Hyperdimension Neptunia Review
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On 08/31/2011 at 03:42 PM by Jason Ross
As I sit here, pondering how to approach a review for the game Hyperdimension Neptunia, my mind begins to wander...
What did I ever do to deserve this?
If you even so much as glanced at this recommendation before you finished reading the review in its entirety, don't buy Hyperdimension Neptunia.
There's so much disappointment in virtually every aspect of Hyperdimension Neptunia. The concept is creative but doesn't work. The characters were created with seemingly no purpose except to be viewed as borderline risque versions of the companies or consoles they represent. The battle system, while operable, is completely convoluted, offering players too many meaningless, worthless attack options that grow to be too complex for any sort of general consumption. There are so many issues, it's hard to tell where to begin.
I'll start with the game's hook: Hyperdimension Neptunia takes place in the world of Game Industri, with an “i,” not a “y.” It's a world with four goddesses, each based on all four of the main consoles on the video game market. There's the Green Heart, based on the Xbox 360; the Black Heart, based on the PS3; the White Heart, based on the Wii; and of course, the main character, Purple Heart, based on the Neptune.
Wait, what? The Neptune? A console with a base color of purple? Turns out she's based on the Sega Neptune, a console that never hit the market that combined the functionality of the Sega Genesis and the 32X into a single unit. As you can tell by the inclusion of Purple Heart, Hyperdimension Neptunia doesn't promise astute commentary on any iteration of the console market.
Anyway, the four goddesses are feuding, and three of them, the White, Black, and Green hearts, decide to cast the fourth from their floating palace of Celestia down to the floating land below. In the process, Purple Heart transforms from the buxom, purple-haired goddess in what appears to be leather garb to a little, hyperactive girl named Neptune who has lost her memory from the fall.
Thus, we have the premise of Hyperdimension Neptunia. A title that expresses the trials and tribulations of the video game industry outside of time, space, reason, integrity, and sense.
Hyperdimension Neptunia begins with Neptune and two characters named after niche-market game companies (Compa, for Compile Heart, and IF for Idea Factory) working to help out those who live on the floating continents of Game Industri. In doing so, players explore each of the game's four regions through menus, taking on story- and mission-based quests inside dungeons to help everyone out. As time passes, Neptune learns of her past and develops the determination she needs to save Game Industri from the treachery of “Arfoire,” (pronounced “R4,” as in the DS homebrew and piracy card.)
Most storyline quests involve reaching the end of a dungeon, almost all of which use one of a few templates, so they all look the same. Inside a story-based dungeon, players either have to exit out the other end or defeat some sort of boss creature. To do so effectively, one must take advantage of what I'd describe as the most bumbling, complex RPG turn-based battle system I've ever played.
To begin, each of the player's characters have a set number of AP available at each turn. From there, players can choose from one of three pre-set attacks, or they can choose to defend. Each attack costs a certain amount of AP. After the first attack, players are given three more attack options based on the button chosen. After the second attack, players are given three more attack options based on the previous two buttons chosen. After the third attack, players are given three more attack options based on the previous three buttons chosen. There's a total of 81 (3^4) branches for attack trees to take, and here's the good news: every button press aside from the very first one can be customized to a different attack! That is to say, in order to effectively play using optimized characters, a player should expect to have to map out specific attack combinations for practical use based on a variety of situations.
Wait, there's more! Once players reach that fourth button press, it's possible to map an attack with a special “End Bonus.” End bonuses provide a variety of special effects! The most basic end bonus is a combo link, which gives characters an extra nine AP, and begins the cycle all over again. When a combo is linked, whatever button the combo link attack was mapped to becomes the initial button in the new attack combo, and available attacks for the “new” second attack are based off of this button. Other end bonus possibilities allow Neptune (and other console goddesses) to transform into their Heart forms or lets one of the three front-row characters switch with the character behind them to allow for two consecutive attack rounds (Don't forget to map this character's attacks!) if the player has four or more characters, which, without DLC, happens late in the game.
Things grow even more complicated. When enemies are attacked, two meters are decreased for an effect similar to Final Fantasy XIII's stagger system. The first meter is a standard HP bar, and works simply enough. The second bar is called the “Guard Meter,” and once it depletes, enemies go into a state called “Guard Break,” where the meter refills itself at a rapid pace and enemies take more damage. In a bizarre twist, this is the point where players are punished for watching the game's extensive attack animations. See, while Hyperdimension Neptunia is entirely turn-based, this meter fills itself in real time. In order to get the maximum effect from each guard break, players will have to mash the L2 button in order to skip attack animations. Oh, I should add that one type of attack has a customizable animation that makes use of images the player sets from his or her PS3 HDD, reducing the sense behind forcing players to skip attack animations to deal the most damage.
Of course, Hyperdimension Neptunia wouldn't be complete without its unique item system. Weapon and armor equips are simple enough and work like those in traditional RPGs. However, in-battle items don't technically exist. It's impossible, for example, to just use a potion to heal a character. Instead, at various level-ups, each individual character receives “Item Skills.” Each player also gains five or ten item skill points upon leveling, which they can use to up an item skill's usage rate by one percentage point per item skill point. For example, upon taking damage that places the character under 50% of their max HP, a character can have a chance at using an ability to recover 30% of her HP. Item skills start out similarly for all characters, but as characters gain levels, they become more unique individuals. For example, Compa, the nurse-in-training mentioned above, has abilities focused on healing the party. Item skill points can be adjusted inside battle by opening the menu, so players can optimize their turns in the most obtuse way possible.
Fortunately there's only one more very complex piece to the Hyperdimension Neptunia puzzle! In the later part of the game, it's possible, nay, necessary to recruit the other goddesses in order to stop Arfoire's nefarious plot, should players want to experience the game's best ending. Essentially, “shares” are the Game Industri version of reputation points. Apparently, the player begins with the same number of shares in each of the game's regions (Lastation, Leanbox, Lowee, and Planeptune.) As players take on side-missions, shares transfer between each land. After a late point in the game, once players transfer enough shares to a single land, it will be possible to recruit the goddess of the land. In a few cases, this will literally require players to grind the same sidequest a couple of times over. Worse, though, is the fact that the game makes no effort whatsoever to explain what shares are or how they mean. Potentially devastating and destructive to an individual save file, shares can be permanently lost each time a console goddess faints in battle. Worse, shares can be lost before players are even given a hint that they exist, as Neptune can faint in any given fight, only to be revived with just one HP immediately after the battle. If Neptune faints too many times, recruiting goddesses can be a very time-consuming, repetitive task. Still, goddess recruitment is important for those looking to find the game's optimal endings.
There, all the boring and mundane aspects of Hyperdimension Neptunia's gameplay are out of the way. Now for the fun! When the girls with a larger pair of assets are pictured in the middle of a conversation, their chests heave up and down while they're breathing! Every once in a while, special images are shown in lieu of actual, authentic cutscenes. The stills, while somewhat rare, often display the quasi-risque events that befall Neptunia's squad of tenacious gals. It's possible to view these images from the game's gallery, too. Even better, some of the images in the gallery are over-sized, and it's possible to move said images around to view the full picture. In these images, the girls with large breasts have added jiggle when the images are moved! Of course, the game does have a few other types of fanservice beyond obvious jiggle, including medical tape bondage and panty shots. Awesome! My favorite line in the game is one from early on – “Get outta here, thundertits!” Can I even say that on PixlBit? Naturally, the added dimensions to the chests of some characters void any sense of dimension to the personalities of everyone!
If you read the first paragraph of this review, then skimmed ahead and jumped to this one, you're clearly not Hyperdimension Neptunia material. If you enjoy baseball for the complex statistics in proper team management, but wish there were more anime-style team mascots in the MLB, perhaps Hyperdimension Neptunia is for you. For the record, I don't like baseball. Fans of classic Japanese-styled RPGs should probably skip this one, since it lacks a thought-provoking and compelling battle system, while fans of the comedy anime genre should probably skip this one, too, since the battle system is likely to make the average gamer's head explode. Fans of the workings of the videogame industry should probably skip this one, since its references are often so obscure and twisted to avoid copyright issues that they make no sense or seem pointless. Please tell your friends not to buy this game.