Get ready to save Gamindustri (again) in the latest release from the Neptunia franchise – Sisters VS Sisters! If you’re reading this, you’re either a fan, or you have seen one or more of the Neptunia games on Steam and wondered if they are worth playing at all.
Neptunia might strike you as a run-of-the-mill JRPG series that survives solely due to it’s well-designed cast of magical anime girls, but I’m here to tell you that this sentiment is only half true. The characters are great, arguably some of the most iconic in the niche, but you just have to look at Idea Factory’s long publishing history to see that many such games didn’t gain enough traction to earn a sequel, let alone 10+ years of sequels and spinoffs.
Rather than the familiar main cast, Sisters VS Sisters puts Nepgear and the other candidate goddesses in the limelight. If you’re curious to find out how this works out, keep reading! Published by Idea Factory International and co-developed by Compile Heart and Idea Factory, Hyperdimension Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters is available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 for your regional pricing.
Story – Squaring Up and Socializing
The story kicks off with Neptune and the gang getting together before heading out to investigate a distress call from the PC Continent, and the lighthearted intro sets the tone for what’s to come with a good measure of foreshadowing. The girls all seem to be playing some or other gacha game, with at least a couple of them taking strain after staying up too late trying to get limited item drops in the game.
With Neptune and the other goddesses away on serious business, leaving Nepgear and the other sisters to investigate an abandoned laboratory. This, as you can imagine, has some interesting consequences when they discover and unleash the Ashen Goddess who proceeds to trap them all in a deep sleep capsule. When the sisters awaken, years have passed and the world is in chaos, and its up to the younger generation to save the day while the Gamindustri goddesses are preoccupied with protecting their relevant empires.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Sisters VS Sisters is all about fun and adventure. While the stakes may be high, the characters rarely let things get them down and by the power of friendship, they will save the day in style! This sounds horribly cliche, but there is a comfort factor to the somewhat predictable nature of Sisters VS Sisters, and plenty of interesting and often surprising interactions to spice things up.
As with most Neptunia games, Sisters VS Sisters is a lighthearted romp through a fantastical world with more than a few references to current events and trends – with tongue firmly planted in cheek, of course. For the uninitiated, Neptunia basically takes all the big video game companies and personifies them into a game that is equal parts visual novel and JRPG with both feet firmly planted in the magical girl genre.
Most of the main scenes are voiced in English if you aren’t prepared to read through all the dialogue. It’s funny, cute, and entertaining for the most part. While the story itself might not be particularly interesting, it’s safe to say that this game is driven by its characters – they each have their own unique personality, and if nothing else, this makes for some fun interactions as the characters are thrust into various scenarios.
Sisters VS Sisters is a fairly traditional action RPG with a few interesting mechanics, but sadly it’s a good few hours before the depth of the combat system becomes apparent. The level design is another story altogether, but these elements are best discussed separately.
Lackluster Level Design
The level design often feels relatively flat and samey – I would find myself inadvertently backtracking after a battle because the maps, especially cave-like levels, are straight up bland and uninteresting. Exploration is otherwise fine but didn’t feel all that rewarding. At first, anyway.
Later in the game, there are some more visually appealing and complex levels with some puzzle elements that are much more fun to traverse. It’s a shame Sisters VS Sisters leaves these until later on, but in the end the early stages might have some players tapping out due to sheer boredom. It’s not even a case of reusing assets, but entire areas seem more than a little familiar.
Overall, Sisters VS Sisters felt like well-made visual novel wrapped in decent RPG mechanics and middling dungeon crawling. Once you get a bit further into the game, it adds some light puzzle elements to help keep you on your toes. Some players might feel like the traversal is unnecessary. The game might do well by removing this element, but I have mixed feelings about a pure visual novel-style Neptunia because of the nuanced combat system.
The Fight For Gamindustri
The combat doesn’t really stand out much initially. This is a very much casual experience for at least the first few hours of play – you can happily mash out combos and enjoy the flashy animations. Characters come and go with relatively little by the way of consequence. This isn’t a bad thing if you’re looking for that casual gameplay as an escape from having to think.
It’s only later on when you start encountering some of the more serious bosses that combat starts getting challenging. You have to learn to guard, select the right attacks, and chain them between the characters to deal any appreciable amount of damage. You might be surprised to find one of your sisters going down in only a few hits, and suddenly you’re diving into the menus to figure out how to heal your characters.
While you’re in the menus, you will probably visit the Disc menu, where you can develop.. well, Discs. You craft your Development Plan by selecting a Genre, a Scout, and a Support Item, execute the development, and when the timer counts down you will be given a Disc. Each Disc has a unique title, since they are video games, and depending on the quality (AAA is best, obviously) you will get a couple of perks by equipping this item.
It Wouldn’t Be a JRPG Without Menus and Sidequests
Discs become an important layer of preparation – this is where the more hardcore JRPG elements come in, since you will be managing your team carefully and selecting the right attack combos to give you an edge whenever you come across a tough battle. With the more challenging battles, you’re never really forced into an encounter – instead, you are free to wander around and fight weaksauce enemies, do side quests, and enjoy the myriad cutscenes and events that play out.
On the subject of side quests, this is one area where Sisters VS Sisters leaves much to be desired. You can choose between these unique and innovative quest types – search and rescue, kill X monster/s, or gather X items. This setup is sure to revolutionize the industry and become the next box that every AAA game has to tick if it wants to sell in 2023.
Jokes aside, you can pick Sisters VS Sisters apart all day but one thing became clear to me in my play through – Neptunia is acutely self aware. It’s not trying to be the next Final Fantasy and promise you the AAA experience. This franchise knows what it’s about – solid RPG mechanics, great visual novel-style, and a casual story that isn’t going to fry your emotions. The generic quests, simple exploration, and lighthearted skits are easily digested when other games just seem like so much effort.
Graphics And Audio
Sisters VS Sisters is a mixed bag visually. I have already mentioned the often repetitive level design, but overall the game’s aesthetic is strong. The characters are all meticulously designed and animated right down to the last button and bow whether in the 2D cutscenes or 3D exploration and combat. The transition between battle and exploration is almost (but not quite) seamless if you don’t count the often confusing post-battle camera angles.
It is clear that a lot of effort went into making Sisters VS Sisters a visually striking number. The combat is fluid and lively, with each spell and ability adding a splash of color that you will probably lose the characters in. The menus and UI are all rendered fluidly. While you might fumble for a while getting used to the controls, everything feels sharp and clean, simple yet intuitive.
Sounds Good, Sisters!
The soundtrack consists of some catchy and well-composed pieces. It certainly isn’t as extensive as, say, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, so you will hear most of the tracks frequently. The title track is a slick electropop number composed by Masaki Honda, known for his work on the Idolmaster series. It’s worth a listen if you’re into this sort of thing, even if you have read this far and are still on the fence about the game.
The remainder of the soundtrack consists of catchy arrangements that fit well with this world and its lore. Neither obtrusive or distracting, nor is it dull and unenjoyable. Rather exemplary, as far as background music goes. Good enough that you can hear it dozens of times without feeling sick of it – the OST might even work as part of a home office playlist. It’s upbeat and enjoyable without getting too repetitive.
As for the character voices – I did find the English voices a little grating, but perhaps this is par for the course with a cast of unrelentingly positive characters. The Japanese voice acting was more tolerable, perhaps only because I do not understand Japanese all that well in spite of the metric ton of anime and JRPGs I have consumed.
I played the Steam version of Hyperdimension Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters on PC. The review key was provided by Reef Entertainment.