Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters - PS4 Review

Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters by developer Idea Factory and Compile Heart and publisher Idea Factory InternationalPS4 review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

It's that time again where we explore the next title from our friends at Compile Heart and Idea Factory, the next Neptunia game! This time getting a starring role is Nepgear in Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters.

In Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters we get to see Nepgear make a return as the protagonist! For those new to the series in general, think of the in-universe world as a sort of personification of the video game, and tech industry. Set in the land of Gamindustri, the world is ruled by four goddesses, each of which are the representatives of a specific company. As the goddesses leave to go investigate issues occurring on the PC continent, the Godesses' little sisters, the Goddess Candidates, are left to take care of things in their absence. No sooner are they left in charge, they get a notification that monsters have appeared nearby Nepgear's home country of Planeptune. So off she and the other candidates go to investigate and get rid of the monsters. Needless to say, everything isn't exactly going to go the ideal route.

Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters takes a good balance between old and new mechanics for this latest installment in the franchise. Those who have played other titles in the main series line will probably be fairly familiar with how things work, but let's see if we can't break things down a little for the newcomers. The Neptunia titles, including Sisters VS Sisters, function pretty similar. You have a general world map with locations of interest you can select. Some of these may be dungeons, some may be events. When selecting an event, or running into one in a dungeon, you get a Live2D cutscene with the anime stylized characters. When not on the world map or in a cutscene, you get a 3D roaming adventure through a number of locales, where you can smack boxes for items, interact with glowing cubes for treasure, jump around obstacles, or get into fights with enemies.

Combat has taken a bit of an interesting route this time around. Instead of the turn-based system that used to exist before, we now have a...well, mostly active system. Battles are fought with up to three characters in combat at once. While in combat, you have a circular area that you can walk around in. You have a set amount of AP, Action Points, and using different moves in your combo string costs a different amount of AP. Combos can be set up beforehand, and running out of AP means you either need to swap to another character, or wait until the AP regenerates passively. It's highly suggested you swap though, as swapping after you've used a few moves starts a "Chain" which increases your damage. In addition to your combo moves, you also have a Tec gauge which builds up over time while in battle. Once it is full you can use a skill or item. Tec gauges and AP are individual per character, so when you run out you can swap to another character to either continue the combo or use items or skills as needed.

Now, what game with action-style battle mechanics wouldn't be complete without a guard or dodge? Both of these are available for you, and are done in a similar state. Guarding will reduce the damage you take, but your guard can break if it sustains too much damage. Dodging will let you get out of the way, but there's a brief delay before you can dodge again, so make sure you aren't just opening yourself up. Something important to note is that all of your attacks require a lot of commitment. You use an 8 hit slow attack? You're stuck in it. Often times some of the tougher fights, or bosses, become a balance of when to attack, when to block wider hitting moves, and when to dash away, or towards, the enemy. To be honest, when I first started playing, combat felt really...thick, I suppose you could say. After I stopped trying to play an Ys or DMC title through a Neptunia game, I warmed up to it a lot more.

By and large, Sisters VS Sisters is predominantly a title for those already familiar with how things work and the characters involved. A lot of dialogue relies on the player being at least somewhat aware of who the characters are and some of the events from past games, although usually nothing so in-depth that you feel completely out of it. The Neptunia series, regardless of whether the title is a spin-off or not, has always had its writing grounded in a place that's a sort of running commentary on the current video game market and how companies are doing and what is going on at the time. Needless to say, the last few years have been...well, not particularly stellar, so there's a lot to work with. 

From outbreaks, to the rise of mobile and phone gaming, gacha games, lack of available parts for certain systems, as well as the release of mini-consoles that are essentially a nostalgia pitch, Sisters VS Sisters has some commentary for pretty much all of it. That being said, while Sisters VS Sisters is a little more "grim reality" compared to other titles, it doesn't really play itself too seriously the whole time. You can still expect the gags you've come to know and love from the series, just perhaps in a different form.

Another point to take note of is that there are a lot of reused assets from other titles. This isn't really a bad thing, as many of the models and Live2D models seem to be updated, but those familiar with the series will quickly notice textures, dungeon themes, enemies, and music from previous titles. Good news, it looks good and is well implemented. Reusing assets also allows the devs to focus more on other areas, such as the writing and gameplay design. There are a lot of interesting interactions and gameplay does feel pretty smooth, although there are some lapses in certain areas. For example, when exploring an area, you can now usually interact with ladders to create short-cuts to different areas. Climbing said ladders is pretty slow, but setting them up felt pretty novel for the series. Additionally, there are many doors you need to find switches for, which is a bit of a divergence from how the dungeons standardly used to work.

This being said, there are definitely issues with the title. There's a little lag here and there, and often you may have a long portion of dialogue events with no action, although they are fairly far between and the dialogue doesn't usually get too lengthy. The devs have made the choice to split large chunks of dialogue into smaller events, so you can go do some dungeoneering to complete requests in-between to keep a good pace. Also to note is that anytime fog or mist type effects happen during dialogue, there tends to be some lag. Otherwise, I found the title to run quite smoothly. The other major issue you may run into is how..same-y the dungeons can be. For the most part they tend to be varied enough, but fair warning, if you decide to run through the bonus dungeon, expect to be pretty much just done with the dungeon crawling aspect.

Some of the more positive aspects revolve around the little things. For instance, event points are clearly indicated on the mini-map, with lines clearly showing when the event will activate as soon as you touch the indicated yellow area. As a long time gamer, I love seeing this, because it means I can know exactly what I can get away with. Also, I'm pleased to announce that you now get Quest indicators over any dungeons where you can meet the requirements for completing a request. These requests can be picked up from Chirper periodically, which is "totally not blue bird related". Back once again is the ability to customize your characters' appearances with accessories. There's an awful lot, and you can dress up your characters basically however you want with the items you can collect.

There's a few more game mechanics that I feel should be included as well. Let's start with the longer running mechanic: Combo Maker. Essentially, as you level up you get new moves. These moves are different types, such as power (hard hitting), rush (faster and more hitting), or break (more stagger gauge damage). The skills can be assigned how you wish and you can put multiple in a line. You can build up a combo of up to 4 specialized skills, and depending on where in the order the move is, it may receive a power up from being after the skill before it. 

The other mechanic is Disc creation. From battle you get DC, or Disc Coins. These can be spent in order to create equipable discs, which are usually a sort of reference to an existing game of sorts. When creating a Disc, you can select a genre, a developer if you want, and an item if you want in order to create a Disc. These Discs will have different effects, such as increased exp or item drop rate. It's an interesting mechanic where you can put up to four in development at once, and then they take a certain amount of in-game time to complete. You can equip up to four Discs, so it is worth your time.


Overall, I have to say I really enjoyed Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters. It feels like a good return to the main series while still trying to change things up enough that it doesn't feel like the older titles, while still keeping what made the previous titles fun. While the dungeon crawling can get a little repetitive, and it is fairly easy to exploit certain mechanics at times, Sisters VS Sisters tends to limit dungeon length, or segment it, in such a way that it usually doesn't become too much. The battle system took me a while to get used to, but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed. If you're new to the series, it may be a little tough to get into, but is still fun. If you're a fan of the series though, I'm certain you'll have a Neptastic time!

Score: 8 / 10


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