The crossover of two action hack-and-slash series, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is ultimately a lacklustre video game. The Finger Guns review.
Let’s start from the top – I’ve never played any of the previous entries in either the Neptunia or Senran Kagura series before. In fact, I’d never even heard of them before they were brought to my attention by my colleagues at FingerGuns. There was quite a myth and legend spoken about the precessors, notorious for being obnoxiously sexualised and based on little more than male fantasy titillation. You could imagine my trepidation about wading in to such a series as a result. To my surprise however, it appears the series has taken some (slight) steps towards a less hypersexualised entry and… well… it wasn’t as terrible I’d built up in my mind.
That’s not to say it’s a great or even good game, but it was tolerable and actually has a couple of ever-so-slightly redeeming elements, despite its decidedly lower budget offering and mechanical failings. So, without further ado, let’s dive into Anime Breasts: The Game. Sorry, I mean, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars (doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue does it?).
A Story of Ninjas and Not Much Else
Ninja Wars is, expectedly, a story about 2 nations – Heartland and Marveland – who are constantly at war to maintain “share energy”, a force that keeps the kingdom held together, basically. Each nation has 4 all-powerful ninjas which, in a completely shocking and unexpected turn of events, must band together to defeat a new and all powerful threat: the Steeme Legion and it’s leader Yoh Gamer, master of the “Headshot Style”.
That’s it, really. You travel to different levels around the map, fighting off Yokai and Steeme Legion grunts and often a boss. Narrative is delivered through sterile, unengaging static stills of a backdrop, with non-animated characters having a cutout of their appearance which slide across the screen to show movement. Imagine if you had to create cutscene moments using PowerPoint animation effects and you can probably picture it. There’s an abundance of text dialogue which quickly becomes wearing, with characters repeating the same objective or newly identified bit of information about 4-5 times before finally moving on. It’s all largely obvious, cliched and lacking any depth or intrigue, so before long you’ll probably find yourself wanting to skip most of it.
Each of the ninjas and characters you come across have their own… shall we say… personality quirks. It usually boils down to one being the amnesiac, one the obsessed-with-another-main character, the unconfident one etc etc. They’re mostly one-dimensional and rarely show any actual traits of being human beings, with their “development” limited to suggesting awkward scenes where they all bathe together for “bonding”. These scenes happen a handful of times, being completely unnecessary, complete with cringey, painful dialogue which is poorly disguised from its purpose of being sexual fantasy.
Aside from the fact that each of the all-female playable cast have unwieldy and disproportionately large breasts, there are actually a couple of better moments dialogue wise. The main protagonist, Neptune, is genuinely funny in places, with regular meta quips about video games and the industry. Jokes about DMCA takedowns, cliches of how protagonist’s journeys progress and the annoyance of the amnesia trope actually did land and made me chuckle, so it wasn’t all bad.
Other than that though, the story is largely uninteresting and forgettable. If you’re a fan of the series themselves there might be more for you in this, but for me as a newcomer it was all pretty bland and unengaging.
A Gameplay Grind
As a self-proclaimed action RPG and hack-and-slash, Ninja Wars is again functional, with little to no ingenuity or flair to accompany it. Combat boils down to mashing Square to complete combos on a majority of enemies who have slow attack animations and are generally fodder. Using L1, you can use special moves in Ninja Art abilities which look nice and more importantly make you invulnerable to being stun-locked by tougher foes. Furinkazan drive allows 4 superpower modes (increased damage, health regeneration etc) to be activated a limited number of times per level, while you have a super attack that charges up as you fight and throwable weapons too. There’s a block which is pointless 99% of the time and an ability to dash around enemies.
It initially seems like a lot, but it’s all very surface-level as you abuse the use of special moves as stamina recovers quickly and mash your way through wave-after-wave of the same handful of repetitive enemy types. Towards the end you may need to take a bit more care, but largely it’s plain-sailing through the majority of the content.
Levels are called “dungeons” with repeating objective types – go here, kill this, collect this with no variability at all. They rapidly become mundane and boring to play through, with each being completely linear and having easily found treasure boxes to gain items from. Imagine a much smaller-scale musou title like Dynasty Warriors but with even less variety and even more button-mashing. Yeah, seriously. You can return to previously completed dungeons but there’s honestly no incentive to do so.
There’s really not much else to say about the gameplay of Ninja Wars. You’ll button-mash and cheese your way past the handful of again, repetitive, boss types and general fodder with reckless abandon. I suppose there’s some catharsis from being able to play without thinking, but that’s a very limited compliment at best.
An RPG of No Decisions
I personally think calling Ninja Wars an RPG is generous or rather optimistic, given that you have no decision-making autonomy in the story nor missions. You complete them in linear order and sit through hauls of written text and dialogue.
Between missions, you can use Ninchat to gather some information from characters and get new side mission requests or items. At the Kumotsu Shrine you then accept side missions, based in the same dungeons you’ve already completed, for rewards and currency. There’s dozens of requests throughout and once again, they show just how repetitive and uninspired the core gameplay is, with the bulk of them requiring you to kill more of the same enemies and traipse through the same boring objectives with minor alterations.
With your rewards and currency you can then equip your roster of 10 ninjas with various items, equipment and spirit gems which provide buffs and enhancements to core stats. The spirit gem system is similar to Materia from Final Fantasy as they can be upgraded through synthesis and then equipped on a board-like grid, with certain formations of gems granting bonus effect percentages, providing a bit of thought on how to maximise your effectiveness and whether you want to prioritise for example damage output, damage resistance, Ninja Art effectiveness or XP gain.
None of it is necessary through the story or side-missions though, as you can largely breeze through even if you don’t continually upgrade or integrate with these systems. About halfway through I stopped using it due to the clunky menu system and was absolutely fine until the endgame trials became available which up the difficulty significantly. You can mostly get by gaining XP, leveling up and if you do the requests as you go along, you’ll be over levelled for the vast amount of story missions.
None of it’s broken and it all functions perfectly well, there’s just not much need or incentive to really engage with the extra systems, outside of your own motivation. Additionally, there’s a “Peaches & Meditation” minigame, with 3 difficulty levels that grant bonuses to your characters for 3 levels. It boils down to balancing a ball on a line using your controller movement, and it’s basically another excuse to have the ninjas be stripped to their underwear and watch them balance on a peach… because reasons.
Ninja Art? Not Really
Channelling the old age of the late PS2 and PS3 era, Ninja Wars looks decidedly last-gen in most areas. Levels are blocky, lacking detail and are barren, empty shells devoid of anything to peak your interest. They exist solely for you to cut through as quickly as possible. While they have some differentiation, you’ll be sick of seeing them after engaging with a few missions.
Enemy designs are as basic as they come, with bosses also looking pretty generic with exception of a couple. Even the roster of ninjas feel like they’ve been only slightly differentiated from each other. At times early on it was a struggle to really tell them apart or who was who. Naturally it became a bit better as the game went on, but I still couldn’t even tell you each character’s name if you showed me their cut-out still after 11 hours of playing.
Menus look fine but have occasional delays to button inputs, while in-game animations for specials are flashy and colourful but the lack of animation work and chunky hit-boxes mean characters are frequently floating around or getting hit from things that clearly shouldn’t be. It’s just an odd experience to play and adequately explain. It would have been passable as a PS3 title, but on the PS4 (not even going to consider I was playing it on PS5) it just doesn’t hit the mark of what would be expected.
There weren’t any crashes though, and it ran smoothly, so that was nice. Unfortunately, there’s a bunch of loading screens that appear far more often than a game of this size should have. Can’t win them all I guess.
Ninja Wars or Ninja Bores
It’s fair to say I didn’t exactly enjoy much of my time playing Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars, but I also, weirdly, didn’t hate it either… it sits in that almost worse position of being entirely forgettable and… fine. I didn’t take to the whole sexualised characters schtick but I appreciated that it was toned down considerably from the stories I’d heard of previous entries.
In total, I spent 10 hours completing the story and every side request, with some tougher endgame content opening up which’ll probably provide another couple of hours of stuff to do, so it’s got enough here provided you can engross yourself into it. Personally, I found the story, gameplay and presentation all too shallow to keep me invested beyond just finishing it so I could at least give it a fair crack.
If you like big-breasted anime females then Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars has got you covered. With lacklustre story, shallow hack-and-slash mechanics and ancient graphical presentation, there’s little here worth your time. If you’re a fan of action or RPG games that are anything more deep than a puddle, Ninja Wars ain’t gonna be the one, basically, especially if you don’t fancy balancing barely-glad animated women on peaches.
Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars is launching on October 26th, 2021 for the PS4 (review platform).
Developer: Compile Heart / Tamsoft
Publisher: Idea Factory
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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