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My Journal, Page 24, 3 November 2022 – For Your Retro Kawaii Needs – Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls

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Hello there, and welcome to yet another journal page. This week has been tiring yet amazing for me, as I managed to go to the Lucca Comics & Games convention for the first time, on Saturday and Sunday! In case you didn’t know, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of Atari, and since I love Atari and retrogaming, and all that it stands for, I couldn’t help but go! On Saturday I got to see many special items, such as a real E.T. copy that was retrieved from Alamogordo. Plus, I even met Nolan Bushnell, Atari’s founder, and obtained his autograph! Could it have been any better? Then, on Sunday I played many levels on the authentic Tempest arcade cabinet (which I’d love to own one day) and even beat the record on its leaderboards! Apparently, the following day, on Monday, Nolan Bushnell himself came and signed all of the arcade cabinets, including Tempest, and my record was there! It might not be that amazing of a record, but I’m really proud of it!

However, my favorite memory will always be that I met a person I look up to, that famous Simone who’s the owner of the Italian podcast Atariteca Podcast, along with two of the immensely nice members of Arcade Story group, Antonio and Michele! It was a huge honor to meet them all, and I managed to ask Simone for an autograph too! What an amazing weekend!

Now, enough of that, as you’re surely here for the game of the day, aren’t you? Today we’ll be talking about a quite weird game, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls. As I’m a fan of both retrogaming and kawaii things, when I saw that it featured retro Sega consoles turned into kawaii anime girls, I had to try it!

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls

It’s a JRPG, released on PlayStation Vita in 2015 in Japan and in 2016 in the rest of the world, and on Steam, worldwide, in 2017. I played the Steam version on my Steam Deck. It’s a crossover between the Hyperdimension Neptunia series and the Sega Hard Girls series, set in alternate timelines from the respective canon ones, thus can be enjoyed even by whoever hasn’t played games of those series yet; in fact, when I played it this summer I knew a couple of things about the Neptunia series, however, I had not played any of the games. Even so, I was too curious about Sega Hard Girls to refrain from playing the game.

What are Sega Hard Girls, exactly? It’s a multimedia project started in 2013, stemming from a light novel (which as you may have guessed, isn’t available in English) that got an anime adaptation later on. The point of the project is to create anthropomorphic versions of the Sega consoles, turning them into anime goddesses that appear in modern Japan. These goddesses, in particular Dreamcast, Sega Saturn, and Mega Drive, must graduate from Sehagaga Academy in Tokyo (SeHa stands for Sega Hard, gaga is a pun for Girls), and to accomplish that they have to make various journeys into the world of Sega games and collect medals.

Unlike for the other Neptunia games, this time Neptune isn’t the protagonist… but don’t tell her I said that.

In this game, however, all of the goddesses live in the respective eras of their console counterparts, and each one is paired with a character from the Neptunia series, who acts as an alternative goddess of that time. The adventurer IF (which probably stands for Idea Factory), a character from the Neptunia series, is looking for the Grand Library of Gamindustri (which is the “game industry”), hoping to find the secrets that it contains. Then suddenly, as if it was normal, a blue-haired girl falls from the sky. IF quickly brings her to the library, seeking help. Luckily the Grand Library isn’t empty, as it has a bookkeeper, Histoire, who’s Neptunia’s assistant in the mainline games. Waiting for the blue-haired girl to wake up, IF starts browsing through the library, when she’s attacked by some creature and falls unconscious in a room of the library for three days. And yes, Historie leaves her there for three days. She only looks for her because of a new and huge problem for the library: a creature called Time Eater is destroying all the books in the library, which contain stories about the preceding eras. If they are damaged, history itself will be damaged as well, thus it is of extreme importance that the Time Eater is taken care of. Eventually, the mysterious girl wakes up, saying that she doesn’t remember anything of herself apart from her name, Segami, which also happens at the beginning of the first game in the Neptunia series, where Neptune had no idea she was a goddess. With Segami awake, Historie gives them a mission: they need to go back in time to gather allies and intel to fix the timeline, then destroy the Time Eater. They’ll go into four different eras, the classical Mega Drive era, with its goddess Plutia; the medieval Sega Saturn era, along with Neptune (the protagonist of the Neptunia series); the industrial Game Gear era, with Nepgear; and the modern Dreamcast era, with Uzume Tennouboshi.

Hello, visual novel guy!

The gameplay itself isn’t necessarily complex. Being a JRPG, you have your usual party of characters, with their gear and weapons, that have to explore dungeons, kill enemies and bosses, level up, and so on. Although, there’s what we could call a turn system. Each quest has a number of turns to be completed, and the player has to choose which quests to complete first. Once the quest has vanished, it cannot be completed anymore unless the player triggers it again. At some point in the story, the quest for the final boss will appear, having a number of turns of its own. The player can choose whether to defeat the boss as soon as it appears or later on in the game. Once its turns are depleted, the story of the game will loop, with the main characters going back in time to continue their search, reliving some of the events in a funny way, breaking the fourth wall. In order to get the true ending, you are required to travel by IF’s motorcycle through various loops until you have completed all four eras’ storylines, then challenge the boss.

Sadly, Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls is a game that requires quite a lot of grinding, as the game loves to add many levels to the bosses every time, expecting that you’ll also level up in return. While you can use some strategy, it’s still expected for you to grind. Luckily, there’s a solution. There are many optional skills that allow you to exponentially increase the amount of experience you get, and areas where you can level up faster. Even so, the gameplay was a bit lackluster. The combat is decent but adds nothing new to the genre, and the game found a smart way to recycle maps; as there are four eras, you’ll have to travel through mostly the same places in the different eras, and they are usually the same, albeit with a few cosmetic differences. New areas are rare, and the grinding spot is identical in its four iterations. I call this lazy map development, and I think you can agree.

What is truly great about this game, though, is the characters and their interactions. The dialogues are filled up with comedic lines and scenes, and it’s impossible not to laugh out loud while playing this game. Some of the scenes are a bit unbelievable, yet the game knows it and jokes about it. I mean, after the events of the first world Neptune gets fused with IF’s motorbike, turning the poor vehicle into an eggplant-colored talking motorcycle, hilariously nicknamed “crap bike”. In my opinion a motorcycle of that shade of purple looks great, but the whole game clearly doesn’t agree, and never fails to make use of that joke. It does feel old after a while, though. After this weird fusion, Neptune joins the main party, followed by the other goddesses. Some of them are particularly hilarious, like the goddess Plutia.

Plutia may be summarized by the phrase “kawaii plushy pajamas anime girl”, and by looking only at her appearance you could believe me. However (and it’s not a spoiler) she’s the complete opposite. On the outside, she is adorable and always sleeps in the weirdest places, but in reality, she’s a merciless woman, wanting to fight and hurt any enemy that approaches her. A particularity of the Neptunia goddesses is that they have an ultimate form, which requires a huge amount of power to sustain, and thus gets used only in battle. Thus, Plutia can’t be her merciless self all the time, and has to turn back into a sleepy cute girl to retrieve her energy. While in this form, she is an airhead, and keeps asking the party if they know the reason why Mega Drive, who also lives in her era, won’t meet her. Considering that she hurts others for fun, we can all guess why… What’s even funnier is that Plutia’s Japanese voice actor is Kana Hanazawa, who also plays Shiina Mayuri in Steins;Gate (I’ve reviewed this visual novel here). Mayuri is also an airhead, but contrary to Plutia, she’s just plain adorable. So hearing her voice actor being crazy while playing Plutia was quite weird, as I kept imagining a crazy Mayuri instead.

Understandably, another one of my favorite characters from the game is Dreamcast. As you might already have guessed from my handle (Blisscast comes from Bliss (a Muse song) and Dreamcast, meaning something along the lines of “something that emanates bliss, joy, happiness”, and that’s me telling my readers about the wonderful things that I find out about gaming and retrogaming), I love the Sega Dreamcast console. It has a wonderful game library (Space Channel 5, Shenmue and Rez are on there!) and a wonderful name, plus it had many features that were ahead of its time, such as internet multiplayer capabilities. Given these premises, I couldn’t help but adore its anime counterpart. Dreamcast is a courageous girl, trying as hard as she can to do what’s best for the gaming industry of her era, even if, sadly, her console didn’t sell very well. Her design also somewhat resembles a mixture of Ulala from Space Channel 5 and the Dreamcast design, and if you play the European version of the game she even has blue details on her clothes instead of orange! That’s because the Dreamcast logo is blue in Europe instead of orange. I’ve even seen a figure of her on the internet, but I haven’t gotten around to buying it yet. Can’t buy everything, sadly.

In addition to the main characters, there are other characters inspired by Sega consoles and games, such as the SG-1000 and Master System consoles. They have bigger parts in the anime and light novel, of course, but it was still nice that they were added in, somehow. They are scattered all over the overworld, and when interacted with they’ll offer a few funny lines of dialogue.

Thus, would I recommend this game to you? If you’re looking for compelling gameplay, maybe leave this aside. If you’re looking for a fun pastime, with a lot of exhilarating dialogue, look no further! While the gameplay isn’t the most unique, grinding can be reduced to its minimum. Plus, if you think you’ll like these kawaii Sega-branded anime girls, you’ll have a lot of fun. Plus, if you are already a fan of the Neptunia series, I’m sure you’ll love this game!

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