Hyperdimension Neptunia is the latest game from Idea Factory and published by NIS (Known for the Disgaea titles). Rather than taking itself serious like most games do, Neptunia strives for an over-the-top approach by poking fun at the industry today. Is Neptunia the next must have RPG, or will it be instantly forgotten?
The game takes place in the world of Gameindustri. Entities known as Histoire and Arfoire created 4 goddesses known as Console Patron Units (CPUs) to guard and maintain each world.
However a war broke out between them, creating the Console Wars between Black Heart, Green Heart, White Heart, and Purple Heart. Together Black, Green, and White team up against Purple and send her down to Planeptune, one of the regions within the game. Now known simply as Neptune, she and her band of allies must travel all of the worlds to unlock Histoire and put an end to the console war.
If something sounds familiar that’s because it is. Neptunia draws as many references to the game industry today, heck even the in-game world is called Gameindustri. The CPUs and worlds were created and named to coincide with this generation of consoles. Black Heart and Lastation symbolize the PS3, Green Heart and Leanbox symbolize the 360, White Heart and Lowee symbolize the Wii, and Purple Heart and Planeptune symbolize the cancelled Sega Neptune. References are also made to industry events such as E3 and CES.
So with all of these ideas as a basis for the plot you’d think it would be an exciting look at the video game industry. However the story falls flat and actually becomes quite cumbersome. The plot is hampered by annoying characters, poorly designed missions, and a general lack of quality writing.
All of the characters are big and loud, and this wouldn’t be a bad thing if they were developed and written properly, but Neptunia handles both poorly. All of the characters come off annoying, loud, and obnoxious. It’s hard to like characters when they are presented as overly-cheerful and every slice of dialogue is delivered in an over-the-top way.
Missions are supposed to progress the story, though most of them in Neptunia don’t do the job very well. Very few missions actually expand upon the storyline, and instead they focus on lame side-missions that should’ve been used to develop the characters. Only once in a while does a key mission make an appearance, otherwise nothing much happens with the promising plot.
As mentioned, the writing is a huge problem, especially with role-playing games rely heavily on it. Despite this being a very good localization, it fails with its cringe worthy dialogue. It’s very hard to like anything about a game if the words coming out of a characters mouth are intolerable.
Hyperdimension Neptunia had an interesting premise, but everything falls short. It’s hard to invest in an RPG when it provides unlikable characters and cringe worthy dialogue.
At first sight, Neptunia looks to offer a lot. Four giant worlds, side-missions, and plenty of areas to explore hint at a very big game to play in, though sadly this promise falls short.
Rather than showing the open freedom the game strongly hints at, none of it comes to fruition. Almost every interaction is menu based while you stare at a sterile background. The only way to explore certain sections of the city is to hit the explore button and then select it. You’ll go to a part of the world, but it’ll once again be a sterile environment that uses the menu cutscene approach where you read, or listen and nothing happens.
Taking on missions of any kind feel like a chore, this is mostly due to the basic cave design being used over and over again, and seeing as a lot of missions take place in caves it can become rather boring. Of course the overabundance does lead to a lot of playtime, but playing through the same basic dungeons and towers for simple quests feels redundant after a while.
Neptunia feels like a lazy job, so much so that it feels as if very little effort went into designing the game. The reliance on menus for everything is disappointing when the game teases rich environments to explore. What you do get to explore are repetitive caves and towers that will make the meaty game feel like a shallow skeleton.
Neptunia’s gameplay is a mixture of turn-based and timed-battle systems found in other RPGs. Upon entering the dungeon, the character chosen by the player will run around the field, though not much is available on the field other than treasure chests. Special interactions can be made depending on the player’s front character, which can be switched with the D-Pad. Every character has a special ability they can use to interact with the world. Neptune can hit objects with a hammer to access new rooms, while IF can locate hidden chests.
Eventually the player will be taken into the battle window. From here, six of the party members are on the field ready to attack. Three are positioned in the front, while the other three are placed in the back.
From hear the turn-based portion of the combat takes place, with a bar at the top showing the order in which characters and enemies will attack. Though, this is about where the turn-based features end, with the rest being timed-based. Once it’s a character’s turn a command window pops up, and a certain amount of action points are given for use. Triangle is a weapon attack, Circle is a physical attack, X is a ranged attack, and Square is used for special items, all of these can then be chained into 4-hit combos. Every character is different so some experimentation is needed to figure out which of the three attack types fits each character. It’s a good system but it’s easily abused once you know which style a certain character is best at.
Goddess characters such as Neptune, can transform in their Heart forms in certain battles. These are the equivalent of summon characters in other RPGs, super-strong forms that can tackle even the largest of enemies.
Enemies aren’t much of a challenge, and while bosses do put up a fight, all other enemy types appear as small figures that pose little threat – it’s rare to find a big enemy that will cause you much trouble. Every enemy however has two bars, a pink health bar and a green armour bar, by depleting the armour bar extra damage can be dealt, however the bar rebounds unnaturally fast.
Probably the weirdest and most frustrating part of the gameplay is the healing and items. The only items you can get are synthesis items, and all healing spells are skills that each character learns. Usually they can only be cast once the right number of items are collected, then you’ll have to go into the abilities menu for each character and set percentages for how often you want each spell to happen. Then once in a battle the character needs to have the condition put upon them and then if you’re lucky, or the spell has a high enough percentage, the spell would be performed. There’s no manual healing at all in this game, even outside of battle. This is frustrating to say the least as healing can only take place after being hit and there is no auto-healing outside of battle. So if your character faints in a battle than they’re pretty much dead the rest of the mission.
Neptunia is alright to play, but its gameplay can easily be manipulated. Add on some lacklustre fights and a frustrating healing mechanic, and you’ve got a game that is enjoyable but is ultimately dragged down by its poor design choices.
Neptunia can be split into good and bad in its presentation. Easily the most notable feature is its cutscenes, and while it is a disappointment that they’re just text based with two characters at a time on the screen talking, they still at least look good. Characters facial animations, the effects that they make, and the breathing all look great and are enjoyable to watch.
The script has also been well localized, though it’s a pity that this is all ruined by how horrible the voice acting is. Every line of dialogue spouted out by every character is cringe-worthy. Melancholic, over-acted, and overly-sexual voices pretty much ruin the good graces that the game gives and destroys the seriousness of the voice-acting. A string of repetitive one-liners and grunts in battle also make fighting extremely unenjoyable.
It also doesn’t help that the game looks downright dated, whether it be stiff animations to ugly textures, Neptunia has it all. Nothing about the game looks polished at all, and while in-game looks better it doesn’t last for long, as vary few unique enemy variants are present and little effects are used.
The soundtrack is just as unpleasant to hear as the voice-acting, with repetitive tunes punctuating a large portion of the game, and only a few select tunes sounding good.
Neptunia is not a pleasant game to look at or listen to, with the cutscenes perhaps being the exception. This is one game where turning off the sound and just reading the subtitles is the best option.
It’s hard to recommend Hyperdimension Neptunia to players. The game has an interesting premise but fails to execute it. Add in bad design choices, an easily abusive gameplay system, and downright bad visuals and you have Hyperdimension Neptunia.
- Interesting Premise
- Good Looking Cutscenes
- Good Localization
- Cringe worthy Voice work
- Dated Visuals
- Poor Design Choices