Neptunia Sisters VS Sisters puts not our normal pudding-loving protagonist in the lead position this time, but the goddesses make way for the next generation. Nepgear and the other goddess candidates take the lead here, in a Gamindustri under lockdown.
A Changed Gamindustri
The story starts with Neptune and the other goddess setting off to deal with a problem in the PC continent. But while the goddesses are away, a new problem appears closer to home. The goddess candidates set off to investigate, but it all goes wrong quickly.
An unknown girl appears. Events spiral out of control and the candidates are all put into stasis for two years. They then wake up to hear that Neptune fell in battle on the mission to the PC continent and is presumed dead. The PC continent itself is gone. Everyone is now obsessed with smartphones and the surviving goddesses have lost a lot of their power to them. On top of that, monsters are suddenly appearing everywhere and Planeptune is now a refuge.
While there’s still plenty of that classic Neptunia humor, it’s quite a serious setting. It never gets explored in too much depth, but there are moments of Nepgear’s distress at losing Neptune and her feelings about needing to live up to her role as the last goddess of Planeptune. It clearly seems to be referencing the Covid situation at points too, with mentions of stay-at-home orders and people losing their jobs due to them. It’s not all dark though, with lighter moments like jokes about the run on toilet paper and people’s unjustified concerns about microchips in vaccines (and Nepgear considering actually doing it).
Friends Old and New
Fans of the Neptunia series will recognize most characters in Neptunia Sisters VS Sisters, but there are certainly a few of note. Nepgear makes two new friends, Maho and Anri. Both become important to the plot, especially the amnesiac Maho. We often see hints that not everything is as it seems as we get to know them.
The plot advances quite slowly at first. It wasn’t until about halfway through that we started to see things move – it suddenly got a lot more interesting at that point and even more so in the last couple of chapters. The story didn’t really grab me at first, but I couldn’t put it down when I got to the latter half.
Along with Maho and Anri, we meet Higurashi and Shanghai Alice. Designed by the creators of their respective series, Higurashi looks like Rena from Higurashi When They Cry, while Shanghai Alice looks somewhat like Reimu from Touhou. They play a less important role but are reoccurring characters throughout. As a bonus, they’re playable after completing the game.
It wouldn’t be a Neptunia game without meta-humor and references. They’re in full force in Neptunia Sisters VS Sisters as you might expect. This is especially the case in the side content, which are some of the scenes that I enjoyed the most.
A lot happened while Nepgear and the candidates were sleeping, and this provides a good opening for others to explain what happened during those two years. Such as how ‘Senmu 3’ raised record-breaking amounts of money and was a flop currently filling the bargain bins.
There’s commentary about how censorship on ‘Lastation consoles’ is now tighter than ‘Lowee’ ones and how all of the otome games and dating sims have changed platform. Noire refuses to explain why they changed their policies.
They even work in a conversation with the protagonist and diehard SEGA fan from Uncle from Another World (Isekai Ojisan). Much like Nepgear, he also lost some of his time in his world.
With that said, while I enjoyed the humor a lot, it’s worth noting that Nepgear and co aren’t quite as over the top as Neptune. Since they’re the main focus this time, it feels a bit toned down compared to some of the other titles in the series. Instead, I appreciated more the use of the less than subtle satire, which can otherwise be overpowered by Neptune’s outgoing personality and laugh-out-loud jokes.
Dungeons and Dogoos
While Neptunia Sisters VS Sisters primarily tells its story via visual novel scenes, most of the time is spent running around dungeons. It throws in the odd bit of story too via voiced lines while you do so.
The dungeon gameplay is fairly standard. You run through areas, smash boxes to collect materials, pick up other items laying around, and run into enemies that are shown in the world.
There aren’t many unique dungeons in Neptunia Sisters VS Sisters. Environments seem to heavily be reused, as do placement of parts. I knew exactly where an item would be on several occasions because each time it looked exactly the same as the areas in previous levels. Only the very final dungeon felt very different from the others before it.
The contents of dungeons were fairly similar too and mechanics were very limited. Occasionally I found locked doors and the like. This usually involved going around the long way and finding a switch to press. On occasion, I even found a puzzle, though they are all extremely simple. Think of pushing a block onto a highlighted space nearby over and over. I only had to think about a puzzle for more than a second once throughout the entire twenty hours of my first run through the game. Aside from that, the only notable mechanic was a ‘searchlight’ style circle that locked gates if it touches your main character.
Reusing assets often happened with enemies too, which isn’t unusual for JRPGs in fairness. More annoying was the ‘symbol attack’ mechanic. This is where you can hit an enemy in the dungeon and it would have them stunned when the battle started. Unfortunately, it never seemed to work consistently.
Needs More Action, Less RPG
As you explore Gameindustri, you’ll need to control three goddesses at a time to take down monsters and bosses alike. You control one directly, while the other two are controlled automatically. You’re free to switch which you are controlling mid-battle and I encourage you to do so often!
Each character has different skills and methods of attack, but generally, they’ll be a melee attacker or ranged attacker. Skills are more varied. For example, Rom has healing in addition to an attack skill, while Uni eventually has a poisonous attack.
While characters have useful attacks, skills they can charge, transformations, and other fun features, there’s a major issue; combat is slow and clunky for the most part.
Attacking with a combo commits you to those moves until they’re finished. See an enemy try to attack you? You can’t do anything about it if you’ve already pressed the buttons to swing your sword or shoot your gun. The guard and dodge moves went almost completely unused through my playtime – not only are they slow to activate when no other moves are made but if I was near enough an enemy for them to be useful, I’d be hit by the time they activated.
The one exception to slow combat is chaining moves. After attacking a few times, there’s an option to switch characters. This then quickly teleports the character to the enemy and adds to a damage multiplier. I often used this to switch characters every few attacks and quickly build up damage. This let me avoid getting hit often, so the less useful dodge and guard moves weren’t as bad as they could’ve been.
…But the RPG Elements are Plentiful
While the action elements are lacking, the RPG elements do need to be praised. Gameindustri has plenty of weapons and armor for the characters to wear, along with tons of cosmetic accessories. But it doesn’t end there.
Each character learns different attacks that they can use in their combos. These can be placed in order based on their types to have a greater effect. If you want to focus on knocking an enemy back, breaking their guard, or focusing purely on the attack power, it gives you some choices. It’s always fun to experiment with these sorts of things and there are plenty of options by the end.
Lily ranks allow you to pair up a character with another to gain bonuses and each one has unique things to offer. Changing who is involved in your pairs gives you another element to customize your team.
Disc development is an interesting feature too. As you complete side quests, you unlock people to help you develop discs. These give you bonus traits, from an improved guard to more experience or extra time transformed. You can spend points and time to develop all sorts of different discs.
Lack of Guidance
One downside to both the action and RPG elements is a lack of explanation. Even basic things like how to heal and how to use items were never mentioned. Ways to activate skills were never mentioned in depth. It took me quite a while to figure out how certain quests worked, just due to a lack of explanation and bad luck in finding items. Even having finished the game, I still can’t say I fully understand disc development either.
More Story and Quests
It’s certainly possible just to go through the story, but there is more to do. I’ve mentioned side quests – these tend to fall into rescue missions, item collection, and monster hunting. The rescue ones aren’t amazing – they tend to mostly be solvable by jumping to a fast travel point, where the person or lost items tend to be nearby.
There’s an arena to fight in during the late game. This lets you fight a few battles in a row, rank up and win rewards. Even later on in the game, there’s a tower to go and grind in too.
Aside from the gameplay-focused parts, I do recommend chasing down all the quest markers as these give the optional side-story content.
Some of the environments here look beautiful, while some are quite plain.
I was quite worried when starting Neptunia Sisters VS Sisters. The FPS seemed to tank when I first visited the second dungeon, the first being tiny and enclosed, so not an issue. Fortunately, this didn’t seem to be a problem outside of those early moments of playing the game. There is some minimal pop-in and grass which usually fades in, but it’s not too noticeable. For reference, I’m playing the PlayStation 5 version.
The sprites are designed by the legendary Tsunako and look amazing as always, with Live2D being used to bring them to life. It even adds in some sprite jiggle-physics, which for some reason is one of the most often visited tags on this website, so I assume is of interest to many readers. There aren’t many CGs, but the existing ones do look good and emphasize important plot moments well. The 3D models look good too!
The main story scenes are voice-acted with both Japanese and English options, along with the occasional voiced line elsewhere. As normal for Neptunia, the voicing is done extremely well. The background music all fits nicely too.
Neptunia as a series does seem to suffer when it moves away from its JRPG roots. While Neptunia Sisters VS Sisters has a lot of great points, the more action-oriented gameplay aspects do let it down quite a lot. I’d not suggest rushing out and grabbing it, but Neptunia fans will certainly find a lot to enjoy and this is certainly who it’s aimed at. If you can get past the slow start and the gameplay, the story and time spent with the characters will make it worth it.
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Many thanks go to Idea Factory/Reef Entertainment for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.