Hyperdimension Neptunia - PlayStation 3 Standard Edition
- Customize: Creating new computer parts is the way to power up. Players can make their own combinations of parts and designs to customize their goddess.
- Graphic Edit: Pictures stored on your PS3 can be used to customize how your summoning magic. A simple to use picture editing so`ware is in the game for customization.
- Combo : In this game, the player decides how the combo attack is executed. You can assign which buttons to press when and also the name of the skill.
- 3D Anime : Beautiful 3D artworks that move and talk like anime. Movement, execution, and expression is varied and smooth.
- Platform: PlayStation 3
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- Media: Video Game
- Item Quantity: 1
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Hyperdimension Neptunia is a unique RPG for PlayStation 3 that features game consoles personified as goddesses - CPUs (Console Patron Units) - who you can customize visually with equipment to enhance their stats. Players take the role of Neptune and follow her quest to save the captive Histoire. This leads her to face the corrupt monsters ravaging the world of Gamindustri unleashed by the evil Arfoire. Neptunia also features iconic characters from classic games as special summon skills.
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So what is Hyperdimension Neptunia? It's a turn-based RPG based on console wars. Specifically, each of the current major consoles (+ Sega Neptune) is personified as a Goddess, and each of the Goddesses rules over one of the landmasses in the world -- Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox, and Lowee. And the main antagonist of the game is based on game piracy. Party members -- Compa, IF, Nisa*, and Gust* -- are the personifications of real life game developers Compile Heart, Idea Factory, Nippon Ichi Software, and Gust. And you can summon old Sega characters during battle. And the world is called Gamindustri. (*Note that Nisa and Gust are both in the game regardless, but aren't *playable* party members unless you buy the DLC. Not a necessary purchase to beat the game, but if you like Prinnies, Nisa may be worth the purchase just so you can check out her Prinny backpack :P)
I'm not making this up. The game really is this ridiculous. But that's honestly part of it's charm. The game is very much a satire of the video game industry itself and those who have familiarity with the industry will find quite a bit to chuckle and laugh at during the game. Final Fantasy references? Check. Gears of War? Check. Mario brothers? Check. Pokemon? Check. Sonic the Hedgehog? Check. Red Ring of Death? Check.
What I found to be particularly outstanding with Neptunia is the localization done by NIS America. While I can't vouch for the accuracy of the translation since I don't speak/read Japanese, I can say that the dialogue in the game just feels spot on. The voice acting in particular I found to be exceptionally good, in large part because the voice actors never quite take themselves too seriously. In a more serious game, this would be a major flaw as it would feel jarring and take us out of the game world, but in Neptunia, this kind of voice acting actually supports the written dialogue and feels much more natural for these characters. It takes a special kind of voice acting to succeed when the characters are actively referencing "party members", "experience points", and "level ups", and Neptunia nails it perfectly. Call me crazy, but I think this is some of the best voice acting for a game I've seen in a long time. In particular, Neptune and Compa have outstanding voice acting in this game, special kudos to their respective voice actresses.
As you've probably figured, there's quite a bit I found to enjoy in Neptunia. But unfortunately, there's a fair share of problems in the game as well, some of which are more forgiveable than others. So let's go through them:
1.) GRAPHICS -- for me, this actually isn't a problem, but it might be a concern for some people. Like I mentioned before, the 2D animation in the game is really quite good; the moving, breathing portraits from Trinity Universe return once again and the character portraits look quite nice. The 3D on the other hand is somewhat lacking; we're looking at somewhere between PS2 and low-tier PS3 graphics (again, it is comparable to Trinity Universe).
2.) GAMEPLAY -- the basic gameplay uses an AP system -- you get a certain number of action points per turn and can use them to perform different types of attacks. There's actually a fair amount of depth here -- you can make your own combos in the menu before battle, then you can use combo links, switching between front and back characters, transformation into Goddess mode, elemental attacks, physical/magic attacks, etc. The main problem is that most of the time, there's not really a whole lot of strategy. Once you find a good approach, you can more or less spam that sequence of actions for the rest of the game. A little bit of strategy does come into play during more difficult fights though, as you can choose to Defend rather than use all of your AP -- the amount of damage reduced is based on how much AP you had left when you defended. This becomes particularly important...
3.) ...here: HEALING -- the healing system is pretty unique. Throughout the game, you can collect different colored potions to utilize during battle. From within the menus, you set up "Item Skills" -- skills that trigger with a % chance given certain conditions and use up a fixed number of these potions. You can choose to set up these skills however you want -- distributing more points into one improves the % chance of it occuring. Using these skills are the ONLY way to heal during dungeons. And these can ONLY be done DURING a battle. Not after a battle. And that makes this both good and bad. On one hand, it does add a bit of extra strategy, as you may need to be a little more clever about how you defend. On the other hand, it does get incredibly frustrating to beat a fight with a little health left only to die against the next enemy because you couldn't heal.
4.) TRINITY UNIVERSE LITE -- this game is pretty similar to Trinity Universe. They're both turn-based, AP-based RPGs with silly stories; they use the same style of portraits and cutscenes; they even share a number of enemy models and dungeon interiors. And while Neptunia has some new gameplay features that I think have the potential to be interesting, they definitely need to be fine tuned some more. What's more, Trinity Universe seemed to have a better, more complex battle system -- Neptunia's does seem simpler; additionally, Trinity Universe definitely has more content. So if you want something different, this may not be the best of games to pick.
And yet despite all of this, I love this game. I'm eagerly hoping for NIS America to localize the recently announced Neptunia Mk. 2 (coming to Japan this August, so we'll probably see it sometime next year). The gameplay for Neptunia does admittedly need work, and as I said before, it may not be a great game in the strictest definition of the word, but it is fun. I definitely don't regret purchasing this game, and if NISA localizes the 2nd game, I'll be buying that on day 1 for sure. "I choose you, Compiffytune!" :D
First thing most will notice is the unusual setting-- literally called Gamindustri, during a troubled time in its history, The Console Wars. Yes, really. Accordingly, different continents are all wordplay relating to the current generation of consoles. There are a lot of overall concepts and ongoing themes through the game like this, where there's no real impact on the game itself, but fans of series or persons that know some video game history will get a bit more out of it. Really, I have to give credit for piecing the game world up this way, as being something never really attempted before. Boldness often leads to good things!
Another quirk you'll spot quickly is that all the protagonist party characters are named after the studios and development companies involved in the game's creation. Again, extremely cute, extremely silly. For added irony, the group plays itself out to be a stereotypical RPG adventuring group, completely ignoring the so-called Fourth Wall in games. Logic such as "once you join the party you can never leave" and "I bet that NPC has lower stats than me so let's beat her up" apply. Constant references to all things gaming: culture, stereotypes, common expressions, "blogs" written by higher-up villains, and tons more. It's more than any one person could spot on their own.
Right, so the setting is unlike anything really seen before, has undeniable humor and charm, and gives a pretty open slate. What about the actual gameplay, you ask? This is where things take a tumble. How much of a tumble really depends on what experience you're looking for. This game is in no way developed with the "serious gamer" in mind. One could enjoy it, but more for completion purposes than soaking in the game experience. It's extremely lighthearted, with a non-linear relaxed pace, generally slow combat speed and relatively low difficulty. Combat is based on setting up skill combinations, though it must be done manually from a menu and adjusted often as you learn more abilities. Still with me? Read on.
With the slower battle pace, things can get extremely boring. Well, either boring or time consuming, or both. Sure, you can perform a flashy attack and combo, if you don't mind some attack animations in the 10+ second range, and mostly repeat. In the end, it's by far easiest and most effective to repeatedly use a character's strongest attack, which results in near button-mashing to get through a fight. There is one work-around on the time consumption; pressing L2 will skip the current animation and greatly speed up battles, though its liberal use merely means even more continuous button-mashing, and you'll see no action at all even in a big fight.
There's just a layer of depth that's missing to add true variety. One common activity is a dungeon "time attack" to perform a certain task, and though that sounds simple enough, liberal use of L2 is basically required for a good score; The game rather contradicting itself. I'll again emphasize that for the most casual player all of the above is not the worst thing.
Standard RPG item use system for cures and the like? Does not exist, and very frustrating. ALL forms of curing or recovery are performed via certain "item skill" triggers that the player sets up a percentage chance of a character using if conditions are met. Simplest being to set "use cure item at 50% HP", akin to Final Fantasy XII's gambit system, but you're limited on allocation points such that it's often not possible to resurrect someone, or you just have a random chance to, or can only perform this at higher levels. In defense, with the relatively low difficulty this might not feel particularly vital, but it's still quite annoying.
I'd like to comment again on the target audience, with the game presented. On one side, one might make the point that it's but 'fanservice' to the usual audience with its 100% all-female cast. However, I'd far more make the case that the game is an attempt to attract the more casual gamer and women as players. Although one might assume an all-female cast would be a field day for "normal" RPG shenanigans of animations and pictures, at no point is sex appeal really pushed to get a reaction from the player. Quite the opposite-- the characters are dressed very moderately and have extremely "normal" appearances (for an RPG) for the most part. Though I give high marks for the efforts in this area, I feel that the game on the whole suffered a bit in trying to find a balance that would try to please everyone.
Still, it is good fun, and good laughs. The story is pretty shallow, but as it's driven mostly by humor and RPG stereotypes it hardly matters. Graphics are a bit garbled, but it has no effect on the game itself. Fans of other games in the ongoing Gust/NIS/Idea Factory/Compile Heart series of games will likely be content to play Neptunia assuming they walk in with fairly low expectations, and I'll be bold to say that those that are curious about the genre might pick this as a place to jump in because of the attempted accessibility. It's rare for me on a 3-of-5 review, but I've got to say that because of the slower pace and humor, this could be a good chance for new players to hop into the genre.
However, I respect the tactic. Clearly, the JRPG is a forgotten genre on the PS3, with big budget titles like Final Fantasy XIII disappointing, and smaller titles being wooed to Microsoft. NIS sees a hole in the industry, and they have capitalized. I have no doubt that this quantity of time-wasters has been profitable for them, and it has certainly been a boon to the fanboys of these games, so while I often haven't been impressed in the least, I can't fault their spirit or business acumen.
However, finally, I have found a game that I have enjoyed from beginning to platinum-end. No, it's not a perfect game, but it's fun and relaxing. "Hyperdimension Neptunia" is the first title that has made me want to continue playing beyond one or two hours at a time. It tells a good story. It has a simplistic but satisfactory battle system. The aesthetic is generally agreeable. What more could I ask from a budget title (I picked this up for thirty bucks at a rival competitor).
Story - I really like the story in this game. It's not fall-over funny, but the idea of game consoles being protected by busty goddesses fighting a war is just too good to pass up. However, more than the main theme of the story, I like its development. During conversations, numerous game references are dropped. It's fun to try to guess what game they are referencing before you're told. I could do with less talk about boobs, or diarrhea, but all in all, I enjoyed the trip as much as the destination.
Battle - A lot of people have complained about battle in this one. I am not going to be one of them. I like the simplified battle of Hyperdimension Neptunia. The battles boil down to button mashing (which gets a little old, I'll grant), where particular button configurations set off pre-set combos to attack the enemy. Battle is generally very easy (more so, since you can essentially attack AND defend at the same time), but it's not unsatisfying. Moreover, THERE IS NO GRINDING! Most of your leveling will come from defeating bosses or "special" enemies (AKA Cliones). You can fight regular battles if you want, to the tune of a few thousand experience points (even at high levels), or you can fight a single Clione for...2,000,000 experience points! I can't tell you how satisfying it is to play a JRPG that doesn't rely on hours of nonsensical grinding.
Trophies - Finally, a JRPG that gets it right! Most trophies are based on the story. They take time, but you want to get all of the content out of the game, right? Of the three or so that require particular actions, they are embarrassing, but mostly easy. I hate that there is a trophy that rewards you for incompetence (you have to revive a dead party member 20 times, e.g.). But generally, your trophies require you to see certain events in the story. It's certainly much better than getting 900 battle trophies in Star Ocean.
Be warned - there are missable trophies, which is always an annoyance.
No Overworld - this game screams for an overworld. I know that such things are out of vogue now, but in a game that wishes to explain the difference between multiple planets (each related to a particular console), it would be much nicer to actually move through the world, rather than getting a single, mostly-still image of the world. I can't really tell the difference between Leanbox (supposedly a medieval world) and Lowee (supposedly a fantasy world). I could if I was actually traveling through the world.
Repetitive Dungeons - For the huge number of dungeons you will face throughout the course of this game, you'd think they'd make the templates marginally interesting. Nope - these are reminiscent of those dungeons from early 1st Person RPGs. Long tunnels which move only N-S or E-W. Boring, boring, boring. Thankfully, they are mostly short.
Repetitive Monsters - I like that there is a huge number of monsters in this game...sort of. The problem is, there are really only about 10 monsters, each with 10 palette swaps. What's worse is that you have a bestiary, but it doesn't even bother to describe the monster. Some monsters with different names actually have the exact same look. Come on - you could have done better. Or at least, could you have put the Bestiary in alphabetical order?
But anyway, I'm nitpicking. I actually think this game is a step above some of the other dreck that NIS has given us. It must have done marginally well - it's getting a sequel, after all. If you like this sort of game, I think you'll like this one. That's the first time I've said this in a while.
It's funny, the combat is great and incredibly over-the-top flashy, written with beautiful grace and excellent humor, and there's nothing particularly wrong with it, and tons to like. They don't make a lot of games like this, and it's a real treat to take it all in. It's rare we'd get something like this in the States, so it's a blessing that it's here, and it's been treated and localized wonderfully. I have no problems whatsoever with the ever-talented NIS treatment of it.
There are a few problems that should be noted, in case these happen to be total deal-breakers for you in anything. One, battles are, unfortunately, random. No visible enemies here; you get random encounters. On the bright side, dungeons are extremely short, often under ten minutes long, so this isn't too bad a problem. Still, it does mean you'll have to fight monsters that are pointless to fight once in a while, and who you'll blow away easily. Also, there's a skip button for any given attack in battle, which will make combat fly by. Another thing worth noting is that the main story tends to preamble before getting into the real thing. There's a lengthy sequence between Neptune and two other characters who you will not use later on. Still, this section is not boring, and both characters have character (one is voiced by the always-entertaining Cristina Vee) and their own brand of humor to go along with all of it. This may not bother you at all, since in the end, this is a game that's supposed to be humorous above all else, so the fact that you spend a good chunk of time with two fairly useless characters might not bother you. IF and Compa, your companions for a while, are funny and entertaining, and voiced by talented actresses. They are by no means throwaways, but they are definitely outclassed by the major characters that will join your party later on, since neither IF nor Compa has any transformation or super mode of any kind, making them kind of pointless. Neptune, the main character, will completely dominate the battlefield while these characters are in your party (even moreso if you snag the DLC, and battles become laughably easy once you learn Neptune Break, your first major skill that is given a massive power boost if done while transformed).
One thing worth mentioning is that the healing/item system in this game is excellently done. In most RPGs, you heal your characters with a spell and waste a turn doing so, only to have them get damaged just as much again, forcing you to repeat the process. Healing and buff spells work differently in this game, in that they are automatically triggered under certain conditions; for instance, having under 50% HP might trigger the use of an item that heals your character. These are called "item skills", because you aren't actually using items so much as you're using materials. There are only a few types of "essences" that make up items. When you gain an item skill, you can use those essences to trigger effects. For instance, one might cost 5-25-25-5, that much of each respective essence (just as a random example). When these are triggered, you do not lose your turn, and will even happen when it is not your turn so you heal instantly, should it be triggered. I found this to be an excellent system, as it removed the need to use buff or healing spells yourself, instead making it an automated process you customize yourself. Keep in mind, this game has no form of SP, MP, or anything of the sort. There is only HP and AP, the latter determining how much you are allowed to do per turn. AP is not used during healing or buffing, only during attacking.
The bottom line is that this game is a Godsend for me. It's hilarious, the characters are designed with individual character, the voice acting is excellent, and the battle mechanics and game world all work as they should, and in some ways even better, as the automated healing is a beautiful touch. I enjoy the hell out of this game, and if you believe the premise is interesting, chances are, you'll feel the same.