Review – Idol Neptune PP

To be honest, this game, I had serious doubts about it from the very start. The PVs weren’t that convincing and I somewhat expected your average fan-service game. Why did I buy? Because a fan I am. And as a hardcore Hyperdimension Neptune fan, there’s no way I can miss anything related to it.

In-between dating sim and Idol game, Idol Neptune PP has actually a lot of exciting but poorly executed ideas. A mysterious group of idols called MOB48 suddenly became so popular that they’re drawing the “shares” that are necessary to Neptune and the other goddesses to rule their respective country. But being popular is no crime and the 4 goddesses decide to strike back by becoming idols themselves.

Noire idol c

Up to you to manage their carrier during the 180 days of the story, with the ultimate goal to reach the top position in shares and in the top 50. It’s not difficult at all : in my second run with Vert, I cleared the game in approximately 90 days. You have a variety of commands shared between “management”, “learning”, “rest”, “move” and “live”. Management is mainly used to increase the number of fans and thus gain shares. Learning will make your heroine progress in singing, dancing, expression, self-confidence, etc. which impact directly the success of your performances. Resting reduces stress and allows you get closer to your girl through dating. Moving will transport you to another country if you aim to perform lives there.

The trouble is that very quickly you learn to foresee the outcome of every type of event, there are very few surprises and some of them periodically reappear in identical form. You don’t have many negative events and nothing ever stops you in your way to the top. It ends up being boring because you feel no risk of game over. Once you team with another goddess to form a duo, shares are automatically recalculated to your advantage and you you have even less effort to do at this stage (same applies to trio).

The actual show part exceeded my expectations. Graphically it’s strikingly nicer than the PS3 games, choreography felt good and the little something of fan service makes it a real pleasure for hardcore fans of the series. You can toggle various camera angles, effects, choose between an array of costumes and accessories, which ultimately determine your final score. Despite the limited number of music tracks (only 5!), I never get bored during lives. On the minus side, it’s very difficult to understand the actual levers for success during lives, making them a bit random. Also, the fact that you can only change to goddess from when alone on the stage is quite a letdown. You will only be able to do it in the first stages of a walkthrough. Speaking of fan service, Neptunia PP has a viewer mode similar to Senran Kagura’s dressing room, though far less elaborated or fun.

Noire idol a

On the dating side, Idol Neptune PP is a trainwreck. It’s all the more disappointing that the idea of seducing Noire and the others was seducing in itself. Though dating is normally done by resting, you can trigger events in pretty much every situation. Those ones are far too short and hardly fun at all! I was astonished by how flat the humor felt given that it’s been a great strength in the series so far. Worst of all, there are virtually no original illustration. Even the MOB48 who are at the center of the story aren’t shown, you never come to know what they look like! This is unthinkable in Hyperdimension Neptune. What was Tsunako fu** doing when this game was in development? All this is totally underwhelming and it’s quote surprising coming from Tamsoft who had done an excellent job in the field with Love Application.

To conclude, Neptune PP seems like a lamentable accident in the trajectory of the series. Management is could be richer, good ideas are misused, it’s visually entertaining but feels incomplete. In fact, I’m under the impression that Neptune PP wanted to be too many things at the same time, without succeeding in any. And like they say “Jack-of-all-trades, Idolmaster of none”.

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Review – Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory

The Hyperdimension Neptune series is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best surprises of this gen. Despite harsh criticism from «professionals», it keeps going on and I’m tremendously happy to enjoy this 3rd entry.

The first contact is disappointing though. Graphically speaking, the game is roughly the same as Mk2 : 3D modeling is sometimes poor and the game still has the bad habit of going below 30 images/sec. on some occasions. Worse, the dungeons look more or less the same! On the other hand, fans will surely be delighted to see the return of 2D animated dialogs, which are waaaaay cuter than the ones in Mk2. Neptune Victory still looks good generally speaking, but Compile Heart has clearly been saving some money on the technical side.

The story is pretty bad. It looks like it was written on a tablecloth between main dish and dessert. The references to the world of gaming are not always clear (7 sages? Edin?) despite good interpretation of the market from the 80’s to date. This is hardly a problem, because the scenario is just a convenient way for delivering to most delicious Japanese humor there is. Let me get this straight, Hyperdimension Neptune Victory has been a huge laugh from A to Z! Pururuto, a new central character, is especially funny : she’s naive, lazy in her human form and talks slooooooooowly. While in goddess form though, she… well I’ll let you find you by yourself. Let’s stress that this newest episode has a LOT of (very long) dialogs. It therefore mainly addresses than fans of the genre, because the level of moe can be lethal for others.

It’s on about gameplay that I was the most curious about, because Mk2 was too easy when grinding a bit. Victory fixes this with higher difficulty. Common foes can wipe your party out in a flash if you don’t pay attention. Bosses all have auto-heal and can OHKO your characters every turn, so that you actually HAVE to grind. The bad thing is that the boss fights are pretty much one-patterned, that is to say fill your EX jauge, break the enemy’s guard and unleash your ougi. To achieve that sequence though, you’ll have to fully understand how guard breaks works, because now you have to be VERY precise in the timing. Like in Mk2, you have to be careful where you place your characters. This is even more crucial in the True End path, because the fights become even harder, breaking the repetitiveness because you have to carefully think your way to victory. This is especially for the final boss which demands a long preparation and a solid strategy. The ougi are as impressive as ever, and there are more than ever (you can see some in the videos I put here and there).

Hyperdimension Neptune Victory has more. I’ve been working on some trophies after the True End, and the internal clock shows 94h. It is far longer, richer than Mk2. There are a lot more side quests, trophies hunting will take half of your life (I’m only around 50%!), and it has 3 different endings. Victory introduces a «scout» system in which you send the inhabitants of the various towns to search the dungeons. They will discover new dungeons, special bosses, rare items, XP bonuses and such. This is a central feature, very addicting and essential to fully enjoy the game. Item creation also get more interesting and important, whereas I wasn’t of much use in Mk2. Sadly, there are fewer character than before : 6 during most of the story, 10 if you get to the 10th chapter on the True End path (+ IF and Compa who are optional as a paid DLC).

Despite some disappointing aspects, Hyperdimension Neptune Victory felt as great as the previous episodes. It goes further than Mk2 in many ways, and is therefore a good pick for the fans of the series and JPRG gamers as a whole.

Atelier Ayesha comes to the West, and sooner than expected!

It’s with immense delight that we learn today through Siliconera that Atelier Ayesha has a release window in the West. The future of the series was in question as Gust’s new owner, Tecmo Koei, had never expressed its opinion about the future of the series so far. The publisher however seems to think localization as a no-brainer, since Ayesha will be available during Q1 2013 (EDIT : March 8th), that is to say 2 or 3 months earlier that Meruru. The sales of the latter must have been satisfying, and it’s a shame we can’t confirm this as Vgchartz is full of holes lately.

The western press yet has used every possible means to shoot Atelier down this year. It begins with jeuxvideo.com, the most famous French game website, which had discreetly reviewed the game, 3 weeks after release, refusing it even the tiniest visibility on the homepage. Worse still, the score was capped to 14 (out of 20), exactly the same as Rorona, despite numerous improvements, in graphics for example. I did point out those reviewing flaws in the forum, and in the Mugen Souls forum, this further review being full of contradictions in the scoring system. Let’s stress for the record that the reviewer actually answered my pleas, which is nice of him, even though he admitted rating the game WITHOUT ACTUALLY PLAYING IT UNTIL THE END. Few actually bother to enter the debate. Another French reviewer, on jeuxactu.com, as close-minded as professionally inept, slashes a 10/20 to every Atelier game, with short and unconvincing explanation. But the most retarded fellow is without a doubt the caveman who reviewed the game for Gamespot, his best argument for awarding 5/10 being the characters’ outfits. All this could be amusing if those people weren’t preeminent opinions leaders, paid to write such bullshit. Those vile persons don’t even respect their readers, and just because to fanbase of those games is so limited, they abandon themselves to prejudice and contempt. But fans don’t intend to be mocked at like that : many of them expressed their displeasure in the comments and backed me on jeuxvideo.com.

Atelier Ayesha hence is, like Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, the latest entry of a series that can move on its own despite groundless hate or ignorance (Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 wasn’t reviewed ANYWHERE), thanks to a loving fanbase which will never lose to the conservatism and the corruption that plagues today’s gaming press.

Enough of E3, let’s talk about serious games!

In an E3 of which most of the games look the same and can be put in something like 2 genres, a E3 where you find nothing else than Snooping Dogs, Hitman and other FPS/TPS more or less badass, it’s good to remember that on the other side of the Planet, there is a tiny country that also makes video games. With today’s western-centric journalism, it’s pretty easy to forget…

Hyperdimension Neptune V (PS3)

If I hadn’t been in a restaurant at that moment, I would have cried of happiness at the announcement of Hyperdimension Neptune V. Because V stands for victory (not 5). Victory over the profound indifference of traditional observers, because the 2nd one has never been reviewed (well it’s probably better like this), and therefore victory of a community that keeps its series alive without the approval of institutionals. As for the game itself, it should be significantly close to Mk2 in the mechanics, but sees the return of Neptune in the main role. She will be transported in a different dimension that takes place in the 70’s (who said “Men in Black III”?) and make the acquaintance of her Planeptune counterpart. 

Senran Kagura Burst (3DS)

Other fan service-centric game, Senran Kagura Burst will have to show some improvements in gameplay compared to the 1st one. Like it was clearly hinted at in the previous scenario, you will this time play as the bad guys girls who will have to prove, if needed, that they are not bad at all. Of course, don’t expect this game to come to your western 3DS.

Hatsune Miku Next (PSVita)

Surprisingly, this game was on the E3 showfloor at the Vita booth. Needless to say, the French journalists out there were too busy detailing the games they advertise on their websites for giving even a look to this licence, which is the first time it has been seen outside Japan (difficult to say if it will be localized though). After successful PSP versions and a rather anecdotal 3DS one, digitak star Hatsune Miku comes to Vita in a classic rhythm game but with outstanding graphics. Just watch…

Sol Trigger (PSP)

A discreet but ambitious JRPG for PSP. Imageepoch, responsible for the disappointing Black Rock Shooter but also for the promising Toki to Wa, seems to want to get back to the fundamentals of the genre for this last grand RPG of the PSP. Featuring a solid voice cast (Otsuka Akio > Snake, Shunsui; Sawashiro Miyuki > Millia, Sice…), Sol Trigger is due to hit Japan and my PSVita on october 4th.

Project X Zone (3DS)

Sort of gigantic cross-over featuring famous characters from Sega, Namco and Capcom, Project X Zone will take the form of a 2D tactical RPG. Unfortunately I would say, because 3DS can do much better, and I can’t believe that 3 publishers joining forces can’t raise sufficient funds to aim higher. It should nevertheless be an interesting title for JRPGs fans who will see Yuri&Estelle back with others they normally don’t know such as Dante, Kurt&Reila, Xiaoyu or Leanne from Resonance of Fate. Be also informed that more than a thousand gamers have already joined forces to ask for the localization of this game.

Tales of Xillia 2 (PS3)

A direct sequel of a Tales of is a rare occurrence. And when it’s about the best one in the series, Tales of Xillia, it makes it even bigger news. That said, nothing indicates any sort link with Xillia in the recently revealed trailer.

After 27 years, ゲーマガ (Gamerga) game monthly stops being published

That’s odd. When you get attached to something (or someone), you naturally come to think it will be here forever. But life is transient, and it never fails to remind you so when suddenly, what you hold dear is irresistibly taken from you, leaving nothing but a sad nostalgia.

I came to know ゲーマガ by a attractive cover of Hyperdimension Neptune Mk2. I was instantly hooked by the content of this monthly release, which had all the necessary info for otakus, might it be obscene but exhaustively discussed adult games or the latest ultra-famous RPG addressed to everyone. Sure, I hadn’t been reading ゲーマガ for that long, but the quality & quantity of the content, as well as the many games of which I wouldn’t have heard of should have I not been reading it made this game magazine a delicious pleasure of my life in Paris. How many great games have I discovered in those pages, how many artworks have I been enjoying? How much exclusive information? How many kanjis and words learned in those paragraphs?

So, when the shopkeeper told me that they wouldn’t be importing it after April, I looked at him with total incomprehension. I took little notice, reckoning I just had to order it the normal way. Alas! When reading through the April issue, a double page from Compile Heart caught my eye : I was saying «thank you Gamerga». My heart stopped beating. Turning back the pages in a hurry, the awful truth stood firm in front of me : the title on the left was indeed saying «sayonara Gamerga».

Funny enough, ゲーマガ and myself were born the same year, in 1984. When the magazine was first published, it was called «Beep» and saw the rise of gaming. Later it became focused on Sega systems, before reaching the current formula in 2001.

ゲーマガ is dead, but I go on. Finding a paper to replace it is going to be difficult, because ゲーマガ accurately mirrored my liking like anything else before. Doomed to look for an hypothetical substitute, my shopping in Japanese bookshops will probably taste bitter this year…

有難うゲーマガ!

Review – Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2

The first thing I did when I came back from Japan was to stuff the Blu-Ray of Hyperdimension Neptune Mk2 into the PS3. Given how much I loved the first Hyperdimension Neptune, I could hardly contain my excitement when I got my hands on its sequel. It so happens that the game is STILL in my PS3, because this sequel is just really brilliant.

The story throws you again in the world of Gameindustri, which is on verge of collapse after an all-out attack by the evil forces of Magiquone. Though less subtle than in the first one, the scenario still gives a entertaining and interesting look on the (real) game industry, the most striking part being the debate about piracy (Magiquone being a metaphor of piracy) between Brave the Hard and Yuni. No article or study could possibly get this better. The rest of the game keeps this very Japanese sense of humor that made the first iteration so awesome, making it once again a pure pleasure to watch.

When Hyperdimension Neptune Mk2 take the best of Hyperdimension Neptune, it does also fix and improve nearly everything else. The graphics for example see a dramatic improvement, especially regarding character modelling, but backgrounds look somewhat prettier too. The only thing that bugged me is that they changed the 2D animated characters in conversations by 3D ones. While some of them look definitely good (Histoire, Nepgear, Yuni, 5pb…), some other are just ugly (Neptune and most of the characters from the 1st game). The battle system has evolved as well : less complex, it becomes a lot more player-friendly since you can now heal whenever you want and that the combos are easier to create. You can now use up to 4 characters at the same time, and you can now move freely around the battlefield which give a new but equally strategic and more intense approach. Talking about the characters, the game has an astonishing total of 15 (of which two are DLC characters), each one with lots of different skills and an insane special attack of his own. Hyperdimension Neptune Mk2 (and its prequel) marks the return of over-the-top 15-hit Limit Breaks that we hadn’t seen since Squall’s Lion Heart (you can see those on the videos). The soundtrack was excellent as well : it perfectly fits the game and gives an epic touch in battles. It’s also more varied than in the 1st Hyperdimension Neptune, melodies, voices and sounds have been meticulously fine-tuned.

The only problem I see with this sequel is that it’s a little too easy compared to the first one. You level-up very fast, so the balance is fine in most of the game but collapses towards the end : the final boss barely hit me. It’s also a bit short : l’d say 50-60h for the Platinum, but personally I don’t really consider this an issue. No, Hyperdimension Neptune Mk2 is a masterpiece among JRPGs, and there’s one final very good thing about it.

The DLCs in Hyperdimension Neptune felt a bit like coercive selling. Compile Heart made a complete U-turn on the subject : the vast majority of the DLCs for Hyperdimension Neptune Mk2 are FREE! In-game money, items, game events, additional dungeons & bosses, NEW SKILLS, all this cost me exactly 0¥! The only paid contents are the 2 optional characters (but there’re really worth it) and some accessories (which you have plenty already in the game anyway). Last but not least, Compile Heart has released regular updates since August, which makes already a lot of content that allows you to enjoy the game further.