Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars connects two niche, decade-old franchises into one hybrid beat-em-up—Hyperdimension Neptunia, a series of JRPGs fuelled by satirizing the gaming industry, and Senran Kagura, largely an action series focused on the enduring conflict between schools of female ninja. The result of this union splits the difference between its inspirations, but in doing so, may not appeal to their biggest fans.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars takes place in a feudal world in the vein of Neptunia’s settings, called Gamninjustri. The characters from each franchise are members of competing ninja traditions, similar to Senran Kagura. Their routine clashes are interrupted by the Steeme Legion, mechanical warriors led by an assassin named Yoh Gamer, and a war to determine the ultimate ninja tradition is declared. The heroines are naturally compelled to join forces to repel the invaders.
The narrative attempts to poke fun at the industry in the same way as other Neptunia games, but on the large scale, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars doesn’t really make any compelling jabs or insights. The analogy to a war between Steam (“Steeme”) and Neptunia’s anthropomorphized consoles never manifested in a meaningful way. Allusions to other RPGs and ninja-based franchises were a nice touch, tucked away in an optional dialog menu, and some fourth-wall breaks provided quick chuckles.
Instead, the result is a serviceable tale that provides just enough excuses to visit new stages, while relying on pretty stereotypical anime conventions. A few generally entertaining character moments broke through, but were countered by just as many uncomfortable or cringe-worthy scenes, like the token hot spring scene, or the entire dynamic of the Neptunia characters aging up when they shape-shift into their ninja forms. Certain design choices and the “jiggle physics” could make the designers of Dead or Alive blush.
“The narrative attempts to poke fun at the industry in the same way as other Neptunia games, but on the large scale, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars doesn’t really make any compelling jabs or insights.”
Fans of Senran Kagura may not find too much of the original series in this mash-up. Its gameplay has been distilled to its simplest form, and its focus on innuendo and unclothing opponents to seize victory is entirely absent, aside from the overly-embellished anatomies of most characters. There’s still fanservice in the dialogue, as a hallmark from both franchises, but no more than most other offerings in this style. If Senran Kagura Estival Versus is your cup of tea, this might not be exactly what you’re looking for.
Missions in Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars unfold on sprawling yet simple maps. Generally, players move along paths, clearing out any yokai monsters of Steeme Legion goons in their way; sometimes the main path will need to be unlocked, or items gathered within a time limit. Side missions are available outside the story chapters, which provide the same goals without the narrative or most of the boss fights.
The sum gameplay result is a step above pure button-mashing, alternating between a single basic attack button, projectiles, and Ninja Art techniques. Overall, Neptunia x Senran Kagura is reminiscent of PSP-era beat-em-ups and action RPGs, and a pretty good fit for the Switch. It just doesn’t get much deeper, unfortunately.
“Overall, Neptunia x Senran Kagura is reminiscent of PSP-era beat-em-ups and action RPGs, and a pretty good fit for the Switch.”
Or at least it doesn’t until the endgame when the Yomi Training missions open up. You’ll encounter the same sparse handful of enemies on the same few maps with the same simple goals, but the restrictions and unique conditions, as well as the gauntlet-like structure, make for a considerable challenge with worthwhile rewards. If you’re still compelled to stick with the game once the credits roll, conquering all these missions will keep you on your toes.
The most complex aspect of Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars’ battles may be the systems under the hood. In addition to the standard equipment and items, Spirit Gem accessories can be set in unlockable spots for each character to provide specific benefits, especially if you arrange the gems in certain positions on the board. Getting better gems from the Yomi Training missions actually kept me going for some time after the story ended, just to improve my boards.
Four characters from each side are joined by two original characters, rounding out a decent roster of ten playable ninja heroines. Each has a sufficiently unique playstyle to differentiate between them. As they level up, they gain new Ninja Arts, which you can equip to switch up their movesets. However, I ended up sticking to the same tag team of Neptunia and either Asuka or Yuki through most of the game, as they felt complimentary, with Yuki’s slower, more stationary arts.
While its heavy-handed visual fanservice certainly isn’t up my alley, and will turn away many others, I did enjoy my time with Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars on a gameplay level. It’s fun in a mindless sort of way, the sort of by-the-book, cookie cutter action that’s good for a distraction. However, I’m not quite sure it will find the right audience—either too generic or too exploitative for some, and not really delivering the full experience of either franchise.