Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters | Review (2024)

What if you took the concept of the greater gaming industry and personified it? If you’re not familiar with the gaming industry as a whole, bless you—but if you are, developer Compile Heart and publisher Idea Factory have a take on it you might like. The ‘Hyperdimension Neptunia’ series of games is a long running franchise of strategy and action role-playing games that pit the four major console manufacturers (yes, four) against one another. Wacky hijinks and the occasional serious plot points ensue.

Since 2010 the series has traditionally been on PlayStation consoles, made its way to PC and Nintendo platforms, and now with the ARPG entry ‘Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters’, is finally available on Xbox consoles for the first time ever. Many games in, this entry pits the little sisters of the main cast against a looming threat involving free-to-play games, mobile phones, and cute monsters ready to stun lock you if you’re not prepared.

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Famitsu Comes to Life

Sister VS Sisters takes place in the world of the Gamindustri, a selection of islands and other land masses that house the four console manufacturers Leanbox, Lastation, Lowii, and Planeptune. Each of these kingdoms are ruled by a goddess and these four goddesses keep a quarter of “shares” across the Industri, which is the population of their ruling lands and usage of the country’s hardware. They pull and tug at the shares of one another, but these goddesses are, for the most part, actually friends and band together when external forces threaten to wreak havoc across their lands.

It’s a novel concept and was the reason I picked up the original PlayStation 3 games all those years ago (big fan of the artist, too!). I played the first and beat the third before ultimately letting the series slip under my radar. Sisters VS Sisters is my first time getting back to the world of Gamindustri and I’m kinda surprised that not much has changed over the course of the last twelve years. More on that in a moment, in the meantime know that this entry aptly follows the sisters of the leading goddesses: Nepgear, Uni, Rom and Ram are the younger sisters of Neptune (SEGA), Noire (PlayStation), and Blanc (Nintendo). Vert, the Xbox girl, doesn’t have a sister but longs for one anyway (and has been doing so).

After a series of events regarding the collapse of the PC region, the sisters go on a small adventure to find their older sisters only to find themselves shoved into a cryochamber that leaves them asleep for two years. Upon being discovered and woken up, the girls have found that the Industri’s shares have been nabbed by a new “Magiphone” competitor and it’s up to them to find out who is behind all this, what happened to Nepgear’s sister, and to restore the status quo across the Gamindustri once and for all.

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Unlike previous entries, Sisters VS Sisters is an ARPG. You have three party members who have a set amount of action points to work with—these points allow you to “commit” to an attack, or more precisely when you do fire off an attack you’re rooted in place until the animation is completed or cancelled out. As you build a chain of hits, you’ll have the chance to swap to another party member which gives you a free hit and the ability to continue your combo before swapping to the third member and doing it all over again. Your basic attacks are built as an “order of operations” sort of deal that can be freely modified from the menu as you unlock more attack abilities.

Alongside your combat skills, you have a Y special, EXE “ultra” moves, and goddess transformations that amplify your attacks. You can create power enhancing Disks by selecting a genre of game, its creator, and an item that can provide additional bonuses to your combat abilities. I’ll be honest, I like this combat system way more than the turn-based strategy style of gameplay that was present in the older titles. The freedom in movement and options requires you to play strategically and mess with your characters builds to find the right balance.

Blocking and dashing are somewhat necessary, though if you can continually maintain your combo so you can keep baddies from retaliating. There’s a lack of fluidity to movement and it took me a bit to figure out what the game really wanted me to be doing, but once I figured it out I fun clobbering everything in my way. If you can keep the bad guy stunned, you’ll walk off scot-free. Party members are surprisingly resourceful too and will even check in with you before wasting precious resources (which becomes less of an issue a couple of hours into the game).

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Game Industry Shenanigans

I had fun with the game’s combat system, but if you’re picking up a Neptunia title. Know that you’re primarily picking it up for its cast of characters, side skits, and story. There’s a lot of visual novel segments in-between combat and dungeon exploration, primarily featuring the sisters but the four older goddesses also chime in here and there. Story segments are voiced while side skits are voiceless but tend to be on the more fun side of things such as poking fun at “current” game industry trends as well as the many gaffes of the console manufacturers. Core console gamers will be familiar with these jabs and be right at home, even if they’ve aged like spoiled buttermilk.

And speaking of the cast, I like them a lot. The cast bounces off each other well and their game-related jokes are amusing. We have Vert who is a soft-spoken but welcoming young lady who finds comfort in retreating to her room and gaming long into the night. Noire and Blanc are stern but kind and mean business when it comes to it. And then there is Neptune. She is a character in this universe.

Outside of their console war shenanigans, we have the sisters who care nothing about that and just want to hang out. Nepgear does her best as the main character this time around, aided by Uni and Rom ‘n Ram. They’re all absolutely adorable and more or less carry the plot as it jumps from dungeon to dungeon along with some original characters based on some niche PC games. Arfoire is still alive and kicking too (I’ll let you sit on her name for a bit), making a mess of things when she can. Someday she’ll get the Gruntilda treatment.

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If you’d rather not read the game’s story at all and simply jump right into the game, you could do that. All cutscenes are skippable. But I don’t recommend it because outside of some fun combat and the narrative, there’s nothing else here worth sticking around for. Dungeon and level design is incredibly bland, lacking any notable landmarks or signposting that should help with finding your way through these levels. Expect to pull up your map often lest you keep walking back the way you came after combat. Side quests boil down to Craigslist-style fetch quests and the enemies you encounter are rarely interesting in their movesets and start equiping accessories to stand out from their other variants. Cute attempt, for what it’s worth.

I’m a little surprised how after all this time, this game doesn’t seem all too different from my last run-in with the series on the PS3. Let me start with performance: I started and played through most of this game on my ROG Ally, enjoying a near 60 frames per second experience. Coming off V, which I notably remember capped out at 15 frames a ‘sec, this was a major improvement. But then I loaded up the game on both Series consoles and was a little surprised to see how poorly the game was running. While playable, this lower framerate impacts combat, camera movement, and even delays menu inputs.

Going back level design, Sisters VS Sisters dungeons consist of long corridors across grasslands, caves, digital landscapes, and a city. Outside of the city zone, every other dungeon type lacks environmental art direction and any meaningful signposting to guide the player. Exploring these dungeons is a pain whether it’s to advance the game’s story or get side quests done. When you’re not in a VN segment, you’re out in these fields and, frankly speaking, it’s easily my least favourite part of the game.

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The cast hasn’t seemed to evolve much, either. Remember those descriptions I gave of the characters? I pulled that all from memory from my time with the PS3 games. No, my memory isn’t that good, that’s just how little any of the cast has evolved since then. This being a spin-off title, I can overlook this, but I can’t help but feel like I’m surrounded by characters inspired by events of the mid to late 7th console hardware generation, balking at the rise of a new platform almost like an old man yelling at clouds. Give Vert the sister she needs, please.

It’s nice to see a Neptunia game (and particularly a Compile Heart title) make its way to Xbox platforms. I’ve always thought this series knew its audience and its audience know of it—you’ll know right away whether you like Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters’ video game-themed world and characters and designs. Just keep in mind that you’ll be putting with a fairly weak RPG trapped in a time period where an overclocked GameCube was the hottest gadget on the market and Hannah Montana once had a presence at E3. ∎

Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters

Played on
Windows 11/Xbox Series X|S

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PROS

  • Fun Combat System
  • “Cute girls doing cute things” Ft. game industry jokes.

CONS

  • Extremely bland environment direction and level design that are easy to get lost in.
  • Enemy movesets can’t keep up with yours.
  • Side questing never becomes more than basic fetch quests.
  • Poor performance across both Series consoles.
5.8 out of 10
AVERAGE

XboxEra Scoring Policy

Available on

Xbox Series | Xbox One | PlayStation 4 | PlayStation 5 | Switch | Windows PC | Steam

Developer

Compile Heart, Idea Factory

Released on

May 21, 2024

Publisher

Idea Factory International

Rated

Teen

Price

$39.99

Tags

Compile Heart Idea Factory Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters

Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters | Review (2024)
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