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Solid Effort, But Not For Everyone

  • Feb 24, 2011
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Equal parts fan service, anime and typical JRPG, Hyperdimension Neptunia is a game that shines insofar as it's decidedly B-rated in a sea of games where everything is expected to be a great, Triple-A release. In fact, that premise is the entire point of the game. It turns a mirror on the game industry and fires groan-worthy dialog poking fun of popular games and the industry as a whole.

When we first join the game, we are introduced to a magical tome named Histori who tells us all about the world of Gamindustri. In this world, there was once a dominant force and one goddess, but then the world fragmented into four landmasses, each with their own goddess representing them in Celestia: Planeptune, represented by the goddess Purple Heart; Leanbox, represented by the goddess Green Heart; Lastation, represented by the goddess Black Heart; and Lowee, represented by the goddess White Heart. The four landmasses, and goddesses, have feuded for millennia for dominance, and while feuding it has allowed a mysterious dark force to creep into the world, threatening the very way of life in Gameindustri.

If you've read the above and noticed the naming seems familiar, that's because each of these four goddesses and landmasses represent a console manufacturer, with Planeptune being the odd one out, representing SEGA's former console business (the game is published by SEGA, after all). Planeptune is also the oldest and the most ravaged by monsters, and Purple Heart is the least respected of the four goddesses. She is so weak and disrespected that, during a battle in the intro, the other three goddesses decide they could just cast her out of Celestia entirely and merely fight amongst themselves. This is precisely what they do and Purple Heart next finds herself waking up on Planeptune in her human form, Neptune. She is unable to remember anything which has transpired prior to waking up other than a dream she had during her comatose state where Histori implored her to take up a quest to save the world.

If the above story, contained entirely in the first 10 minutes of loading a new game, sounded too cheesy for you to handle, this game probably won't be your cup of tea.

At its core, Hyperdimension Neptunia is your standard JRPG. Combat is turn based and your party and the enemies take turns taking shots at each other until one side is dead. Each character has a pool of Action Points (AP) for attacks and your turn ends when your AP have been depleted. Even though the game can be described as "typical", it does incorporate some interesting combat mechanics.

Each character has their own combo system. Much like action platformers, each button has a predefined use. Square is always your defend and escape button, leaving X, Circle and Triangle as attack functions. X is your ranged function and all characters can shoot various elemental bullets. Circle and Triangle are both melee attacks, with Circle being a physical attack and Triangle being a weapon attack. Each attack requires a specific amount of AP and once you initiate an attack, your AP counter, marked in its own window on the side of the screen, shows four circles. These four circles display the attack button you pressed previously, and when you've filled all four you have completed a combo. You do not need to use all four combos and may cancel them by pressing Square at any time. When not in combat, you may alter each character's combos with skills you have, or have learned while leveling, including adding "finishing moves" which become possible after a full four button combo. This combo system can be incredibly deep, allowing you to do such things as manipulating your character turns, allowing for multiple combo links, and even switching your party's formation on the fly. For goddess characters, such as Neptune, the combo system also allows access to the Hard Drive Divinity (HDD) form, which increases your power and decreases AP required per skill.

Additionally, Hyperdimension Neptunia deviates from other standard JRPGs in the handling of healing and item usage. Typically, healing is done by a character who is in a healing role and items are used from menu commands. In Hyperdimension Neptunia, however, healing and item usage is governed by an automated system called item skills. As you fight, and as you find treasure, you find consumable items that stockpile and are displayed on a UI screen at all times. Each of these items can be used to synthesize antidotes, healing potions and other effects, but only if your character knows the skill, meets the requirement, and has spent points in that skill. For example, one particular consumable is called "Reflex" and this consumable is used in the basic level healing potion. Neptune is able to cast an automatic healing item synthesis called "Nep Bull", which requires being below a certain percentage of health and a certain number of Reflex consumables. The likelihood that Neptune will cast Nep Bull, even if all other requirements are met, is contingent on whether you have spent item points, earned through leveling, in the Nep Bull item skill. 0 points is a 0% chance. 60 points is a 60% chance. As you level, you gain more item skills and more points, making for a complex system of points distribution to ensure your characters are properly equipped for a particular situation.

Outside of battle, each character comes equipped with a special skill which you can use while exploring dungeons. Neptune has a skill which allows you to destroy obstacles to access other rooms inside dungeons. Other characters provide other skills such as the ability to randomly call monsters in a progressive wave of battle or find hidden treasure. These abilities only work while exploring and cannot be used in battle and using them switches the party member you see on screen.

The game itself is presented very cleanly. The menu system is straight forward, easy to navigate and understand, though the combo system might be confusing at first until you get the hang of how it works. Unfortunately, the tutorials are equally as low budget and don't really help introduce you to the nuts and bolts of the combo system or the item skill system.

Don't expect full blown, Final Fantasy-esque, cutscenes. Cut scenes in this game are, essentially, prettier versions of cutscenes in games such as the Professor Layton series on Nintendo DS where your characters merely present on screen with minimal animation and subtitles. The lack of full blown cut scenes, however, does not detract from the humor and irreverence Hyperdimension Neptunia displays towards the gaming industry as a whole. For example, in one such cut scene, the party stumbles across a loading dock where workers are loading boxes of varying colors, sizes and shape into a truck, rotating them to fit as needed. You never see the actual loading dock, rather simply seeing the characters discussing amongst themselves, but the humorous digs at Tetris (or "Detris", as they call it) is priceless. This is but one of many examples. Similar digs at Mario, Sonic, Street Fighter, and many other games, abound.

Also, don't expect an overworld. Unlike other modern JRPGs which give you a purely linear overworld from point A to point B, and the occasional rare one which give you free roaming overworlds like JRPGs of days past, Hyperdimension Neptunia opted to do away with the overworld entirely. After completing a dungeon, you go back to a menu which presents you with the option to Shop, Explore or Search. Shopping is self explanitory and needs no real description. Exploring opens a submenu which allows you to see what events are open to you on your currently occupied landmass and other landmasses which you can eventually visit. Choosing one opens a cutscene or dialog box displaying information regarding the event. Afterward, choosing search zooms in and allows you to see the dungeons you can access, including ones you have completed previously as well as the new ones you just "discovered". While I thought the lack of an overworld would bother me, I have honestly found I like this new streamlined way of getting to content. It drops the pretense of being forced to plod along a predetermined route and just takes you where you need to go. Leveling is still as inherently grindy as any other JRPG, but instead of wandering around looking for enemies to fight, as is the case with most other JRPGs, you can simply go to a dungeon where you know enemies WILL be, or can be summoned.

Graphically, the game isn't going to knock anyone's socks off, but it really does feel like I'm controlling a decently produced anime. Thankfully, the game offers the option to use Japanese or English voices from the very start and, since subtitles cannot be turned off, I highly recommend sticking to the original Japanese voice over work.

If you enjoy decidedly B-rated, tounge-in-cheek, games that poke fun at everyone, or if you enjoy JRPGs in general, you should have no problem enjoying Hyperdimension Neptunia. If, however, you dislike turn based combat, or are looking for a graphically intense Triple-A title, you'll want to look elsewhere.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
+2 (Trending Positive)
Solid Effort, But Not For Everyone Solid Effort, But Not For Everyone Solid Effort, But Not For Everyone

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More Hyperdimension Neptunia reviews
review by . February 21, 2011
posted in Siliconera Bounce
A good RPG for PS3
Before asking the questions, i will give my own review (even if my english is bad):   -As always...Nis know how to do good RPGs   -The plot of the game is funny and entertaining , but sometimes dialogues can be boring   -Each boss represent a console (PS3, Xbox, Wii) and thats awesome   -The desing of the characters are very cute <3   -The challenge to get each trophie is very entertaining too   -All the options and chances the …
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Hyperdimension Neptunia is an all new PS3 RPG by Idea Factory. Players will take on the role of a young goddess named Neptune. She is a personified video game console who will fight against the evil goddess, a personified version of a video game piracy device. During battle Neptune will fight in her human form or her battle goddess mode which changes her appearance, stats, and personality. Much like a computer Neptune and her fellow goddesses can be customized by finding and creating new parts.
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