Review – Cyberdimension Neptunia 4 Goddess Online

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I had been exactly 1 year, 2 months and 2 weeks since Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls when Cyberdimension Neptunia 4 Goddess Online hits Japanese shelves last February. Compile Heart had declared in April 2016 that this time they would take their time and not disappoint. 1 year later, what’s left of that promise? Not much I’m afraid…

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For that 2nd PS4 exclusive, Compile takes a similar approach to Hyperdimension Neptune U, which means a action-RPG spin-off that tells a small parallel story to the main episodes. In this one, Neptune, Blanc, Vert and Noire are testing a VR MMO, the famous Four Goddess Online played by Vert in the main series. For that, Cyberdimension Neptunia has little story focus, despite the hacking part which slightly bolstered the interest. In the end, the narrative had little surprise and very flat story-telling.

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The city is where you’ll chat with all the characters. That’s the place where all the funny things happen via chatting here and there. You’ll make acquaintance with Kiria & Kuronekohime, two lovers intending to clear the game before Neptune’s party. The reference made to Reki Kawahara’s universes is pretty clear and there are some cool Easter Eggs to Sword Art Online, plus some clever jokes like confession part in the cathedral or Uzume’s strange pet. But in terms of overall side content, it was light and somewhat boring. Some anecdotes were very strange, not to say embarrassing like Vert’s tea lectures. I’m still wonder how we came from console wars to tea… That felt horribly out of place, sign that no interesting renewal has been found for the series.

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Characters were notably under-used : Kiria & Kuronekohime vanish at mid-game and personally I’d have wanted further story development for Mein who has been the most sympathetic new girl. It is quite striking to notice that Cyberdimension Neptunia is the first episode that does not introduce a new playable character. The 4 little sisters quickly join your party, followed by Purple Heart, Black Heart, Green Heart and White Heart who are separate characters in this title. That makes a somewhat underwhelming total of 12 playable characters when recent episodes did much better on that.

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But as far as I’m concerned, the most disheartening side is that there are few illustrations, most of them not that fantastic. It’s pretty, but bland. Tsunako’s talent is misused and you could sense that in the interview just before release. Cyberdimension Neptunia is at the end of a political process aimed at watering down the experience by removing fan-service as much as possible to make it some classic kawaii JRPG. But in doing this, the series is just becoming shallower and fades in comparison to Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash for example. Here again, that goes against what had been said in the April 2016 interview : it’s clear that there is nothing to expect anymore.

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Funny to notice that after April 2016, official speech focuses on only one thing : Unreal Engine 4. Compile had promised a revolution thanks to the powerful engine. In a way, it’s a success : Cyberdimension Neptunia is definitely seamless compared to past episodes, to the point you really feel the series has made a step forward. Movements so quick that you have to re-learn how to play. It’s a real pleasure to witness the Neptunia universe running at 60 fps. Special effects and lightning effects have also improved a lot, and some character (not all) models seems sharper than before. However, environments still looks pretty barren, and maps are somewhat tiny. Level design is bad and exploration is absent. Once again, we’re far from what Megadimension Neptunia VII had offered in that department.

It’s a game in a game, so the characters get fixed jobs inspired by classical RPG, that are different to what you’ve been accustomed to : Noire is Black Knight and fights now with a spear, Rom and Ram become respectively Samurai and Ninja, and therefore fight head to head against monsters. All characters can equip 4 skills or magic spells, which you choose via the rear buttons, just like in Dragon Quest Heroes for example. Those are pretty much welcome to complete the one and only combo available per character, first sign of shallow gameplay. Locking proved very unstable and unable to give a clear sight in battle. Dodging is totally ineffective, but there’s a reason for that : Cyberdimension Neptunia’s gameplay is based on guard & counter. Hitting after a successful guard trigger a counterattack, something that quickly becomes natural all game long.

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The problem is that it produces a static and lackluster battle system. There player may be bored quickly by such lack of variety, another problem being the low challenge. You have a whole second to launch your counterattack, enemies are weak, brainless and your own characters gain experience and levels at breakneck pace. There aren’t many enemies on the map either, so you don’t have the same enjoyment as the PSVita action games.

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Bosses are considerably rehashed within the game, and show poor battle patterns. Game over doesn’t even exist. So in the gameplay department alone, Cyberdimension Neptunia seems a major failure to me, only the final being tough enough to bring some fever.

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The lack of care in the development is obvious when you look at the general picture. As unbelievable as it may sound, the live 2D, which was born with the series, is out : 2D models are sadly fixed and lip sync is nowhere to be seen either. The use of Unreal Engine 4 didn’t go very far. Cut-scenes are rare (2 or 3 tops) and fail to impress too. Photo mode doesn’t stop the action, so a lot less good than the one in MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombie Army. The multiplayer has been simply dreadful since only the room host could benefit from correct frame-rate. It took Compile and Tamsoft about 30 days to address this problem among other bugs. Far too late : a game that can be platted within 30-40 hours doesn’t last you one month…

1 year for this?”. That’s what I wondered while watching the end credits of Cyberdimension Neptunia. Despite the unquestionable graphical improvements, we find ourselves with an episode delivering very little in every other aspect instead of tackling long-lasting drawbacks. A game of a series that has lost its true self, with insufficient volume, and that ultimately come to remind us that graphics alone don’t make a great game.

Review – MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies

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Both unbalanced and limited in its gameplay, Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed had quite some room for improvement, to be used to make a solid sequel. Hence comes MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies and its hazardous wording, sadly presaging the errors of the game.

Even though Compile Heart denies it, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies very much looks like Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed’s sequel. This episode focused on Blanc, winner of the lastest poll, is supposed to be a different experience. We put little credit in that after seeing the graphical/gameplay assets exactly identical to Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed. The publisher stressed the school environment, Neptune and the other goddesses living their adventures on a campus this time. Nothing new, this has been developed in Neptunia light novels before. But while the novels exhaustively illustrates the school theme, this game does it poorly and it looks like a simple skin. Vert is president of the school council, Noire being the deputy-chief… each character has a set role, but the very short dialog doesn’t really tell you more.

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The story won’t raise the interest : Neptune, president and only member of the movie club, intends to shoot a hit movie to save the school. For the scenario of the movie, she asks Blanc, although her writing skills haven’t improved. Ironically enough, the characters are shooting a B-movie in what turns out to be a B game… the overall story and dialog show that Compile and Tamsoft ran out of ideas, having even lost their sense of humor. While Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed had a real logic in its narrative which made it fun to follow, nothing of the sort in this sequel whose story goes nowhere. The characters join the group without any transition, making it clear that the developer wanted to rush the work.

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On the gameplay side, it’s still an action-RPG with numerous enemies on the screen, but they’ve been zombified this time. Again, this idea has been taken form another Neptunia light novel. Your progression will once more depend on your level and your equipment, but this time you can place temporary devices to boost your stats for one mission. Another novelty, you now manage your statistics manually : up to you to set your skill points in order to improve your attack, defense or get more combos. Difficulty has gone up, which was the right thing to do BUT update 1.01 erased that and ruined the battles that had been tough and technical so far. The movesets of the characters haven’t really changed. We just notice the introduction of a charged attack on triangle, which, strangely enough, is not for everyone. Hence, the old characters have less appeal comparatively to the new ones.

Those new characters underline again the incredible graphics of this game, which are among the best ever on a portable device. The modeling is still near perfect and animation is even better with the new characters. Once again, we can delightfully capture it thanks to the brilliant photo mode.

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Although using a megaphone in Megadimension Neptunia VII, Uzume will also rely on her fists to face the enemy. Her boxing skills are rather convincing, and you can modulate the power of each blow to adapt the situation. Her goddess form is lot more fast and re-focuses and the megaphone.

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Famous schizophrenic, Plutia doesn’t act or move very fast in her human form, but gains extraordinary mobility in her goddess form. Iris Heart seems to have been created for this game. Her combos are exhilarating to perform and use her whip-sword a lot more than in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. The unimaginable trajectories it takes makes it wonderful to play and see.

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Pishe feels quite useless in human form as her reach is perfectly ridiculous. The player will surely focus on Yellow Heart, whose maneuverability and speed parameters only equal her boobs size. She’s fairly efficient in melee combat, but only in one to one by doing hit&run.

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Tamsoft, who personifies the developer, is a purely human character and thus has no goddess form. She merely gets a power-up and some samurai armor parts. That said, she’s the best swordswoman of the game by far given her numerous, varied and very impressive combos, not to mention a dream-like power/reach compromise.

We do notice a clear lack of polish in this newest episode, along with the withdrawal of certain elements for no reason. First of all, the interface looks cheap as hell, including blatantly out-of-fashion menus and irritating loadings when browsing within the preparation menu. This sequel does add some artworks (we didn’t have any in the former game), but if only it had been done correctly… No, the (scarce) images are hidden deep within the chapters and can be unlocked only by choosing the right pair of characters at the right moment. That means roughly 1% chance each time. Despite the vague clues and without a clear walkthrough, this would take weeks…

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The victory screen (which was perfect before) has disappeared for some reason to leave room for some unappealing recap. But this loss is nothing compared the astonishing lack of costume break in this game, whereas it was the bloody main point of Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed! Again, no explanation was given for this unbelievable decision. Compile Heart did offer already torn outfits in a desperate gesture in 1.01, the unthinkable had been done : Idea Factory has caved in to SJWs and the prospects of a politically correct business, and the very common school uniforms certainly won’t make up for that. Forget also about any serious postgame content : there is nothing such as Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed’s Neptral Tower or Budokai mode. In fact there’s nothing to do after the short and lackluster story.

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Nothing? Not exactly. MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies is the first entry in the series having an online multiplayer mode, in which fans will be able to hunt monsters together. Unlike the rest of the game, it turned out to be quite exhaustive and practical to use. It also feature the only good new music track of the game, EXistence. No framerate drop to report, the game is as seamless as in solo, and the opponents are considerably stronger. Several giant monsters are actually exclusive to this coop mode, and provide a challenge much more exciting than most of the solo part. Besides, a mini-chat allows you to communicate with your partners through the characters. All the party members in multiplayer mode are unlocked from the start, and you can also use infinite goddess form, which is pretty nice.

Far from being the expected evolution of Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies is a sequel that misses the mark by a mile, removing things more than it adds and giving the series a undesired trajectory. It’s nevertheless still as beautiful as ever, now playable with friends, so fans might want pick it to enjoy the nice new characters.

2015, the twilight of the goddess?

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The Hyperdimension Neptunia series celebrated its 5th anniversary last year. It’s of course for me a lot of fond memories, but lately also a growing disappointment, not to say delusion. That’s an occasion to assess the situation and let’s be honest, it’s not going that well.

If you look at last week’s top 100, Compile Heart is not in it. Indeed, no title has topped 35K units sold in Japan. Even the new main episode, Megadimension Neptunia VII, ended quite below its 40-60K goal. In 2014, 3 of 4 Neptunia games had been above 40K, including ReBirth2 which was a remake. New IP Moero Chronicle even reached 70K, a dream-like figure for a Dungeon-RPG. This alone shows how bad 2015 was, not to mention that during the year the Neptunia franchise lost half of its fanbase : while Megadimension Neptunia VII draws 33’000 fans in April, Blanc + Neptune vs Zombie Army stalls at 28’000 in October, and there are less than 20’000 enthusiasts left for Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls in November. The picture looks grim in Japan, but bear in mind there are increasing western sales to compensate. Nevertheless, at new year’s eve, Idea Factory’s subsidiary is almost in shambles after months (years?) of clear ill-management.

First very simple and plain thing : 3 or 4 games per year is way to much for one IP. However tiny and faithful the audience is, such a pace isn’t sustainable. Furthermore, remaking every single title in this flurry of games necessarily ends up counter-productive in the future. If a publisher starts remaking every game in more complete versions, buyers will naturally hesitate to acquire the new episodes day one. Disgaea 5 knows something about that. That is the first problem of Megadimension Neptunia VII, adding to the ones raised in my review. The second shock comes from Blanc + Neptune vs Zombie Army. This successor of Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed had everything to succeed and yet added to the distrust.

Besides the total lack of effort in the writing, the pathetic jokes and the poor user interface, it is the removal of costume break that is puzzling. Whever you like it or not, this feature inspired by Senran Kagura was a major selling point of Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed. Its disappearance without notice (Compile Heart acknowledged it end of November, one month after release) has been a shock and a treachery for many. Here we must remember what Idea Factory International stated during the Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 controversy : the international subsidiary doesn’t want to have to censor anything anymore. Might Compile Heart have censored the game from the very beginning so as to have a free pass in the West later? It is a mere hypothesis, but the result stays the same : the Hyperdimension Neptunia series seems to be wanting to dwell in its comfort zone without taking risks or go further. Compile Heart look as if it intended to simply cash in on and wait. But gamers, unlike gullible casuals, do realize that. In 2015, the developer failed or refused to keep up while others were raising the stakes. Therefore, the present situation is no surprise.

Economic crisis, creativity crisis, confidence crisis… the Neptunia series goes back from scratch in early 2016 and Compile’s eerie silence in January shows how serious the issues are : never before the company had left its official planning blank. But maybe it’s a good thing if it means that the devs are thinking on how improve their strategy, balance their IP catalog (Makai Shin Trillion is definitely one that should see further development in another genre) and invest more on each title. The Dengeki special issue of November made it clear that a new Neptunia game is in the works. But given the series’ all-time low, everything or so must be rebooted.

Review – Megadimension Neptunia VII

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After 3 years of (fine) remakes and (uneven) spin-offs, there is a particular anticipation for new mainline episode, which by the new jumps into the new generation. Can Compile Heart surprise us and give a fresh direction to the series?

Much unlike Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory’s story wasn’t much compelling. Big initial issue for Megadimension Neptunia VII since it inherits the logic of its predecessor, and is at risk to get old. It nevertheless does surprise by its structure : the story is divided in 3 parts, like the acts of a play. This partition of the narrative is a quality and a drawback at the same time. It succeeds in giving some suspense because the first parts will progressively lay mysteries and clear them slowly one after another. Those parts each correspond to one dimension : 零次元(zero jigen), 超次元 (chô jigen, the series’ traditional world) and 心次元 (shin jigen).

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The player starts in Dimension Zero, which is actually a devastated Planeptune after world’s end. Neptune and Nepgear will come across a girl called Uzume, the goddess and only inhabitant of the place, and together they will try to figure out the truth about such an apocalypse. A fresh and motivating start however ruined by the rather dull second act : you play each country separately, with maximum two or three characters each time. Those interludes are quite long and you’ll have to wait until the very end of this chapter to reunite everyone and fully enjoy all the new things. To those narrative issues, you add the relative lack of risk-taking in the overall contents of Megadimension Neptunia VII : nearly eveything, situations like illustrations in this episode is woefully classic, common and almost “politically correct”. All the suspense and the numerous hints given here and there never translate in something relevant, the ending itself being unable to impress given the far-fetched logic.

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Neptunia is fortunately not just about that and this new installment comes with its load of new characters and parodies. Uzume stands out by her goddess form, which is the exact opposite of her human personality : the base Uzume is tomboyish and self-assured whereas Orange Heart is the archetype of a young hysteric girlwith her (very) high-pitched voice. You probably remember that Noire, Vert and Blanc had doubles in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. Neptune is no exception and her mischievous second self will be featured here. Friend or Foe? Here again, the truth will be blurry until the end but one thing is sure : she’s as crazy as the original!

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To or (great) pleasure, transformation scenes are back for good and in nice shape, wonderfully animated including quite some risqué angles. A welcome initiative that partially offset the rest.

K-sha, C-sha, B-sha and S-sha represent four large Japanese video games companies, the identity of which is no big mystery given the initials. The are numerous jokes and allegories about the games and sometimes even the economic history of those publishers. For example, K-sha would keep speaking in quotes from Metal Gear Solid and her attacks mimic the famous infiltration series. S-sha is undoubtedly the best new character : the Easter eggs from Final Fantasy are hilarious and her fighting style is the most dynamic and impressive by far. The design of her Gold form (transformation roughly equivalent to the heroines’ goddess form) is absolutely brilliant with its little crown and the Sephiroth-like wing. Just have a look above.

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The combat system is not modified but knows a certain numbers of little changes in many aspects. The base is still the same : turn-based and free moving around a limited area. The combo system is overhauled : still divided between speed, power and standard, they receive small efficiency bonuses under some conditions (achieve/not achieve and speed action previously, etc). A innovation a bit technical but restrictive on the creative side, ot to mention all the combo slots hadn’t been unlocked when I had clear the adventure after 50 hours. Combined attacks have been in the series for some time now, but they have been rationalized. Now the position of your characters will decide if you can launch a combined attack or not : two characters can launch a joint attack provided the enemy is on the line between them. An attack of three will form a triangle, an attack of four a square. Megadimension Neptunia VII also gives you the choice a status of Offense or Defense to each character, but the effet in actual combat is barely noticeable.

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A couple of fights will have you face giant opponents : although the combat strategy changes radically, every of those encounters are played in the same way so it’s definitely not the best add in this game. The biggest change involves the EX gauge which doesn’t stay filled throughout the dungeon but will be depleted after each fight and you start off at zero in the next. However, it will rise considerably faster! A good thing, because the major novelty of this game consumes it heavily.

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The main four girls are blessed with a “Next Form” of lavish look and disproportionate power. It really does the job because it gives this impression of superpower that you find in great JRPGs, and the direction is just fabulous… such is the ruling of the main series. The goddess from uses one slot of EX gauge and the Next Form another. The new ultimate move uses two slots and is so powerful that the goddess who uses it gets back to human form immediately after. The Next Form comes (quite) late in the story but in a well-constructed succession of events, and features a wacky but awesome music called Absolute. Perfect transition to stress the fact that MegaDimension Neptunia VII’s OST is the best and most complete soundtrack in the series to date. Battle themes have made dramatic progress, from the chorus in shukumei no kaikô to the delightful melody of Will be Venus. Even the random battle theme, Outside the Dimension, is a lot more elaborated than before. Besides that, Decision bring a more serious tone and is so good that it feels almost out-of-place in a niche game.

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Let’s go back to our EX gauge. You keep using and replenishing it in a flurry of offensives launched very frequently. This gives a excellent pace in battles, but does have some vicious effect on challenge because the numerous attack possibilities you have will generally crush any boss in no time, not to mention the overpowered support magic. That raises the question of the (terrible) difficulty balance in this game : there are very few interesting fights, all the other being blatantly easy, including the final boss. Some characters are hardly efficient, K-sha in particular given her abysmal defense stats. Moreover, characters don’t level up at the same time anymore, which really doesn’t help. I can’t help feeling like playing a beta preparing a Vita version. Technically speaking, Megadimension Neptunia VII doesn’t really benefit from the generation leap : outside the battles against the Dark Goddesses, where there are a lot more effects and colors, that’s Vita’s Rebirth in super-HD, which fails to convince on a big screen. However limited the budget of a niche game might be, we did expect a little effort from Compile this time.

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The exploration still uses the scouts to discover new dungeons and bosses, as well as bringing back items and money. The world maps has roads (which you’ll have built by investing) and following those roads will often trigger random encounters (a lot too often). Something that was totally unnecessary I think, given the hassle of losing time in just going from A to B. The various cities can be development to enhance the political power of one side or another, which influences the general stats of the designated goddesses, like when you clear sidequests. Megadimension Neptunia VII has a few dungeons of little more complex architecture than usual that will necessitate some thinking.

The logic of the Victory series has grown old. While Megadimension Neptunia VII keeps most of the series’s qualities (humor, characters, etc.) plus a great soundtrack, the questionable balance in gameplay and game design diminish the pleasure. More than that, it might also be losing that Neptunia touch that makes it so special.

Review – Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed

Victory Uni

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Review – Hyperdevotion Noire Goddess Black Heart

Lei Fang

When Compile Heart announced a Hyperdimension Neptunia game entirely dedicated to Noire, my favorite character, my hype was at max level. I quickly started to expect the wildest things given that it was to pioneer a new genre. When Hyperdevotion Noire was unveiled in November 2013, I was like thunderstruck…

Hyperdevotion Noire comes as a Strategy-RPG very much like Disgaea. You have a sky view, a grid and a dozen of units to lead to victory. In that way, it’s a pretty good Tactical since it brings a sufficiently fresh and varied gameplay.

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Indeed, STING’s latest work has you face a lot of unusual situations, like various types of vicious traps, crates to pile up or use as mortar (deadly), wacky transportation systems or a virus to eradicate! Hyperdevotion Noire also has difference of height as a parameter : it will make you lose one turn if you fall from too high, or give you advantage if you have the high ground (the «jump» highly varying depending on the character). In particular, the heroines can fly in goddess form and nullify the height requirement. Careful though, this is only once a mission.

Furthermore, Hyperdevotion Noire borrows Fire Emblem Awakening’s support system, complexifying it more. If you have one or more allies around you when you use a skill, you benefit from diverse effects like less MP/AP used or a formidable boost in attack power. This system is quite hooking strategically speaking and it is critical to master it to beat bosses, because this game has no mercy. Numerous times it felt absolutely tiring : some bosses can OHKO several characters at once, status ailments are rife, a couple of objectives were unbearable and I’ve been surrounded more than once without any chance of breaking through. That said, Hyperdevotion Noire borrows to Sen no Kiseki the system of retry with lowering the difficulty, which was more than welcomed since I could beat it in the end.

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The story is ridiculously far-fetched, but the game comes with the usual references to the gaming world at large. This time, the 18 new characters of this spin-off don’t represent consoles or publishers, but entire genres or whole series! We immediately find out that Tsunemi embodies the Project Diva series and Bio Resident Evil. Some parallels are really fun, like the rivalry between Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy or the clever parody of Lightning Returns. However, those Easter eggs aren’t all that sophisticated or very clear, which was already a issue in Neptunia Victory.

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If there’s one department in which STING’s product meets expecations, it’s without a doubt in its fan-service, whose quantity and nature sets a new record, even beyond ReBirth2’s kinky offering. Well, given that STING had delivered the (very) steamy Dungeon Travelers 2, I expected no less. Although events are not all sexually oriented, some have quite intense innuendo…

Noire cook

Also in the fan-service category, STING has implemented a mini dating -sim which puts you more or less in relationship with Noire (only her). It’s important to stress that the story is told from the point of view of the player, a bit like in the first GBA Fire Emblem. I say more or less because this feature completely misses the point : it’s actually a series of questions/answers in which you help Noire managing Lastation’s people’s complaints. I found it not that interesting, especially given that it’s not dubbed at all (kinda lame for a dating-sim). In general, the game is voiced only in the main parts, which diminishes the pleasure in side parts.

My main concern with this game is its graphical presentation. For starters, I abhor super-deformed/chibi characters (but that’s my opinion, some people do like it), but aside that, this second spin-off offers some terrible 3D while ReBirth2 and the upcoming Action Neptune U are absolute masterpieces of beauty. I do reckon that visual pleasure is essential to bishôjo games, and here we don’t have it. Super Heroine Chronicle did manage to make the best of the same type of design, Hyperdevotion Noire didn’t even try.

To sum up, Hyperdevotion Noire is a rather good Tactical, an excellent ecchi game but its miserable budget drags it down where it could have made wonders.