS and Dungeon Crawlers in general. The action can be frantic but it is balanced well, with the Action Point and combo/chain system making for a tactical battle experience. The disc and equipment system adds further depth to the combat, as well as an accessory system that is fun to experiment with. I did have minor hiccups with performance during play, but this is likely due to my PC set up.

In the end, I give Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters a final score of 5/5. This is another excellent Idea Factory release, with a narrative that was engaging and relevant while not being heavy handed in tone. The balance between core game, narrative and optional content is done well, with a lot of content to dive into and explore. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game is below.

Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)

Link to Playstation 5 version (HERE)

Link to Steam version (HERE)

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