Conspicuously sneering Nintendo’s lastest system with its blue U, Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed is indeed the first action game in the series. More precisely, it’s an Action/RPG, because characters have levels and gain stats gradually as you defeat enemies. The latter drop medals that can later be exchanged for permanent stat raise, accessories or more powerful weapons.
Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed has 10 characters, which includes the four goddesses and their respective sisters, plus two newcomers Dengekiko and Famitsu. Those of you who follow Japanese gaming news probably found out already : those two represent the two major Japanese game magazines. More than the console war, it’s the press war that is depicted in this spin-off. Dengekiko and Famitsu are arch-rivals in the game too and follow the goddesses in their job to cover their activies, so as to write the best possible article about them. A really great idea that should have been developed further, dialogs being scarce. Dengekiko is no less an excellent new character, the best that’s come to the series for a while as far as I’m concerned. Her voice actor Ryô Hirohashi does a fantastic job in the whole game.
Compile Heart chose Tamsoft on purpose, because with this game the Neptunia series comes hunting into Senran Kagura’s territory by borrowing its famous costume break, quite fashionable those days. The characters’ outfits have a certain durability and if you take too much damage, you are rewa… eh, penalized by the tearing of those. The game jokes about this quite a few times as you progress and this self-satire is extremely fun to watch.
But the main point of this game is that it’s GORGEOUS beyond my wildest expectations! As you can see, seldom on a portable device you had such a incredible rendering. Furthermore, Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed is a Musô-like, that is to say you face dozens of enemies like in the recent Dragon Quest Heroes. But here again Tamsoft’s product is flawless : neither the colorful graphics, nor the perfect modeling or the meticulous animation come to hurt the seamless action. But here’s the best part : this game has a photo mode! Like in your replays of Dead or Alive 5, you can stop the game, zoom and frame anytime to snap your favorite characters. It’s ENDLESS, my Home and Start buttons have suffered since I have more than 200!
On the other hand, gameplay appeared really poor. Half a dozen combos/skills for each character (including goddess form) is not enough to prevent a certain boredom. All the more true that it also lacks variety : while Dragon Quest Heroes or Samurai Warriors have large maps and different types of objectives, Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed has you eradicating monsters in cramped areas from the beginning to the end. True, there are some “mystery” missions the victory conditions of which differ from the rest, but too few to be a game changer. The game is a lot too easy despite the changes brought by the 1.01 update : damage rose a bit but not the attack patterns of the monsters, which stay very simplistic (except for the final boss). The musical environment isn’t satisfying either, Tamsoft having picked tracks from the series a bit randomly and few fit to the action genre.
After the main scenario, you unlock the Budokai mode. In this one, of which the DBZ inspiration is pretty clear, the girls will face each other like in Senran Kagura. But unlike the latter, here again gameplay lacks polish. The camera that has no problem following you in normal missions turns out too slow in those extremely fast fights. 1.01 brought weird balance, Whiteheart being a LOT stronger than the others… normal mode stays to easy, and impossible mode is clearly impossible, even at level 99! Not a lot to do after that, the story is rather short and trophy hunting didn’t feel very interesting.
Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed is a magnificent title but alas a bit contemplative. Its underwhelming gameplay won’t make it worthwile for action games fans at large, but Neptunia fans may well adore its new setting and its technical prowess.